Ostensibly, This is Not a Test is a novel about a group of teenagers dealing with a zombie apocalypse, but in reality, the zombies are just a backdrop. This book is more about depression, suicide, and somehow finding a reason to survive against all odds. There’s not a whole lot of action, and we only meet the zombies face-to-face a couple of times – most of the novel is spent inside a fortified school, where the characters get to know each other and Sloane works through her many issues.
Sloane was best friends with her sister, Lily, and they shared in the abuse their father doled out. Lily was practically her world, and so when she runs away and leaves Sloane behind (despite promising her she’d wait for her), Sloane finds no reason to keep living. The abuse gets worse, and Sloane decides she wants to die. Even as zombies ravage the town, her mission is clear – find a way to die that doesn’t put everyone else in danger.
It’s easy to get angry at Sloane, but I find that you must be able to understand her and forgive her. She can be mean and selfish at times, but she’s a very damaged character. Those who have dealt with depression, the desire to commit suicide, or any other mental illness might recognize the bleakness of being in Sloane’s mind. They might recognize how she lashes out at others, even when she doesn’t actually want to hurt them. I know I do.
It’s hard to get attached to the other characters, simply because this isn’t their story. This is Not a Test is very much centered on Sloane, and she spends a good deal of time shutting everyone out. Even when she finally lets up, and even when she gets involved with another one of the survivors, I didn’t find myself particularly caring for anyone else. I find this inability to deeply care for the entire cast the novel’s weakest point.
Overall, it was a good book and I’m glad I read it. It’s probably not one that I will revisit in the future, but I’ll still be reading any book Courtney Summers comes out with. Her strength is in creating a believable main character and her writing is lovely, and she remains one of my favorite young adult authors. (less)
After Sawyer’s football-playing boyfriend dies, she receives a note in her locker, suggesting that it...more**spoiler alert** As seen on Ink and Tea Reviews!
After Sawyer’s football-playing boyfriend dies, she receives a note in her locker, suggesting that it wasn’t an accident. Someone may have discovered his abuse, which she kept hidden from the world. But as Sawyer attempts to remain a normal high school student, more people end up dead, and it seems to be that she has a vengeful stalker, snapping pictures of her from afar and killing those who harm her.
I read this book in one setting over the course of a couple of hours. Not because I needed to know what was going to happen next, but because I kind of wanted to just get to the next book. It’s a shame, because I had heard many good things about this book, but I just didn’t like it at all. The mystery wasn’t compelling, the characters were one-dimensional, the romance was boring, and the villain was, quite frankly, insulting. With that said, the prose is one of the few things I didn’t have a problem with, so if my criticisms do not seem to be a big deal to you, I would say to give the novel a try.
I feel like the plot wouldn’t have worked if the characters hadn’t been so mind-numbingly stupid. Sawyer rare told people what was going on – for no discernable reason – and when she did, no one believed her. Even when they had absolutely no reason to doubt her. If you need to make your characters really dumb to make your story work, it’s probably not a very good story.
What I hated most, though, were the characters. Maggie is the mean popular girl who used to date Sawyer’s (now deceased) boyfriend. Predictably, Maggie has no personality outside of being “a bitch.” There is nothing I hate more than when an author decides to have undeveloped female characters with no more than one personality trait, all to prop up their ~superior~ main character. Also, Chloe, who I quite liked at first, being the scrappy trailer park girl, was the only notable girl character besides Maggie and Sawyer. And guess what? It turns out she’s evil.
And I guessed that only 80 pages in.
But! Not only is Chloe evil, she’s an evil lesbian, murdering people to prove her love for Sawyer! If your only gay character is evil, that’s a problem. If every female character besides your main character is evil, that’s a problem. Before I realized that Chloe was going to be the villain, I was hoping she would just be a lesbian. Sure, she had boyfriends, but I smelled that lesbian subtext a mile away.
The romance is also boring and cookie-cutter. We have a “unique” protagonist and a muscled, dull love interest. Seriously, is it just me, or do the majority of MCs in YA novels seem to be the same character?
I really didn’t like this book, but I also have a nagging feeling that I’m going to forget most of it within a few days. I had to make this review quickly – even though I read the book today – because I was already unable to recall a few things. Overall, it just wasn’t for me. (less)
I read Going Too Far with complete ambivalence. I cannot say that there were a plethora of offensive, glaring faul...moreOriginally on Ink & Tea Reviews.
I read Going Too Far with complete ambivalence. I cannot say that there were a plethora of offensive, glaring faults, but I did not enjoy the story, and upon finishing, I neither had the desire to think further on what I had read, nor was I excited to review it. As such, I read this at least a week ago, and have been putting off the review until now. It might be clear by now that romance is not my preferred genre, and I do not always pay close attention to the synopsis when going into a book, especially if it has come highly recommended. This is what happened with Going Too Far – it’s a straight-forward romance, and romances rarely leave me anything other than bored.
The writing in Going Too Far was smooth and enjoyable, and if Jennifer Echols ever writes something in a genre I’m a bit more fond of, I will certainly give it a try. I had no problem with the prose, nor the main characters and their developments – I found both Meg and John to be realistic and believable, although I wasn’t the biggest fan of John. In fact, I thought it was a bit more interesting when it seemed that John was a much older fellow (but, really, how did Meg get him confused with a middle-aged man?) and that there was going to be a dysfunctional, torrid love affair.
