Title: This is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Teen/YA, Dystopian
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sloane and her sister, Lily, have always dreamed of the day when they’d be able to escape their abusive father. But when Lily left Sloane to fend for herself, she shut down completely. Now, as Sloane’s personal world is crashing down around her, the world at large seems to be collapsing as well. There’s some sort of new virus spreading, one that turns people into zombie-like creatures, and Sloane and a few other teenagers have barricaded themselves inside the local high school, wondering if there’s anything left out there.
We all joke about the zombie apocalypse, but what would you do if it actually happened? That’s the premise of Courtney Summers’ latest YA novel, This is Not a Test. It’s a serious look at a zombie uprising, at how teens would deal with the world breaking apart around them. Sloane, the narrator, is a deadened soul. She gave up on life when her sister abandoned her, and now that everyone seems to be turning, she doesn’t really have much of a will to live. It’s really sad to see how little hope she has, and how much she just doesn’t care whether she lives or dies. It’s clear Sloane is suffering greatly, and feels so much pain that she’s turned herself off as a defense mechanism. As a result, she’s completely numb through much of This is Not a Test.
While this makes Sloane difficult to get to know, it doesn’t make her any less sympathetic. Though this is a novel of zombies and dystopian beginnings, it’s a very human book. This ragtag group of teenagers is desperate. They’ve lost the adults they look to and have no one to care and provide for them. They’ve been pushed to the limits of their existence. As a result, they have to make some incredibly difficult decisions. Summers makes the reader question their principles and their motives at every turn. In normal circumstances, these would be good kids, but these are anything but normal circumstances. What happens when good people have to make ruthless decisions, and when does that begin changing who they are?
This is Not a Test deals with many very difficult questions, and it doesn’t provide any tidy answers. Summers leaves the book open-ended. Is there room for a sequel? Sure, and readers will likely hope that she continues Sloane’s story with more novels. But the beauty of this book is in reflection. After finishing it, the reader will be forced to contemplate, to wonder at what cost survival comes. When is it no longer worth it? When do we stop becoming human? It’s an excellently written, contemplative book that adults and teens alike should seek out. If you’re looking for a YA read for your book club, this would also make a great pick, as there’s lots to discuss within its pages.
Other books by Courtney Summers: