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This is Not a Test #1

This is Not a Test

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Available now: I'M THE GIRL, the new "brutally captivating" ( Publishers Weekly, starred review) queer thriller from Courtney Summers, based loosely on The Epstein case and "not for the faint of heart" ( The New York Times)

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?

326 pages, Paperback

First published June 19, 2012

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About the author

Courtney Summers

15 books7,288 followers
Courtney Summers is the author of several novels, including the breakout hit Sadie, which appeared on over 30 ‘Best of’ lists and was published in 26 territories. In 2018, Electric Literature proclaimed her “a master of the bitch” for her years of writing “nuanced, wrenching stories about angry [and] unlikable girls.” Her work has been released to critical acclaim, multiple starred reviews and has received numerous awards and honors, including the Edgar Award and the Odyssey Award. Courtney has reviewed for The New York Times and is the founder of the 2015 worldwide trending hashtag #ToTheGirls. She lives and writes in Canada. You can follow her on Instagram and subscribe to her newsletter.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,501 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
June 28, 2018
this isn't a zombie book so much as a zombie framing device to explore damage and the difficulties of making yourself vulnerable in front of someone - of communication's pitfalls and the numbing effects of trauma.

there are people who believe that trauma builds character. these people have probably never experienced trauma. trauma does not build character, but how someone responds to trauma is the true and most telling test of character.

more often than not, trauma leads to a retreat. nobody is a fan of emotional outpourings, are they? or am i projecting again? so let's just talk about this character. sloane is not a fan of emotional outpourings. her father has been physically abusing sloane and her sister for years, and the two of them formed this intensely close bond that never allowed anyone else in. after her sister ran away, leaving sloane alone in the path of her father's rage, she had no support system in place to fill the gap, and became suicidal.

and then, the zombies attacked.

so what happens when the wrong people survive?? the ones who didn't want to survive before the world went to hell?

this is a fascinating character study. six teenagers holed up in a school, barricading the doors against the zombie invasion outside. alliances will form, resentments will fester, desperate hookups and confessions and all-around brokenness will ensue.

and sloane, watching it all, unable to break through her own emotional reserves to make herself vulnerable in front of the others.

is this what it's like to get close to other people - you do something insane together and then you have to share everything even if you don't really want to?

she grows so much as a character, and it is painful and sad and you just want to be there with her, holding her throughout it all. not that she'd let you.

the other characters are great, too. this is not a one-person show. it manages to rejuvenate the YA-survival genre for me, like a cross between the breakfast club and a way more intense Trapped.

one character mourns his life, and how with nothing left in the world, his opportunities to become something have pretty much ended.

"...it's nothing. i thought it could be something, i mean, eventually." he finally looks at us. "my life. i thought - but i mean...it's nothing."

how absolutely shattering to realize, at fifteen, that your life has meant nothing and is essentially over. GAH!

and how clear-eyed sloane is through it all, as she thinks of a future she is still not sure she wants any part of.

when this is over, society will need entertainment to get past it. we'll make movies about it, hundreds of movies, and in every one of them, we'll be the heroes and the love interests and best friends and winners and we'll watch these movies until we are so far removed from our own history, we'll forget how it really felt to be here.

that insight is very rare in these typical survival novels. often, it is just all about the clinging to a member of the opposite sex for validation or comfort. and there is some of that, here, but it is way more charged than is typical. there is an immediacy and a desperation that is deeply written and felt by the reader.

and thank you for the realism:

the thing no one tells you about surviving, about the mere act of holding out, is how many hours are nothing because nothing happens.they also don't tell you about how you can share your deepest secrets with someone, kiss them, and the next hour it's like there's nothing between you because not everything can mean something all the time or you'd be crushed under the weight of it. they don't tell you how you will float through days. you autopilot, here but not really here, sleepwalking, and then every so often you are awake.

god, i am so tired of import. there is an awful lot of sleeping in this book. and silence. and yet it is not boring to read - this is such a fast-paced book. but the reality of how boring it would be to survive is much appreciated, and the true fact that not every kiss is the beginning and end of everything. a kiss can be, in fact, just a kiss...

and this. the ramifications of the last two sentences in this quote are quite easy to overlook if you haven't read the book, but:

i am caked in mud and my hair is straggly and knotted from the rain. my lips are bruised. there are cuts and scratches on me that i must have gotten since leaving the school but i don't remember how. she won't recognize me when she sees me. i look like someone who has survived.

you should read the book.

if nothing else, read the first chapter, which is a triumph of buildup and utter utter chaos. i cannot remember ever reading a better opening chapter in all my days.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
January 21, 2015


I owe a huge thanks to Courtney Summers for giving me a second chance to read and review this after my netgalley rejection. It made my day and I'm so glad This Is Not a Test was all that I'd hoped it would be.

I'm going to say what I said at the start of my reviews or before I started reading: Feed, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Other Life and even the one I was sure would be the exception to the rule - The Reapers Are the Angels, and that is that zombie novels have never been my thing. I've searched and searched for that one book that would allow me to share in my friends' love for novels of the walking dead, brain-eating variety. This is the first - yes, the very first - book about zombies I have enjoyed. Ah, but then I suppose this isn't really that much about zombies.

As with Courtney Summers' other novels, this is mostly a book about people, about survival. Summers does survival tales best, it doesn't matter whether the threat is zombies, grief or a bunch of bitchy teenage girls, every situation is equally poignant and Summers never fails to leave a lasting impression.

This is the tale of a group of teenagers who barricade themselves into what was once their high school as the zombie apocalypse descends outside. Each character has something important to offer this novel and, for me, when you can make this kind of statement it puts Courtney Summers up their with the few others who have this rare talent - Melina Marchetta, Megan Whalen Turner, to name a couple. And on top of that, they all have a story, they are all fighting something that goes beyond the realm of living corpses, and this is what I like most about this novel. In most zombie stories, people fight until they die and maybe one or two survive... but Courtney Summers remembers that, even in the apocalypse, living is about more than just not getting eaten and perhaps sometimes there are scarier things out there than those zombies, and even death.

Also, it is worth noting, I have always said that zombies do not scare me at all. When watching horror films, if zombies manage to get any kind of reaction from me it's usually amusement at their silly moans. But this was one hell of a creepy novel. I'm not sure why this book managed to give me chills when so many others failed, but I admit it, I was freaked out, and not always at the zombies.

My only criticism will not be a problem for some people. In fact, you may find it positive. Summers' endings are always sharp, brutal, effective but sometimes a little too abrupt for me. The ending to this will leave you thinking, wondering... you will undoubtedly be affected by it. But, for me, there was a lack of closure that I felt I needed from a novel I'd become so emotionally invested in. Otherwise, this was a fantastic novel and I knew Courtney Summers wouldn't let me down. I will read everything she writes, no question.
Profile Image for Reynje.
272 reviews962 followers
August 6, 2012
[Edited, because ZOMBIE NAILS. See below]

4.5 stars

This is not a zombie book.

This book has zombies in it. But it’s not about zombies, as such.

It’s about so much more than that.

Call them a catalyst, a threat, an inciting event – the zombies are an ominous presence that set off a chain reaction of events and lurk unnervingly around the corners of the book. But this is not even so much a book about survival, although that’s certainly one of the themes threading through the story.

For me, deep at its heart, this was a book about will. The will to live versus the will to die. And how sometimes, for some people, this is not an unconscious, involuntary response to each day as it arrives, but a choice and a fight every moment.

This Is Not A Test is an incredibly intense and psychologically gruelling novel to read. It had me in a stranglehold from the first page, from Sloane’s opening words, which almost echo with the emptiness carved out by her sister's absence. While her pain bleeds through the pages in places, there’s also something detached, cold, about her narration. Because her mind has been made up. She’s resolved. Until the morning the world shatters.

In depicting her vision of the zombie apocalypse, Summers uses restraint to masterful effect. The horror of the undead is rendered more powerful by the suggestion of their presence, like the sound of them hammering against doors in their hunger, as opposed to always placing them in the limelight. Similarly, by barricading six teenagers into a school, it’s the constant fear of a breach that stretches the nerves to breaking point, rather than an endless gore-fest. Which is not to say that This Is Not A Test doesn’t contain disturbing images of violence or pay homage to the genre of zombie horror – it does – but the effectiveness is amplified by the enormous amount of tension that has been wound up in the plot.

The scenario of six people thrown together, under siege by the rabid infected and forced to make snap judgements with life or death ramifications, makes for a mental battleground. The dynamic balances on a knife-edge, allegiances and motivations threatened by accusations, guilt and desperation born out of the desire to live (or die). At work beneath the more obvious conflicts are the character’s own internal battles, and the larger questions of what it means to take or save a life, and at what cost do they preserve their own. Who is the real enemy - the undead, or the darker side of human nature?

This Is Not A Test almost defies categorisation. It’s a hybrid of sorts, and the brutal emotional honesty is not sacrificed in order to continue ratcheting up the tension. It sounds strange, but the juxtaposition of the contemporary elements with the horror premise work exceptionally well. The parallels between the internal and external fight to survive are powerful, and there is a depth and relevance to this story in it’s insightful portrayal of pain, loss, grief, and ultimately, choice.

In Sloane, Summers has created a character and a story that hit me right in the chest. I felt an almost relentless ache for her, for what had compelled her to make her decision. And yet never does the writing feel gratuitous or melodramatic. It feels painfully realistic, all the more powerful for the things that are left unspoken, the profound silences between the scenes.

I was exhausted when I finished This Is Not A Test. I felt mentally, emotionally, physically (because I stayed up so late to read it) wrung out – and the haunting final scene of the book lingered with me days afterwards.

I’m a little bit in awe of this book.

And I’m going to start sleeping with a cricket bat under my bed.


Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,364 followers
June 4, 2012
When someone sees a zombie book there are two reactions: 1) Oh zombies, scary and gory! AwesomeSAUCE! or 2) Ewww zombies! Icky! - pass. So this is a warning: As far as zombie books go, This Is Not A Test has to be one of the tamest. It's not gory, nor is it an adrenaline filled story. Yes there are zombies and it can get intense at times, but funnily enough, it is not about the zombies. It's about a girl who doesn't want to live in this world anymore. She can't keep going with a dad that beats her, and a sister that left her. This book is about finding the will to live in all this melancholy. Surviving in a school with others who only want to make it through this zombocalypse, when all Sloane wants to do is leave. To let the zombies take her away from this unforgiving world.

Even though the zombies almost never make an appearance. It doesn't mean it's not frightening. Courtney weaves them in the always present background; leaving them to our imagination makes them scary in a way no one else can. We don't know what's happening on the outside and with a constant fear of breach, the tension in the story is unmistakable. The unknown is a terrifying illusion. This is the angle Courtney takes to make this book absolutely unnerving.

With half a dozen teenagers in a life or death situation, there is no absence of angst. However, it's not aggravating, it's realism. It was written with such authenticity that you never feel annoyance, only distress. These are not just surface characters, either. This is a gang of teenagers who are experiencing the end of the world; who have lost everyone they ever knew and loved; who just want to make it through to the next day without killing each other - or dying at the hands of the zombies. We get to know these characters to the core, exposed. We see them at their most vulnerable. It's all so raw that you get to care deeply for these people. Even when you're not reading, you're constantly worrying about them; it's mentally exhausting, but truly captivating. These personalities who often clash have to learn to work together if they want to come out of this alive. It's sad, it's heartbreaking, and there's a constant sense of doom in the air. One positive vibe throughout, though, is the hope. These kids make the best of what they have, and you always feel like somehow, things will work out.

This story is one that sticks with you, with an ending that leaves you in a bittersweet mess where you're not sure if you should cry, or simply exhale and let it go. This was my first novel by Courtney Summers, but if this is an example of her writing, I can say she has exceptional talent that I will seek out again with immense anticipation.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
839 reviews3,758 followers
February 15, 2021

2015 reads : Do not give me zombies, 'kay?

This is not a book about zombies, this is a book with zombies.

And I'm so okay with that. I mean, to be frank, I'm not into zombies. Like, at all. Usually, they never manage to :
a) Scare me
b) Interest me

Dead people who come back to life? Come on! That's just gross to me. Therefore I end bored more often than not, except if I take it as a parody, changing myself into this annoying buddy who can't help but laugh at awkward moments (sorry guys for all the movies I ruined). If it wasn't for all the reviews I read which pointed that it wasn't really a zombie horror book, I'd probably never have given it a chance. That's why I'm pointing it too : If you expect a classic horror story, you'll be disappointed.

This is not a book where the zombies scare you, this is a book where the characters make you think.

Now, you know I'm a huge fan girl when it comes to Melina Marchetta, especially because I can't help but fall in love with every single character she brings to life. In this book, Courtney Summers manages to create flawed characters I adore. Though it was anything but evident at first, because I have a thing : I don't usually love depressive characters. Yeah, you got it, the key word here is usually. Indeed Sloane is all kind of depressing - she actually wants to die - and yet she managed to move me like crazy. How did she do this? How? I'm not sure I can't even explain.

"We'll become reanimated corpses navigating a sorry imitation of our glory days and this is why I don't understand the point in going on, why it's so wrong to give up. There's nothing left."

There's something so desperate in her way to handle all the crazy stuff that happens constantly and yet she's never ever whining. Not a single time - I often found myself in awe of her perseverance, as I think there's some braveness to show such motivation, even if it's to die at some point. Did I find it stupid? Of course I did. I have a thing against suicide, I can't deny it, that's totally personal and I can't help it - it often obscures my judgment about characters like her, because not only suicide makes me sad, but it piss me off. But Sloane won me. Completely. I took her with all her flaws and wanted just one thing : to read about her.

➸ Look, I'm not saying she's going to die. In fact, I'm not saying anything - she's a believable character you know, so she can evolve. Or not. Yep, I'm totally a tease.

This is not a book about battles, this is a book about survival and all we're ready to do to survive.


This is not a book filled with teenage angst, this is a book about the inherent injustice of life.

What do you think you'd be willing to do to survive? As I already said in my review of The Ask and the Answer, the only honest answer I can give you is I don't know. Sure, I could convince myself that I wouldn't be selfish and would always do the right thing but we have to know what this right thing is to begin with. Is it saving your parents? Saving your love? Saving yourself? Saving the human race? Tell me when you find your answer because I'm not sure I'll manage to.

"It was so easy," he said. "Just physically ... doing that. When it was over, I thought ... people ... we aren't made of anything. That's how easy it was."

Each character has his choices to make, and what can I say? That's real, that's painful, that made me feel : I can't not love it.

This is not a book you'll spend days to read, this is a book you're going to eat in one sitting.

Surely you know the feeling : you're reading a book, sure that you've reached 50%, and you're stunned to realize that in fact you're at, like, 15%. This book brings the exact opposite of that feeling. Although the writing can appear pretty confusing in the beginning, I was hooked from page one and this feeling never ended until the end. Indeed Courtney Summers's writing contains particularities that I never fail to love when I'm lucky to find them : short and sharp sentences, well-done repetitions - her style completely serves the plot as it helps grandly to express the growing tension the characters feel.

This is not a review, this is ... well, if this is not a review, I have no idea what the fuck it is.

PS : I thought I wasn't scared and in the end, it seems that the sensation of being threatened grew on me without realizing it. Yes, I totally freaked out when I got out to let my dog pee. Poor me.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Megs ♥.
160 reviews1,284 followers
February 28, 2012
This has been said a few times, but it's certainly worth repeating. This is not really a zombie book. Although it has zombies in it, they are just the constant threat in the book, and they are minimally shown. The gore is quite minimal, too. This is just a warning for others, like myself, who aren't really into gory books, because I wouldn't want anyone to not read this book just because of that. Of course that can go both ways, however, and a zombie fan looking for an all out gore-fest may be disappointed.

After I read the opening chapter of this book I was blown away. It was quite intense. We are introduced to our main character, Sloane, who has just been and frequently is physically abused by her father. Suddenly there is a woman pounding on their door, and she's covered in blood. Her father finds out that their street is full of screaming and chaos, and then quickly the scene switches to Sloane in the High School with 5 other students. Six survivors after the zombie apocalypse. They have barricaded the windows and doors. They have food,water, and a radio to listen for emergency broadcasts. All they can do now is wait for help to arrive.

This story has a lot going on for how short it is, but it never feels cluttered. We know that Sloane was abandoned by her sister, Lily, but the details of what was supposed to happen and how that has affected her come out slowly throughout the book. The main focus of this book is each person's will to live. Lily was all Sloane had left so once she left her she has none. Sloane wants desperately to just die. I thought the author wrote this very well. We can feel Sloane's desperation and hopelessness, but she never seems emo.

Each of the students has a very different personality, and they need to learn to work together, despite their disagreements, if they want to survive. With a book about six teens I often find myself getting really annoyed with about half of them, because of their attitudes. This didn't happen with this book, luckily. At one point I was starting to get annoyed with Trace and his bossiness, but that was just his personality and it wasn't overdone. These kids all lost everything and almost everyone they loved. I felt bad for them, yet hopeful they would survive.

The last chapter was just as intense as the first. I was feverishly turning the pages wanting to know what was going to happen next. This chapter was action packed and seemed to fly by so quickly my head was spinning at the end. I am so happy about Sloane's personal ending

I absolutely loved this book. I read it in one sitting, and only had one complaint. I wish we would have seen a little more of the intensity like the first and last chapters throughout the book. I knew that at any point zombies could get into the building, but I never really felt scared for the characters while they were in the school. I also knew that at any point Sloane could be simply bitten once to end her life, but again I never felt like that would happen. Those are just my feelings, though, and I could easily see this book being a solid 5-star book for many other readers.

This was my first book by Courtney Summers, but I will definitely be checking out more of her books. I was really impressed with this one.

4.5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,447 reviews7,538 followers
September 21, 2015
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

3.5 Stars

"This must be what Dorothy felt like, I think. Maybe. If Dorothy was six scared teenagers and Oz was hell."

When I saw ALLLLLLL of my friends reading All the Rage recently I figured I would end up reading it wrong (see Exhibit A) and opted for Summers’ version of zombies instead . . .

Chicago commercial photographers

What can I say? I’m not interested in being the oddball again this week but I enjoy brain-nomming stories. *shrug*

However, being that Summers is Summers, this book had a lot less of this . . .

Chicago commercial photographers

With a lot more of this . . .

Chicago commercial photographers

The premise seemed familiar – the zombie apocalypse began a week ago, leaving a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal six students no choice but to work together in hopes of surviving the danger that potentially lurks around every corner of their former high school where they are holed up . . .

Chicago commercial photographers

The only thing that separates them from the undead is a chain link fence . . .

Chicago commercial photographers


Okay, so while the basic concept has been done a time or twelve before the delivery was 100% unique. If Lord of the Flies and The Walking Dead had a baby you might end up with something along the lines of This Is Not A Test. If you like your zombies with a lot of gore and a high body count you should probably look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a “zombie” book that deals more with questions of mortality and morality, this is the book for you. Summers is quickly becoming a YA fave.

Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,030 reviews1,045 followers
September 15, 2015

"Now is not about gathering courage, it's about staying one step ahead of my fear."

Oh my goodness gracious! What did I just read???

I have this basic concept about how any story that has to do with zombies is old and funny. Sorry I don’t watch Walking Dead.

But I am now completely eradicating that concept from my mind because of this dark but masterfully written prose.