The actual direction of the story – a normal ol’ romance in which the main characters must overcome their inner demons – was just a bit too boring and fluffy for my tastes. I thought John was kind of a douchebag, with his constant berating of Meg and his eventual causing her (on purpose!) to have a panic attack. It never seemed as though he actually cared for Meg and appreciated her flaws – but, instead, put her on some sort of pedestal and had affection for an idealized version of her.
You know how there’s this trope in romance where there’s a dysfunctional sort of guy, and the female love interest just “fixes” him by trying to change his personality to make him easier to be involved with? I kind of felt like John was doing that to Meg. And I LIKED Meg, with her casual sex, her dyed hair, her drunken highness, and her desire to live life to the fullest in case it was snatched away from her. She was flawed and interesting! John was just so straight-laced and he frowned upon everything she did; I’m just not convinced that they were actually compatible.
I did wish there was a bit more depth to the minor characters – like Meg’s best friend, Meg’s parents, the EMT guy, and the antagonistic drug-dealing-son-of-a-lawyer. That, perhaps, would have made me a bit fonder of this book, distracting me from the plot that was just not my style. As it was, though, I felt that the minor characters were just shadows, shallow and lacking, with only hints of something more.
Going Too Far’s plot twists weren’t really twists at all, and I saw them both coming. John’s backstory was obvious from the beginning, and I had suspected Meg’s, as well. And as I didn’t really want John and Meg to get together, I wasn’t rooting for them, and there was little suspense. There was nothing I wanted them to overcome, because the entire time, I was just thinking, “Meg, don’t bake the fruit cobbler, John isn’t for you.”
In the end, I’m not sure I would recommend this book to anyone, although I’m sure some would enjoy it. For me, however, it left me bored, and I didn’t appreciate the relationship, which…well, was the book. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t read a non-romance novel of Jennifer Echol’s were she to write one, however.(less)
The Mockingbirds was intended to be a quick read while I was sitting in Starbucks one day with a cr...moreThis review is also found on Ink & Tea Reviews.
The Mockingbirds was intended to be a quick read while I was sitting in Starbucks one day with a craving for some high school drama. I had seen mixed reviews for the book, so I went into it not expecting a whole lot. Unfortunately, my expectations were met.
Our protagonist is Alex, a teenage girl at a boarding school that demands excellence. After a night partying and drinking, she is raped by another student – Carter. The first part of the book primarily deals with the question of whether she was raped or not, as she cannot recall the details, and is, at first, unsure of if she just made a mistake or if Carter took advantage of her. Eventually she decides that, yes, it was rape, as she was in no state to consent, and so she calls on the Mockingbirds, a sort of secret society at Themis Academy that try and punish other students.
First, let’s get one thing clear – this isn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t for me for a few reasons I will expand on shortly. Second, a lot of the criticism of this book came from the fact that some people believed that Carter did not, in fact, rape Alex. I am not one of those reviewers, and I believe that it was CLEARLY rape, and it is somewhat confusing that this is a contested fact.
I found much of the book cartoonish and over-the-top. This is especially noticeable in the beginning of the book, and although it decreases later on, it definitely impeded my getting absorbed into the story. Alex’s sarcasm is ridiculous – she doesn’t have that dry, witty sarcasm, but has that over-the-top sort of immature sarcasm of “yeah, okay, whatever.” Random scenes she imagines will be described to us when they really don’t need to be – for example, Alex hears the phrase “knock out” and so we get half a page of her imagining herself in a boxing ring. It just seems unrealistic and like a bit of a caricature of the way minds really work.
Themis Academy seemed to be suffering from a bit of Adults Are Useless. The faculty doesn’t believe that the students behave badly, so The Mockingbirds are the law. Maybe this wouldn’t bother me so much if they went to the police with their evidence, or forced the school to take notice, but that’s not the case. The punishment for every case is that the guilty party must relinquish what they love most. So if Carter is found guilty, his punishment is that he gives up water polo.
Giving up water polo. For raping a girl. I’d prefer him to be put in jail, get expelled, get put on a sex offender registry, SOMETHING. But giving up water polo? Really? That’s just offensive.
I wasn’t invested in any of the characters. Of course, I wanted Carter to be found guilty, but this was less for Alex’s sake and more for the principle of the thing. Alex’s friends seemed to each have one specific personality trait that was played up, so they didn’t seem like real people. Instead of any sort of character development or fleshing out personalities, more attention was given to describing their outfits. The teachers were useless. It’s unfair to call them characters, really, they were just there to show that Alex couldn’t get help from the school.
Oh, Alex entered into a relationship with one of the Mockingbirds, Martin. I didn’t buy the romance at all, primarily because the text claims they were in love. There was very little chemistry, and I thought it was more realistic when it seemed like Alex was using Martin to get over her trauma. Towards the beginning of the book, Martin was introduced as a guy Alex only really knows because he’s friends with her best friend’s boyfriend. Then, towards the middle, they begin to strengthen their friendship, and that was believable and totally fine. Then, suddenly, Alex remembers that she wanted to be with Martin at the party where she got drunk, and not long after, they’re admitting their love for each other. It was just kind of an abrupt change.
So, The Mockingbirds isn’t a keeper for me, unfortunately, and it wasn’t the most enjoyable read. I had to force myself to finish it over the course of three days, when I was whizzing through other books and dreading having to re-open this one. I might still read other works by the author if the synopsis catches my eye, but I’m not reading the sequel. (less)