It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.
To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.
But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.
When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?
Here’s my review: holy crap.
Just kidding. Kind of. This was my first time reading a book by Courtney Summers and it definitely won’t be my last. I like her style. It’s not hyperbole to say that this book totally blew me away. I was expecting it to be good based on the number of positive reviews I was seeing, but I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I generally can’t help but be a little wary when everyone is falling all over themselves to praise a book. Not because I don’t believe the reviews are genuine, but just because I often end up being the contrarian. Not here, though.
I know what you’re probably thinking: there are so many zombie books these days. Zombies almost seem to be the new vampires, except that vampires are still the new vampires. Wait, what? Anyway, it seems like everyone is jumping on board and writing zombie books and unless they really stand out, they all seem to run together. This one stands out. In fact, I almost hesitate to call it a zombie book at all. There are zombies, ok, but this is more of a character-driven piece than anything.
I was so torn on how to feel about Sloane. On one hand, I really felt sorry for her. I did. I grew up in a family with parents who loved me and treated me well, so I can’t even imagine how it would feel to live with an abusive parent. Honestly, I can’t even believe that there is such a thing as an abusive parent. It takes a special kind of douchebag to beat up their own kid and while we don’t get a lot of Sloane’s father, we do get enough to see that he’s a special kind of douchebag. It’s especially egregious when it gets to the point where said kid is ready to kill herself just to get away from it. On the other hand, I don’t have a ton of sympathy for suicide. I just don’t. And maybe that’s insensitive of me, whatever, but I’ve seen the devastation that it leaves behind and I just can’t ever get behind making a decision like that. Not to mention that in This is Not a Test, people who want to live are dying. Sloane is lucky enough to survive, and all she can think of is killing herself. I consider myself an empathetic person in general, but eventually I had kind of a hard time dealing with her. It certainly made for an interesting dynamic to the story, though.
As far as the other characters, for the most part I thought they were just ok. I did take kind of a liking to Rhys, and an immediate dislike for Harrison, Trace and Grace. There was definitely a good mix of personalities.
If you like scenes that are truly gut-wrenching, this is the book for you. And that’s not a zombie pun, but I mean it both literally and figuratively. Punches are not pulled. People die. It’s not a happy book. I thought it was fascinating to see the group make hard decisions and it made me wonder what I’d do in the same situation (answer: I don’t know).
Even if you’re not into “zombie books,” I really can’t recommend enough that you give this one a shot. As I said earlier, calling it a zombie book isn’t entirely accurate. It’s almost more of a contemporary with zombies thrown in for fun. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.