This is my first Courtney Summers read and I am instantly and immediately captivated by the unique writing style via her use of first person narrative voice in the character of Sloane, a teenage girl who has lost the will to live but unexplainably finds herself struggling to survive alongside five other teenagers after the end of the world strikes and dead people turn into reanimated corpses who are set on multiplying their numbers by feasting on the living to eventually become like them.

The plot starts a little slow as it establishes the major characters and their specific roles in putting across the themes of the story. Every character represents the obvious but very convincing possibilities of human nature when faced with existential crisis. The heated dialogues, the impossible choices they had to make, the way they had to live which can be barely called living, the urge to do and feel things they think they might never be able to tomorrow, holding out waiting for nothing because nothing happens. It all felt real and made this a very gripping and powerful story and you find yourself immersed in their grim situation.

It’s very impressive because from parts one to three, the author created only one focal setting- the school, but she managed to make the reader imagine a decaying world infested with flesh eating living dead outside the school. What’s even more impressive is how the author purposefully subdued the events during the first parts of the story because she was saving shocking surprises during the fourth part where a hailstorm of crazy $#1% happens. Initially, I was adamant in saying.

I shouldn’t be. Why should I? They’re just zombies. But the truth is, I was terrified! How did the author manage to do that???

I was so disgusted at the gruesome deaths because of the vividly horrid descriptions.

Also, I was horribly shocked at that sick twist of events towards the ending…

and I was left hanging at the end. Yes, it was a cliffhanger ending that will make you want to scream and go crazy in your need to get your hands on the sequel!

This wasn’t a perfect post apocalyptic novel but the provocative prose will make you forget about the imperfections. This is a must read.
Profile Image for Wigs.
80 reviews1,210 followers
December 20, 2012
This is Not a Good Book.

The summary sounded good. Six teens trapped in a school during a zombie crisis slowly go nuts on each other. The book did not deliver. What I was imagining from the summary was some sort of manhunt dog-eat-dog Lord of the Flies style breaking down of these trapped teenagers, where basic survival instincts would drive them into some crazy game of hide and seek trying to kill each other. In essence, the group of survivors themselves would be a more dangerous enemy to each other than any zombie could be.


What I got was just a group of whiny regular teens emoing it up. Acting like idiots. Whining. Wandering around. Taking showers. Crying. Ugh. The tediousness of this book seems never ending. The main character Sloane, who narrates in a thoroughly obnoxious, sparsely descriptive first person present tense, is suicidal. She spends the entire book up to like the last few pages wanting to die and it just really gets old. If I had to hear about her sister ~leaving~ her behind one more time...

It's fine to set up the plot but just please stop going on and on and on and on and on and onnnnnn about it. And not only that, but all conversations from all the characters felt repetitive. The same shit kept coming up. "You killed our parents." "No I didn't." "Your fault." "No." "But it is your fault!" "It's not!" Over and over. Just stopppppp. Everyone was just so stupid and one dimensional.

The entire book could be probably condensed to a quarter of its length if you trimmed out all the stuff we hear multiple times over. And so much shoe leather! I walked down the hall I went upstairs I went back to the auditorium I went to the gym I went to the bathroom GREAT but you never do anything so why are you telling us all this useless stuff.

Sorry. I feel boring just talking about it.

Oh, and author, please. Please. Do not name, out of 6 characters in the entire book, one of them Grace and another Trace. I don't care if they're siblings, please choose another name that isn't the exact same thing. Seeing Grace Trace Grace Trace Grace Trace all down the page....well actually it's possibly symbolic of how redundant this book is.

At the end, things kinda picked up a little bit, some zombie action and stuff that happens, finally, outside the damn school. In the very. last. 10% of the book. That does not excuse the rest, and the ending which is supposed to be a surprise I suppose was predictable and lackluster. The resolution final page barely made sense, with some not very well constructed metaphor that just left me going ehhhh what?


I apologize. This is a lot of ranting. The point is, I was bored to tears most of the time and the only reason why I finish stuff like this is because I want another notch on my books read in 2012 badge.

Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews946 followers
May 12, 2020
"…I think it isn’t enough to survive for the sake of surviving…. Surviving should mean something like it means something to them. And if it doesn’t-
If it doesn’t."

Initial Final Page Thoughts.

An Exchange of E-Mails between a friend and I.

[Censored for spoilery badtimes]

Last night.
10.49 pm.


[blank] and then [blank] and omg [blank] !!!

OMG CATIE. WHAT.... WHAT.... *head implodes*

[A reply from Catie, aka, President of Courtney Summers' Fan Club.]
THIS BOOK. The title just kept passing through my head - THIS IS NOT A TEST. Too [blank]ing right it's not! She really pulled out all the stops I think. Her best.

11:20 pm.
CATIE. A chav just threw a snowball at my window and I swear I literally just died for a split second.

11.31 pm.
OMG WHEN HE [blank]. OMG I can’t even deal with this book now. I’ve actually had to stop reading for the night to calm down.

Next day.
11.45 am

[Shh, I had a lie in. It was Sunday!]
I hope [blank] doesn’t turn into a baddie. Or a zombie. Or a zombaddie.

11.48 am.
A [blank]?!?! OH COME ON *gnaws off hand*

11.55 am.
[At this point punctuation, never a strong point of mine, failed me completely.]
the [blank] ??? !!!! omg what is with courtney summers she is an evil evil GENIUS woman

IS [blank] GOING TO BE A [blank]?!?!
Don’t tell me.
I don’t want to know.
UNLESS [blank] and then they [blank] and then omg [blank] and [blank].
no… still don’t tell me.

Are you kidding me?!

[When I reached the end. Censored for my language because I could make a sailor blush with my muck mouth.]
Holy [blank]-a-doodle-do.

The above should give you an insight on what this review is going to be like.
Manic? Possibly.
Gushing? Probably.
Incoherent? Pffft… you know me too well. ;-)
Let’s just call it passionate, shall we?
The above should also give you an insight on how brilliant it is to get an e-mail off me.

High Points.
In a perfect world. Survivors. Lockers. Notes. Sisters. Family. Pressure. “drenched in someone else’s life.” Book bags. Broken. Tina T. ”Thud.”. Saying good-bye. Safety in numbers. Bait. What comes next?

Low Points.
Trace and Grace…. Really? Are any parents that cruel?!

Sloane… crimeny.

“I’m lying because I’m the only one that can say the things I need to hear.”

Ms Summers sure knows how to create a broken heroine, doesn’t she?

“I’m just waiting for the rest of me to catch up.”


Supporting Cast.
OMG [blank] AND WHEN THEY WERE IN THE [blank] and OMG [blank] OMG WHY DID [blank] JUST DO THAT?!?!?!
The interactions between these characters in that last part?
Literally made my mind implode.


OK, maybe not literally.

Theme Tune.
Seeing as I was still jibbering at the end of this book, I asked Catie to help me pick out a song for this book.
I needed one bleak and horrifying and poignant and remarkably human.

How to Disappear Completely- Radiohead.

Strobe lights and broken speakers
Fireworks and hurricanes
I’m not here.
This isn’t happening
I’m not here.
I’m not here.


Sadness Scale OMFG Scale
I made two cups of tea while I was reading this book and both of them went cold.
The moral of this story?
Drink juice when reading Ms Summers.
Or, like, a milkshake or something.

You know that bit in a horror film when you see a shadow flick across the screen behind the doe-eyed heroine? And there’s the feeling in your stomach where you know terrible things are going to happen but you just don’t know when?
Ms Summers has turned that feeling into a book and that book is called ‘This is Not a Test’.

I think people who go into this book expecting it to be a zombook (“Braaaaains”) will be incredibly disappointed.
Because, to me, this isn’t a zombie book.
This book is a snapshot into suffering and despair and humanity and it’s one that’s blown up to such high-definition that it’s difficult to stomach because it’s honest and it’s brutal and it’s real and it’s so intense in its depiction of unbearable human emotions that you just want to gnaw on a pillow and curl up in the foetal position.

Also, there are zombies.
Zombies that eat braaaaaains.

Recommended For.
People who are ready to join the land of the living. People who are compelled to chase their nightmares. People who wonder what astronauts do when a zombie outbreak breaks…out. People who wonder what celebrities do in a zombie outbreak (Seriously Courtney Summers, get out of my mind! I always think of stuff like that!). People who wonder whether the zombies are the ones they should be worried about. People who could wield a crowbar without hitting themselves in the face with it. People who would stay on the side of zombie-infested side of the fence with me when they realise there is no chance in hell I’m going to be able to get over that because my upper body strength is non-existent. I mean we could try and find a loose slat or something but I might as well apologise to you now in the off-chance we find ourselves in that situation.

I received an advanced copy from the publishers.

Profile Image for L A i N E Y (will be back).
394 reviews677 followers
February 16, 2017
Talk about book that leaves you feel it long after you put it down....

There was something extremely hypnotizing about this book, or perhaps it's the writing, inspite of my not wanting to read an emotional book at the moment, after just a prologue, I kept wanting to pick it up and find out what happens and to read her writing more. I... I don't know what it was, I cannot explain it.

^even Klaus approved~

It has this calming effect on me while still made me very jumpy and extremely sad. It did creep me out but so NOT in the way I expected. It was worse though - the type of creep that reaches into your soul - it was kind of disturbing. brrrr

I was a bit apprehensive starting this since I'm not a zombie genre fan. So this book was meant for me in the sense it didn't focus on the zombie action that much. Oh there were many action scenes, and those were also really well done.

It seemed this book could do no wrong for me. That was also weird when I found out, I think I just assumed there would be some element or others that annoy me in each book I pick up...

This book just read painfully, painfully real to me, it hurts. The honesty in here was just astounding.

I like Sloane, inspite of her 'stillness/inaction'. The fact that Grace interpreted Sloane's daring act as strength was very interesting. I guess when you have nothing to lose, you can afford to be courageous (in other people's eyes).

I don't particular like first person narrative but this? This was the kind that I adore: simple yet eloquent. I could read and read more of this without getting bored.
I will get my hands on other books by Courtney Summers. That is for sure.

Finishing this, my heart feels full. So full. Feels too full.
This is Not a Test, here's to your awesomeness.

757 reviews2,345 followers
December 6, 2016
I honestly don't know what to review.

Thank to May, I'm officially Courtney Summers trash.

This book is not about zombies, why they mutated, finding a cure, or having some badass fighting scenes with them. It just has zombies in them. This book is about survival, difficult decisions, loss and heartbreak.

This is the second book I've read by Courtney Summers and I wasn't dissapointed. Her first book I read was a realisitic contemporary about rape and bullying and this book is totally different from that.

Whenever I think of reading some zombie novel, I'm always like "Oh there's going to be some fucking zombies, people are going to fight them and they will survive! Yay," but this book was nothing like that.

I was able to feel emotion while reading this.
I was able to feel the panic.
I was able to feel their loss.
I was able to feel their fear.
I was able to feel their need to make it out alive.
I was able to feel what they felt.

And that says a lot because I'm a heartless bitch.

Take all the goddamn stars.
November 2, 2015

I am so sad.
I am so sad it makes me heavier than the sum of my parts. I shift, restless, but it doesn't help. It's like-time. All this time in here is on me, has its hooks in me. Maybe if I sleep more, I'll wake up and I'll feel different, but I can't. The storm is really happening now and it makes the room feel emptier. Makes me feel emptier.

Okay, okay so.....I had some SERIOUS doubts on this one. Not because I don't trust my wonderful Alien friend (Anna), and not because I don't love dystopian anymore. No, I had doubts because I haven't read a dystopian in what feels like forever-hell, I can't even name the last one I read because I don't remember. This is my favorite genre and I haven't read one in what feels like an eternity. But facts are facts: Excellent dystopians are rare. There is only so much disappointment a person can take, and when you continually see fail after fail, you begin to hold out for that one special book that will make you fall head over heels in love with the genre that stole your heart before. This is that book. This is the book that had me reading at every opportunity, even at the expense of not eating. This is the book that felt so real, so dark, that it touched me on a visceral level. No fluff. No excuses. No one safe. That...is the definition of an excellent dystopian.

My body wants to stop.
Thud. I end up on my knees. I'm dripping with sweat and my stomach is churning and the sound I heard was not the sound of myself falling and landing but-thud.
I turn my head to the exit.

I fear I won't be able to say enough to express how wonderful and refreshing this story was. And I never would have guessed, either. Zombies? Pass. But a story that instills the fear of them watching you, waiting for you, wanting to eat you...without actually seeing them every five pages? Mother, may I? For real. This was everything I didn't hope for and more. That's right-I had ZERO expectations going in and figured this one wouldn't be for me. After all, I'm just so damn picky about my favorite genres. When that first thud. Thud. THUD. happened I about lost my shit-they were practically tearing down the doors...but we didn't have to see them. Their shelter was surrounded, but we didn't see the grotesque assholes in the windows or clawing all over our not-so-perfect cast of characters. No....Summers just placed a pin in that fear. She made you fear the moment that one would get in. She made you ponder if that school was closed up tight enough. She placed a little nugget of doubt about the morality of the main characters. After all, a scorned human being is more dangerous than any loaded gun, right?

The world breaks into a million pieces and comes back together just as quickly but it comes back together wrong. The picture is wrong. Upside down, awful.

And this leads me to our deplorable cast of survivors characters. What do you get when you are stuck in an abandoned school with a brother and sister who are devastated by a tragic turn of events, the person they blame, a boy who cries about anything and would switch loyalties in a minute, a girl who's circumstances have pushed her to feel as if she doesn't want to fight anymore, and a boy who's....well....ummm perfect?! Okay, the last one is a lie but I LOVED him. So, what do you get? A huge MESS is what you get. Bare trust, pencil thin alliances, explosive fights, and a whole lot of hormones.

I pull at a strand of my hair. I want to rip it out. I want to climb onto the roof and throw myself off it. I want to bash my head against the mirror until it breaks.

Sloane was our main character. She lived alone with her father after her sister abandoned left, and he has became even more abusive than before-and it was all centered on her. When her sister left her, she lost the will to live, the need to fight, the gumption to go on. But after the zombie virus begins, she stumbles across 'friends' from school who grab her and bring her with them in their mad dash to survive. This went against all her plans to just lay down and let the zombies have her. This went against her suicide plan. This went against everything she had planned....and so did he.

I turn my face away from him. He's right. Who cares. Maybe I'm infected. I try to listen to what's happening inside me. If there's any part of me that's dying and becoming more rotten but more purposeful than what I am now.

Aghhhhh Rhys! I LOVE YOU! And, ya know, there wasn't anything particularly special about him. He's just an average boy who gets as scared as anyone else. But there are these moments where he shows immense protectiveness for Sloane. These shining moments where he singles her out and takes care of her more than others. These beautiful, wonderful, amazing moments where he begs her to just live...and stay with him.

We'll make movies about it, hundreds of movies, and in every one of them, we'll be the heroes and the love interests and best friends and winners and we'll watch these movies until we are so far removed from our own history, we'll forget how it really felt to be here.

Now, I am TOTALLY going to step on Anna's toes and steal some of her words-because she said it best. I think the reason I loved this book so much was because of the characters. They were all so real. Their reactions, their emotions, their ANGER. It resonated deep within me and I felt their turmoil deep inside. I'd blame. I'd shout. I'd cry a ton. I'm a Grade A wuss! They were mean, sometimes cruel, and they forgave no one. This...this is the reality of the nasty world we live in. People won't forgive just because you're sorry. Sorry doesn't fucking cut it when lives are at stake. And the truth of the matter is, their reactions were candid. No faking, lots of un-truths, and quite a few betrayals. The sad thing about me? I kind of loved the one who might or might not have cost some lives. Sue me.

He tries again. "If you're staying, I want you to stay with me." I want so badly to ask him why, why he thinks he needs me, but he continues. "If you're not staying...if you're going to go through with it, wait until we're out of your way. I couldn't stand to see it."
"Okay," I say.
"I really hope I don't see it, Sloane," he says softly. "I really hope you wake up."
He hesitates and then he brings his hand to the crook of my elbow. He presses his lips against the side of my mouth and my heart recoils because for all its gentleness, it hurts.

Okay so I'll wrap this up, because guess what?? I'm leaving because it's snowing like crazy!! I could say a million more things, but I think the truth is in the words-the writing speaks for itself. It's raw. It's gritty. Not everyone makes it. And it's a harsh, cruel reality. I wish I could go on and on and on and on....but there is only so much I can say before I start to give things away. If you aren't sure about dystopians, if you don't like zombies but are willing to give them another shot, if you're on the fence at all, about anything to do with this story, read it. It's amazing. And I am so damn glad I decided to read it. That just goes to show that there is still a chance to make these novels amazing. They can still be harsh and have a little romance and still be amazingly blunt and well-written. I cannot wait to read the novella....I hope it is equally amazing as this book, but if it's only a fraction as good, I'll still die happy.

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Profile Image for carol..
1,535 reviews7,869 followers
September 6, 2012
The gnashing of teeth. The desperate creation of McGyver implements and traps. The fighting to survive. It's been too long since I read a zombie novel and I've been missing the sense of butt-kicking hopefulness they can bring. Unfortunately, while Summers is stellar at character development, this isn't the book to assuage the craving for fighting the undead and affirming life. This is Holden Caufield meets Lord of the Flies. Nihlistic and dream-like--Summers has challenged us with a narrator clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidal tendencies.

We meet Sloane at home, on the day she decided to die, except her sister Lily took the stash of pills when she left, and she isn't sure about the razor. The suicide letter in her pocket is written to that sister, six months absent. Her abusive dad interrupts her thoughts, rapping on the door, reminding her she is late to breakfast and burning her toast as punishment. It is a small piece of pettiness that lets the reader know that control is kept in both large and small scales, that punctuality and schedule is a religion in this household, and deviation means punishment. While she picks at her toast, Sloane thinks longingly of her one--and only--sleepover at Grace's house and her chance to be part of a 'normal' family full of afffection and noise. A girl interrupts breakfast by banging on the door, begging for help. A crazy scene meets Sloane's eyes, an she isn't sure whether she is imagining it or it is real, it is a scene of such horror. When her father finally kills a zombie woman in front of her eyes, her mind snaps.

To give Summers credit, this is one of the more remarkable first-person stories I've read in awhile. Traumatized for years, forced into a controlled shell of a person by her survival strategies, Sloan is conflicted between acknowledging her emotions and staying safe in her fatalistic landscape. And what an idea--take a zombie/apocalypse story with a narrator who doesn't want to survive, but has just enough conscientiousness that she doesn't want to pull anyone into her death with her.

The story quickly jumps to seven days in the future, where Sloane and a group of older teens, including her idol, Grace, are holed up in the school, barricading the doors against the zombie hordes. It's a rag-tag group, and the only adults--parents of two of the kids--were killed getting there. Instead of an island, we have a school, surrounded by zombies. A finite population. Somewhat finite supplies, although presumably a school stocked for a thousand or so will last six kids quite a while. There's a misfit that was saved, Harrison, a kid hardly anyone knows because he recently transferred, and a tendency to break out in tears. He's got 'Piggy' written all over him. Meanwhile, Sloane still thinks she'd rather be dead, but is having trouble drawing away as the group seeks to include her, especially when conflict escalates and sides are chosen.

There are 'Breakfast Club' moments where the teens bond as they linger in the school, hoping for rescue, but the infighting is wearing them down. One of the underlying themes is the loss of family, their coping, and whether or not the survivors create their own. Grace starts to represent the lost Lily to Sloane, and watching Grace and her brother interact resurrects the ghost of the relationship she had with Lily. Sloane is clearly conflicted between her safe lassitude and the emotions of loss and anger threatening to leak out. Tension starts going LotF direction when another survivor joins the group. I felt the book took a more negative quality turn with the contrivance of

The writing skillfully captures both social and inner conflict. Sloane's dissociation is shown through sparse descriptions and simply constructed sentences.

Several passages stood out: "The thing no one tells you abour surviving, about the mere act of holding out, is how many hours are nothing because nothing happens. They also don't tell you about how you can share your deepest secrets with someone, kiss them, and the next hour it's like there's nothing between you because not everything can mean something all the time or you'd be crushed under the weight of it. They don't tell you how you will float through days."

"I process this like a two-year-old with no life beyond Disney movies: he's hurting her. Then I realize, no--not hurting. Kissing."

"I am so sad. I am so sad it makes me heavier than the sum of my parts. I shift, restless, but it doesn't help."

A remarkable read. Probably a solid '4' on the GR scale for skill, but I don't know that I would go so far as to say I really liked it, although it was a quality read and an unusual take in the zombie genre. Sloane was a challenging narrator, and while I wanted so desperately for her to break out of her self-imposed barriers, to grasp the life preserver she's been thrown so she stops drowning, moments where she was able to do so were few and far between. It's heart-wrenching watching her struggle. It was a book that made me think, remember what it was like to be 17 and trapped, and just like the best zombie novels, made me realize the undead aren't the worst problem.
Profile Image for Limonessa.
300 reviews507 followers
February 25, 2012
What an outstanding.... odd book.
To be honest, I'm not even sure how to rate it.
On the one hand, I just want to praise it, recommend it, tell you it's amazing and give it 5 stars.
On the other hand, the aspect I didn't like is so macroscopic that I can't give it what it theoretically deserves.

This is the first book by Courtney Summers that I have read but rest assured I will soon get my hands on her other ones - one I actually already own, Cracked up to be. There's something really powerful in Summers' writing style that will suck you in the story and make you feel just like she wants you to feel.
This is not a test is basically a story about a profoundly damaged girl, victim of domestic abuse, who gets stuck inside a school with a bunch of other guys, struggling for their survival.
The story per se, what led them there, the circumstances, are secondary and relatively important, as the real focus is on Sloane's internal turmoil, on the ghosts that haunt her from the past and on the tenuous and casual balance among the people who are stuck inside the school.
A sense of desperation, of oppression and of uneasiness bleeds from the pages of this book in a way I really can't help but admire. Summers is a masterful story-teller and the way she lets us, gradually, into the characters' psyche is something you don't often encounter in even skilled writers nowadays. Each single character of This is not a test steps out of the pages and comes alive in front of your eyes, 100% believable and true, stripped of false moralism or clichéd genre taboo, painfully authentic.
I could not, in all honesty, condemn or praise a character at any given moment in the story, their actions being far from predictable and absolutely not meant to make me either cheer or despise them.

So why are there zombies in it, you might ask?
Good question, I'm still wondering too.
The zombies are the reason I can't give this book 5 stars. I'm not sure if they were meant to give a gory, dark edge to the story - which truly is dark enough in itself - or if they were the excuse to justify the isolation of these kids in a confined space, waiting for the world to end or for someone to come save them, but they felt as a mere plot device to me. We just know that, at a given time in history, zombies appeared, no background. True, zombie invasion was not the fulcrum of the story, but the fact that I kept wondering what had happened and what the heck was going on with the outside world left me partly unsatisfied.

Still, an amazingly well-written story you certainly do not want to miss, whether you're a zombie lover or not.

For this review and more, drop by at The Nocturnal Library
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
September 16, 2017
“She always said I'd die without her and she left anyway.”
“But you didn't die.”
“I did,” I say. “I'm just waiting for the rest of me to catch up.”

This isn't a typical zombie book. Let me say that first. Don't write this off because of the zombie-book think, or the dystopia thing. And don't add it because you like zombie books, either. I don't think I'd class this as a dystopia.

So why should you read this? This is going to sound weird, but I think you should read this if you like And Then There Were None-esque suspenseful mysteries where you trust no one. There's the same character-driven goodness and desperate suspense, making you rush through the entire book in one sitting.

I've split this into two sections, one for each strong aspect of the book. Let me know if you prefer this or my normal style!!

I run my hands over my body, feeling out my bruises without being able to see them, and I think about what Rhys said, how we're not made of anything. I wonder if my father felt the same way about me, Lily. Maybe once he realized it the first time, he wanted to realize it over and over because it made him feel like he was made of something.

Sloane is not your typical horror novel protagonist. Um. Why? you ask, shaking your heads. What is so fucking special about this random zombie book girl? Well. Sloane is depressed and wants to die. She wants to die.


I'm trying to find a way to articulate exactly why I wished through this so quickly. And I really can't say why. What I can say is that I read the first two hundred pages in a single sitting without even realizing how far I'd gotten.

The writing here is so eerie and atmospheric. I think Courtney Summers' writing speaks to me especially because it feels very similar to how I write - the overuse of commas to add atmosphere just speaks to me on at least eighty levels and tugs at all three of my feelings.

I think the other suspenseful aspect was to do with the aspect of trying-to-figure-everyone-out. This is where the book resembles And Then There Were None. This story goes far deeper and explores the reactions different characters have to trauma. I do think this story might have worked better in third person limited with multiple perspectives. I'll maybe write more on this later, but I think it would've brought up the suspense and the shock of all the plot twists. Maybe.


Maybe this is a matter of missed expectations, but I really expected more. There's value to this kind of small-scope story, but I wanted some kind of mind-blow at the end, some big twist, something different. And yet so much went unexplained. I didn't get it. If the ending had ended in a proper mindfuck of a twist explaining how the fuck the world got so bad, would this be a five star read? Probably.

I also didn't find myself invested in any characters beyond Sloane. Again, this could've been helped by a longer multi-pov story. Feeling invested in only one main isn't the right scope for a horror story.

I guess it just was a matter of mixed expectations. Definitely go into this for the tension and the main character, not for some kind of proper worldbuilding or a twist that mindfucks you backwards.

VERDICT: Definitely a great book to pick if you're looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful read with memorable characters. I admit that I wanted a bit more, but this was a lot of fun.

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Profile Image for prag ♻.
588 reviews587 followers
February 7, 2017
Let me tell you something. Once, or if you’re really unlucky, more than that, in your reading life there will come a book, whose sole purpose is to thoroughly mess up your brain and squeeze your heart out until it’s dry.

This is that kind of a book. A book that’s so fucked up, it can’t help but hurt.

I’ll make it clear upfront: I am completely over YA contemporary. Gone is the time when I fell in love with Lauren Oliver, and stayed up all night reading Sarah Dessen. And I really wouldn’t have picked this up if she hadn’t cried over it. But I’m not sorry I did, far from it, in fact, I could even go as far as saying it’s one of my favorite books.


It’s not quite there. It’s just didn’t touch me.

“I really hope I don’t see it, Sloane,” he says softly. “I really hope you wake up.”

Sloane is so me , it killed me sometimes. She just got it.

“But you didn't die,” he says.
“I did,” I say. “I'm just waiting for the rest of me to catch up.”

I wanted her to get up. To get up and fight. I found myself rooting for her every moment.


Underneath the death and the zombies and the lives, there’s a veneer of fake to it all. The book didn’t feel alive to me, like it should. Maybe that’s just me, because everybody’s given this five stars, but I just don’t get it. I really wanted to, but I didn’t.

“This is not a test. Listen closely. This is not a test."
But I think she's wrong. I think this is a test.
It has to be.”

Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,371 reviews920 followers
November 15, 2015
2.5 stars

Interested in more of my reviews? Visit my blog!

'The radio crackles the prerecorded voice of that woman at us over and over...
'This is not a test. Listen closely. This is not a test.'
But I think she's wrong. I think this is a test.
It has to be.'

The Storyline
'This is not a Test' includes a group of sorrowful teenagers trying to survive (some of them at least) and a post-apocalyptic world full of zombies.

Sloane Price has survived the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. She's joined up with 5 other kids she went to school with and they are all hiding out in their old high school, trying to survive. Except Sloane never intended on being alive for very much longer. Ever since her sister Lily abandoned her she hasn't been the same and lacks any sort of will to live.. She escaped from the beatings their father inflicted on them both, and didn't take Sloane with her. Being surrounded by kids who want more than anything to live makes her feel like an outcast as she continues to search for her way out so that she's finally 'free'.

I am a huge fan of zombie novels, and there's certainly no 'right' way to do them but with most zombie novels I've found that I particularly enjoy the world building aspect and finding out how the zombies came to be. If it's lacking in world building it better have a super fabulous story to focus on instead. The world-building aspect isn't explained in this story and it came off feeling like a normal teenage angst ridden story, just with zombies thrown in as secondary characters, rather them being an actual part of the story. It's almost like the author decided on two genres but forgot to mix them well enough so that they were good and blended.

I had a hard time liking the characters. These were all high school kids, hiding out in a high school, still playing high school games. I kept waiting for them to toughen up, to harden from what has happened to them, but it just didn't happen. Plus? The zombie action was quite minimal for my liking.

The ending was bleak, brutal, but unsatisfactory; more than likely just simply due to my personal preferences.. I can see how this story will be liked by many, it just wasn't overall exactly what I had anticipated.
Profile Image for Jasprit.
527 reviews747 followers
February 6, 2012
In the past I have read some good zombie themed books The forest of hands and teeth, Feed, but This is not a test has by far outdone all of these. Where can I start with this amazing book? It put me through a tumult of emotions; my nerves were always on edge, I had a constant aching in my chest. Basically I was a complete wreck after finishing it. It was one of the most powerful, thrilling yet gruelling books I’ve ever read.

This is not a test follows six teenagers, Sloane, Rhys, Cary, Harrison, Trace and Grace who have managed to escape for the time being from ravaged flesh hungry zombies. The place they called home Cortege under came an unexpected attack. Everything’s come to a complete standstill and now the town is largely occupied by the dead. People have lost family members all over the place. Sloane and the others manage to find a safe place for the time being, their local school, they barricade all possible entrances to the building and cover up all the windows. They have enough food and water supplies to last them a while, until help arrives but how long can they wait it out?

This is not a test had the best opening scene that I have ever come across; what a way to get thrown into a book. It opens in a depressing scene of Sloane dealing with her dad after the aftermath of a brutal beating. Out of nowhere they hear someone pounding on their door screaming for help, Sloane’s dad grudgingly goes out to investigate, they discover that their entire street is in uproar, they’re surrounded by the sound of people screaming and rushing by, sirens wailing. A woman covered in blood approaches their house, her dad slams the door in her face but she smashes her way in, trapping them inside... Oh how I enjoyed being thrown into the middle of the chaos from the get go, it was seriously nail biting stuff.

The great thing about this book was that it wasn’t just a zombie themed book, but much more than that. It cuts you so deep with the stories of the six teenagers stuck in the school. Each having a heartfelt story which brings them to the school in the first place, Sloane is just empty, empty now that her sister Lily has ran away. Lily and Sloane were there for each other through their dad’s vicious beatings. They had planned to run away together but Lily just disappeared one day out of the blue leaving her a note and having to deal with her dad all by herself. Sloane’s worried has Lily managed to make it away on time? Is she safe? Without Lily by her side Sloane’s life is just pointless. Cary the school’s pot dealer seemed to be quite close to Lily before she ran away. Since escaping the only thing that’s been on most people’s minds is that was it Cary’s fault Harrison, being the new kid doesn’t really know anyone, he feels helpless and scared all the time. And he’s really emotional at coming to terms with everything’s that happening around them. Trace he’s constantly hot headed, but the only reason he’s not lashing out as much is because he still has his twin sister Grace. Grace, despite just is dealing with it much better than Trace. She has been a comforting presence within the group, constantly reassuring Harrison, trying to keep everyone calm and keeping Trace in line when he’s about to fly off on one. And finally Rhys he’s been quite calm and controlled, so has kind of taken charge of the group. He also seems to be more clued up compared to the others about the zombies, but how does he know so much? A lot of them didn’t really trust one another, but the fact that they were stuck together, meant that they had to depend on one another in order to survive. They really became like a tight knit family, I’d grown so close to each one of these characters in such a small amount of time. I just knew that I wouldn’t be able to cope if anything happened to them.

What made this book so good that I gave it 5 stars? That was definitely down to the story building, it was just immense, the plot twists came out from nowhere, they smack you upside the head, that by the time you’re getting your head around one you’re flabbergasted by something else, blow by blow this booked chipped away at my already feeble heart until I could no longer take it. So many times I had to stop reading. I wanted to carry on reading but was so scared of what was going to happen.

Courtney Summers seriously where have you been all my life? I’ve heard so many great things about your contemporary books but then you rock up with this? With all the contemporaries I’ve been devouring I so needed this. This was just a true literary gem. Courtney Summer’s writing was intense, gripping and heart wrenching and at times and it completely floored me! The shock tactics were brutal yet jaw dropping. This book truly deserves a million stars.

This is not a test is a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout, I recommend that if you read this book, lock yourself away and read it because it’s one of those books that once you start you won’t be able to put back down.

If there’s anything you want to take from my review it’s this READ THIS BOOK NOW! That is all.

A big thank you to Net galley and St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this amazing book.
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,236 reviews26.6k followers
March 23, 2016
"I am so sad it makes me heavier than the sum of my parts."
This book was so wonderful, it surprised me a lot. I picked up this book because I love good books involving zombies and this one has been getting decent review. I've actually wanted to read this book for about a year and a half now but I never got around to it. This morning I just decided to pick it up and 3 hours later I was finished with it. It was so good and intense and interesting and this is so much more than just a zombie apocalypse story, it's a coming-of-age story. This story follows Sloane, a 17 year old girl who has been thrown into a zombie apocalypse. Sloane is suicidal because her older sister Lily abandoned her 6 months ago (before the zombie apocalypse), and ran away leaving Sloane behind with their abusive Father. Now the story takes place a few days later where Sloane is surviving with five other teenagers in their old high school.

I think it was interesting to read about a zombie apocalypse through the eyes of someone who wants to die. This book is written so beautifully and at times it made me want to cry. I love how each of the five teenagers all had their own stories and their own things to contribute to the story. I liked the brother and sister relationship between Grace and Trace, and seeing how that affected their decisions. I also absolutely adore Rhys, and I totally ship him and Sloane so hard. They had some really cute scenes in this book that made me smile.

This book kind of felt like The Breakfast Club meets the zombie apocalypse. It focuses so much more on human relationships as opposed to the apocalypse itself, and it was refreshing. I love the way it implies that zombies aren't always the biggest threat (because Sloane's abusive Father is more scary than any zombie could ever be.) I feel like this is a very realistic take on how teenagers would handle themselves in a zombie apocalypse; all very frantic and unsure of what to do and afraid to kill zombies and people. It's not like you just suddenly become okay with killing zombies just because you're in an apocalypse, and those zombies were people once too.

The only complaint I have about this book is the ending. It didn't give me any closure and since I had become so attached to these characters it sucked not getting to see the rest. Overall, this was a really great read and this is the first book I've read by Courtney Summers but it certainly won't be the last.
Profile Image for Maggie ☘.
534 reviews653 followers
July 17, 2017
*2.5/5 stars*

“Maybe the only way our story can end is varying degrees of sad.”

My reaction after finishing: What the hell did I just read??

So, this book and I didn't really work well together. Though I liked the idea of the story, it didn't work for me in reality. I've heard nothing but amazing things about it and was very hyped up about this as a result, but.. I think it says something when it took my more then a month to finish this, almost DNFing it two times at that. The story had a lot of potential and I really liked some messages this book sends, but overall I expected more. I expected it to be darker, to tell us something more about human nature than the constant bickering and boringness of being closed up in school. There was no plot, the story was excruciatingly boring for me for the most part, I didn't care for any of the characters, didn't like the constant internal monologues and none of it evoked any emotions in me at all like I was told it would. It was also really depressing read at time I didn't exactly need something like it. I loved what this book promised, liked some of the thoughts in it, but overall wanted something more. I felt entirely disconnected from it.
On the plus side, the writing was great and Summers can clearly create pretty disturbing but realistic characters.

“I will see my father in every anger.”

I guess this just wasn't for me, though I'm still really interested in trying the author's contemporary books.

“I am so sad.
I am so sad it makes me heavier than the sum of my parts. I shift, restless, but it doesn't help. It's like-time. All this time in here is on me, has its hooks in me. Maybe if I sleep more, I'll wake up and I'll feel different, but I can't. The storm is really happening now and it makes the room feel emptier. Makes me feel emptier.”


So This is Not a Test is going to be my first Courtney Summers work. And I think this is one of those books which are either hit or miss. I've hear so many good things about the author and how emotional her stories are so I'm very excited (wary) to see if it lives up to all the hype.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,415 followers
July 27, 2012
I don't know how I'm going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to stop.
Wow. This little book has completely floored me. I was not expecting something so deep, so very melancholic yet shot through with the irrepressible human need to hope. Not just irrepressible, Summers shows us that hope is irreducible. Stripped to its basest core, hope just might be the evolutionary urge that has kept us going as a species for millennia -- in the face of disasters and war, atrocities and cruelty, in the face of bottomless grief, crushing despair, paralyzing loneliness and love lost. And I have no doubt that when the zombie apocalypse comes, it will be this amazing capacity to salvage hope from the ruins that will save us.

In This is Not a Test we meet Sloane, a young woman who has lost her ability to hope and thus, her will to live. She is alone with a father who beats her, abandoned by the only person in this life she has ever loved, her older sister Lily. Lily always told her they would escape together, that she would wait for her...and then she didn't. The depth of this betrayal slices through Sloane leaving her panicked, floundering, numb, then finally resigned. Her sister always said that Sloane would die without her -- and now Sloane has decided that she was right. At the point when Sloane knows she cannot possibly continue to live for another single intake of breath, zombies come pounding at the front door. The world is in chaos. Death is in every backyard, on every street corner. And suddenly, the young woman who was going to take her own life, is now running for it.

Yes this book has zombies but PLEASE, if that's not your thing, don't let it keep you from reading it. This is a story rich with emotion because Summers has such a genuine talent for creating memorable, unique characters. A book of six teens where every voice is distinctive and grounded firmly in reality is rare and precious. Hell, that's rare and precious for fiction period. The way these kids relate to one another, approaching with caution, testing for vulnerabilities, seeking approval, acceptance, a safe unconditional embrace, just left me riveted. I can tell you, I WAS IN THAT HIGH SCHOOL with them. I felt their fear and pain. I watched them come together, pull apart, rage and cry ... and I cried with them. Oh yes, there were tears people.

So many reviewers have pointed out that this book isn't about the zombies, but I would add that it's not just about the zombies. Because unlike some other books, the zombies are more than mere window dressing here or a fleeting, ill-defined threat. While there are very few actual sightings and encounters, there remains a stifling, almost suffocating sense of them at all times. In fact, there are several truly terrifying scenes, scenes that only work because Summers understands the critical relationship between tension and release. There is so much quiet in this novel, that when she ratchets up the suspense to a scream in the final 40 pages it's enough to make your heart beat right the fuck out of your chest.

I really loved everything about this book. I could search for flaws, as I'm sure they exist, but I'm not going to. I got lost in it. I thought about it when I was away from it, and I couldn't wait to get back to it. I was reading it on the bus on my way home today and nearly missed my stop because I was so engrossed. Read this! READ IT! I can't state it any more emphatically than that. Don't believe me? Read Catie's review. She'll convince you.

P.S. and I was so excited to learn that Courtney Summers is Canadian! Yay, Canada :)
Women and men. Girls and boys. People I might've known but can't recognize anymore. There is every shade of blood--black, brown, red, pink. All eyes looking at us through that same milky film that sees us for what we are and what they are not anymore.

Profile Image for Maggie.
431 reviews430 followers
June 28, 2012
I get the hype.

This Is Not a Test reminded me of Lord of the Flies meets The Walking Dead -- the first season when you're actually cheering for the humans and not the zombies -- with a dash of The Breakfast Club. Not only was this my first Courtney Summers book, this was also my first zombie book. Verdict? I'd like more of both please.

Sloane, a physically and emotionally abused girl, finds herself barricaded inside her high school along with five other students. While they know each other, they aren't friends. They came together because they were the only ones who weren't infected in a town overrun by zombies. The only signal they get on the radio is a recorded message informing them that "This is not a test." The school seems secure, the perfect place for a group struggling to survive. The difference between Sloan and everyone else is that she doesn't care to survive -- and hasn't since before the first zombie appeared.

There are so many elements to this novel. To begin, the setting is perfect. This is a survival story, but by having the group camped out at the school, the two basic elements of survival -- food and shelter -- are taken care of. Now instead of having the characters scrounge around for basic physical necessities, Summers can focus on the psychological aspect of survival. Holy mindfuck, Batman. This is an area where Summers excels. Not only is this about the living versus the dead, it's about the living dead, the people whose lives make them feel dead already. Sloane's survival up to this point has been more of a reflex than a desire. She watches as the other people in her group make choices -- cruel, arguably necessary choices -- to improve their own chances of survival. There is so much tension and suspense in this book as you try to figure out how it's going to end while you piece together how it began.

Of course, I also have to mention that one of the characters is Asian! Cary Chen, the stoner-turned-de facto leader, is a complicated, non-stereotypical character. Thank you, Courtney Summers, for that. And because I like to be thorough, I went ahead and mentally cast him.

I was hesitant to try Summers' previous books because while the reviews were often glowing, they would also include the words "uncomfortable," "intense," and "raw." Honestly, I just thought they would be too much for me, like the literary equivalent of Requiem for a Dream, a movie that I'm still not over and it came out 10 years ago! Adding zombies, though, is the perfect filter for all the intensity. The very real exploration of human nature and cruelty is much more palatable to a wuss like me with the paranormal zombie element. Having said that, I wish there was more information on the zombies, particularly how they came to be or how widespread they were. I know zombies aren't the focus of the story, but since they were included, I wanted to know more. Nevertheless, This Is Not a Test was the perfect introduction to Courtney Summers.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

This review appears on Young Adult Anonymous.
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
814 reviews205 followers
October 17, 2017
3-1/2 stars, rounded up. But I'm really not sure how to rate this book.

As everyone probably already knows, this is Courtney Summers' zombie book, and on the surface it's got the familiar elements: zombie apocalypse occurs, nearly everyone is infected almost immediately, small bands of survivors hole up and hope for the best while knowing they're probably going to meet their doom.

Sloane Price is one of those survivors. By sheer accident, she's fallen in with a group of five students who make it to the high school.

But zombies aren't Sloane's main concern. Neither is survival. After years of physical abuse by her father, and the more recent abandonment by her older sister, Sloane is suffering trauma to the extent that she's not sure she even wants to be a survivor any longer. The troubles in her head and heart loom just as large as the troubles outside of her.

This book felt to me like a combination of Tomorrow, When the War Began and Lord of the Flies, as narrated by someone with severe PTSD. It's raw and harrowing, and terrible things happen. I'm not sure I "enjoyed" it. But I sure couldn't put it down, and zipped through it. I found it a different perspective and interesting twist on the typical zombie apocalypse story. Minuses are that it doesn't exactly have a plot, and it winds up very open-ended and unresolved, both zombie-wise and Sloane's internal story-wise.

So I'm not sure how I feel about this book, at all.

I do know that I plan to read the rest of Courtney Summers' books. She writes amazing voices, and I'd like to hear them all.
Profile Image for Nomes.
384 reviews376 followers
March 7, 2022
It only took me a few pages to remember how much I love Summers' unique style of writing: punchy, direct, achey, intense. Minimal words conveying maximum impact.

It took me only one chapter to be hooked. By the end of chapter one, I needed to read chapter two. By the end of chapter two, I needed to read chapter three. By the end of … and so on.

This is Not a Test is compulsively readable. Tightly plotted. Intense. Addictive. The drama in the pages never seems melodramatic, in spite of the premise.

I didn't find it had a breakfast club vibe at all: to me, that implies misfits ultimately banding together. Which didn't happen. Tensions ran high and then they ran higher.

What I loved about this book was how sucked in I got. Made an awesome reading experience. I truly love courtney summers for that.

However, I was ultimately unsatisfied. I didn’t really connect to the characters. I was curious about what would go down, but not affected by any of it. I felt very disconnected to Sloane, who is disconnected to herself in many ways. Sloane is just as messed up (if not more) than any other of summers protagonists: abused, broken, closed-up, suicidal, distanced from other characters.

The last 20% was my least favourite part. When everything started to fall apart, I inexplicably felt tired of the drama.

The ending, for me, was the worst, although not unexpected. I am just not sure how I am supposed to feel about the book being left there. It was harsh. Instead of finishing the book on the adrenalin rush of the first sections, i was stunned, disheartened and oddly, empty. Dazed.

Regarding the zombies: It read much more like a contemp novel, really. However, the action and gore scenes were great and obviously provided a unique environment/background for Sloane’s internal drama.

Recommended: Definitely for an engrossing, addictive, original read, This Is Not A Test is the book you’re looking for. Also, if you’re already a Summers’ fan, you’ll like the narration and barren/harsh/hurting Summers-style protag.

As for me: I really enjoyed the reading experience, but didn’t end up loving the book. Does this make sense?
Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,954 followers
June 19, 2012
I have a text message.

It's the end of the world and I have a text message.

Why am I not surprised? Of course the end of the world would happen and everyone would be doing whatever they could in order to hold onto the last charge on their phone, just in case that one important text message comes through.

3.5 stars. My advice is that you go take a spin through all of the 4 and 5 star reviews first before reading mine. I'm going to be the rare fly in the ointment who isn't completely satisfied with what was trying to be accomplished here.

This is Not a Test was a good book. I'll even write it again. This is Not a Test was a good book. It was a decent realistic fiction which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world book. Yes, I did go there. I'm throwing down on the genre definition.

I was warned that the story was more about the inner workings of the characters, which didn't bother me at the time. I like reading books in which people have to battle their own inner demons. In that aspect, the story was well-crafted. But a zombie book? I really don't think that it was. And something about that fact really frustrated me.

Anyone can take a scenario, call it end-of-the-world and then use it to throw people together in order to put them through a sort of mental hell. But when the world really doesn't extend past characters being trapped in a building, it makes me want to cry foul on the whole zombie take. Call it a natural disaster. Call it nuclear war. Call it anything but a flipping zombie book. People read zombie books because they want to see some semblance of horror or devastation. And I'm not talking about emotional devastation.

This was not a zombie book. This was NOT a zombie book. THIS WAS NOT A ZOMBIE BOOK. And I'm still sort of pissed at that.

However, I did like This is Not a Test, even though I honestly couldn't tell you why. The characters were all broken, no one really came across as likable, and the ending had us wishing we knew what was next to come. I guess this goes back to the author being able to craft a well-written story. This is how I wish Never Let Me Go had ended - not perfectly wrapped up but at least leaving you with a tiny shred of hope.

This one line did drive the point of the book home. Hold on to what you have while you still have time to appreciate it :
You can lose everything in seconds.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,403 reviews1,851 followers
April 10, 2021
I wish I could say my problem with this book was the fact that I was reading about the downfall of society in the face of a zombie apolcalypse whilst enduring a global pandemic but sadly this just sucked because of the characters. However the scary part is it is very likely to be a realistic portrayal of a group of dysfunctional teens and the drama and chaos as they try to survive.. but it still just sucked to experience.

The arguments, the antagonizing, the petty BS.. it was just never ending. This clocks in at just over three hundred pages but it felt so much longer and I dreaded picking this up every time I put it down. Which is why I powered through it this afternoon just to be done with it. The zombie aspect was fine and I actually liked those action sequences. I would've been happier with more of those, maybe? It was the humans I hated. I definitely wanted them to die off quicker. Too harsh? Sorry.

That said, I did pick up the novella that follows this, from a different POV, and that was better. Not good or great but readable. Also, short! It was more action packed but with an ending that was pretty sad, awful, sawful and yet also somewhat open ended so I don't think if there's eventual plans for more or not. But.

There are plenty of similar themed stories out there. I would give this a miss.

1.5 stars


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for Aly (Fantasy4eva).
240 reviews120 followers
March 6, 2012
I go back to sleep until a slow roll of thunder wakes me up.
By the time my eyes are open, a loud clap of it sounds overhead.
And then the rain, tapping against the skylights.
I am so sad.
I am so sad it makes me heavier than the sum of my
parts. I shift, restless, but it doesn’t help. It’s like— time.
All this time in here is on me, has its hooks in me. Maybe
if I sleep more, I’ll wake up and I’ll feel different, but I
can’t. The storm is really happening now and it makes the
room feel emptier. Makes me feel emptier.

i don't think i was told how gut-wrenching this book would be. so i have to tell you. you will cry. or come very close to it.

for a time you may not even like our protagonist, salone. i know i didn't. i struggled with her because i kind of hated her for giving up so easily. for being so weak. but as you follow her journey and reach towards the end, you are hit by certain moments that will make you feel so helpless and angry that you don't even dare question her anymore. because if this girl is feeling even a speck of what you are feeling towards the end, then you do not even want to imagine her pain. trust me.

seeing how the last 40 pages have your heart racing like crazy, kind of made me wish that things could have taken that specific route from the start. but i now see that the slow build up of eventually leading to that point was what made those last few moments so effective.

grace, salone, harrison, trace, rhys and cary. i felt some of them were more developed than others. and yes, i do think that those who i felt lacked depth proved me wrong towards the end. the problem is that it was towards the end. and i really wish they could have proved me wrong much earlier in the book. because i can pin-point some of the characters traits, but not so much of the others. because it's people like cary and ryth that still leave me a little unsure. especially those two. i'm still trying to figure them out.

you see these six people, who really don't know each other much, are confined within a school. as they spend longer barricaded in the school and afraid of those zombies who are constantly trying to make their way in. they have to learn to quickly adapt and get used to one another. and i think the book is more about these characters growth, accepting the truth and living with it, rather than beating up those those waiting on the other side. in fact, the zombies really don't make much of an appearance or serve such a purpose apart from being the reason these guys are stuck. apart from the end though. and boy do they make up for lost time then.

it's a strange dynamic, but each character brings something different to the group. and as they spend longer together - as much as they begin to look out for one another and become a family of sorts, there is this immense will to live and find their loved ones. and sometimes the want for family and love overtakes all rational thinking and results in dangerous mistakes and decisions.

but i think if this book is about something. it's about hope and ones will to live. to hold on to something so much because it's all you have. if i loved a character more than anyone in this book guys, it was trace. maybe an unlikely choice because he's not the nicest of characters at all, but i connected with him right away. he's honest, fiercely loyal to those he loves and so brave. i think his fault lies in using harsh words to cover up how much he cares. i wish he didn't. on another note regarding him. what he shares with his sister moved me. i really haven't seen a brother sister relationship really portrayed all that well in books that i've read until now, so it was a new kind of fresh air seeing them converse on a daily basis. maybe they touched me and made me smile because they were undeniably the only two people who unselfishly loved one another in that school. who would really kill or die for each other. their loyalty, affection, banter and love is something to be seen. when i saw them i was immediately reminded of myself and my older brother. we actually share a pretty identical relationship as those two . maybe that's why it spoke out loud to me.

i fell in love with courntey summers work the moment i read fall for anything, there's something about her work that always captures me. like melina marchetta, i just feel that these women truly get it.

the anger and cussing never seems over the top and forced, the more sexual scenes were done so well, giving us readers what felt right. i think the author probably pushed a bit more than what i've read in other YA books but guys you have no idea how great it felt to finally read a book where the author pushed the line a little. it fit so perfectly with the book and the characters, that i thanked her countless times for just going for it and not giving a shit what others would say.

i absolutely devoured this book. holy shit, it is 5 am and i don't even remember when i started it. it started a bit slow for me at first, actually, but it wasn''t before long until i was fully sucked in.

i'm actually still in shock. i felt at a certain point like i was reaching my limit. when someone lost their life, it felt like a punch in the gut. and if i thought it would make it easier the second time around, it didn't. it was way worse. i remember, i kept telling myself to breathe. i was updating my status because i just had to share my fury and sadness with you guys, but often, everything was too blurry to make sense of it all. i failed to fight back tears twice, and a third time when it ended. i feel utterly defeated and although it is a book of hope, all i honestly want to do is curl up and fucking sob. because although it's' just a book, i feel like i'm truly grieving for some of these characters, and i never imagined the pain would be this immense.

try to heed my warning when i tell you that you may walk away from this book with a heavy heart and tears in your eyes. but hopefully glad that you went with your gut and give it a go.

i can't promise you a happy ending. but i assure you, it is an amazing read.

Maybe the only way our story can end is varying
degrees of sad. And that I miss her, that I need her, and
this kind of missing, this kind of need, the kind of emptiness
it leaves behind is worse than waking up one day and
finding the whole world has collapsed in on itself, that I
was over long before it was.
I tell him about how Grace and Trace kill me sometimes,
for having each other, and that’s what surviving
is, I think. Having something.

Profile Image for Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker.
596 reviews371 followers
February 9, 2012
There comes a time in everyone's life when we finally "wake up" and figure out that we don't need to be a product of our screwed up past. For some, it takes months, for other's it takes years (I should know). If you don't come to this realization, there are consequences... for some drugs, for others..suicide, or other forms of escape.

Sloane wants to die. Not because of the zombies. Before there were zombies, there was a scarier monster in Sloane's life. She was being abused by her dad, and was abandoned by her sister. Sloane lives through the initial zombie attack but still wants to die.

This story is about Sloane, and the journey she takes, and the decisions she makes. She has the perfect weapon to kill herself, just walk outside and she'll be bitten. So why doesn't she do it? Or does she? Some people don't ever wake up, maybe this is Sloane and maybe not.

Very emotional read for me, maybe because I can relate but I think even without it being personal to me, it was a great story.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,162 followers
July 5, 2012
Listen carefully. This is not a book. It’s a masterpiece.
Listen carefully. This doesn’t feel like a piece of fiction – it feels real.
Listen carefully. This story will leave you numb. I think I still am.
Listen carefully. This is not a test. It’s a review.

When the world as we know it is suddenly shattered by the shrill screams of zombies, the human race is in chaos. No one knows how the deadly disease came about, but they all know it spreads. In this race for survival, six teenagers find themselves barricaded in their high school, living in constant fear of themselves, each other, and what lies outside. Ironically enough, Sloane, the narrator of this novel, despite being one of the six human teenagers left in her town, wants to die. Sloane’s abusive father has made her life hell and when her older sister, Lily, leaves Sloane behind to deal with him on her own, it’s more than she can handle. Yet, everyone thinks Sloane is a survivor when in reality, she has given up on life. Courtney Summer’s latest novel takes you into the mind of one victim as she struggles to come to terms with the horror that raids her world, the futility of life, and the true meaning of being alive.

I am going to start out by apologizing because nothing I possibly say will even come close to the sheer perfection, brilliance, beauty, and haunting aftermath of this novel. This is Not a Test is my first Courtney Summers book and if her other novels are anything like this one, it most certainly won’t be my last. In all honesty, This is Not a Test is not a zombie novel. I know, it’s shocking. Although there are plenty of zombies in this novel and more than a few close run-ins with these scary undead creatures, I would not go so far as to write off This is Not a Test as being just another zombie novel. In fact, if I had to pinpoint one specific genre for this book, I’d most likely tell you it was a psychological thriller.

This is Not a Test is told from the POV of Sloane whose voice is raw, brutal, and fresh with pain. Sloane, like the other teenagers she is with, is confused and worried about the new turn of events that have wrecked her life, but not for the same reason as the others. Sloane’s emotions are often difficult to explain as they are confused, jumbled, and so very realistically. Summers writes in such a way that you can feel your heart crying for Sloane, your blood freezing over as the zombies bang against the walls of the school, and your brain screaming when the tensions between these six reach a breaking point. More than anything else, what Summers has truly done is attempt to see in what direction human nature would turn when faced with this situation. In my opinion, I feel as if she has done a remarkable job. I loved each and every one of these characters and the role they played throughout the novel and especially in Sloane’s life was heart-breakingly brilliant.

I’m not sure if you’ve picked up on this or not, but I am being purposely vague. I finished this novel three nights ago but I am still finding it excruciatingly difficult to put into words just why this novel was so incredible. I went into this book with no expectations, no knowledge of what it would be about, and no idea about the type of writing I would come across and that, in my opinion, made this experience all the more real. I say experience because This is Not a Test truly is an experience. Sloane’s narration draws you into the story so that you forget your own name and past and recall only that of Sloane’s. It is a powerful and effective method of writing and I think what shocked me the most about this novel was that it wasn’t just mindless zombie entertainment – it had a much deeper, much more raw and personal message than could originally be understood. Summers truly dug deep into the mind of a teenager who wished to end her life, of two twins who watched their parents die before them, of a young boy who was responsible for death and she turned that into a haunting tale on humanity. If nothing else, Summers has mostly certainly accomplished what she set out to do – create an impactful story on the power, gift, and future of humanity.

Once again, I really must apologize for this review. I have sat down at my computer at least a dozen times over the past few days and agonized over how to write this and I still don’t know. There is so much I can say about this book and even if it isn’t a spoiler, I fear it will ruin the experience. Summers really should coin the term “a gripping read” as This is Not a Test is impossible to tear your eyes away from. I have never read a narration quite like Sloane’s before and much like a horror film that you know will scar you, Sloane’s voice is impossible to turn away from even though you know it will linger with you forever. I honestly feel as if there is a part of Sloane – her confusion, betrayal, anger, pain, despair – within me forever. In my opinion, that is the true mark of a phenomenal writer.

I cannot say it enough - This is Not a Test is a true literary masterpiece. It is the type of novel that begs you to read it slowly, forces you to think about every line, and that ultimately leaves you feeling as if you’ve morphed into a stronger person overnight. It is truly a novel that will linger in your mind for days – if not weeks and months – to come. In fact, the only emotion I should summon up after finishing it was shock at what I’d read and a large dose of admiration. Wherever you are Courtney Summers, I applaud you.

Listen carefully. You must read this book. If it’s the last thing you do, I implore you to read it. It will change your outlook on life and completely astound you.
Listen carefully. This is not a test. It’s a request.

You can see this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings
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