Annalise Hulse's Reviews > This is Not a Test

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
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This is not a Test follows the plight of six students trapped and fighting for survival in their abandoned small town High School after a disease sweeps their town ((and maybe the rest of the world) that turns normal human beings into crazed, homicidal zombies intent on feeding on those that remain. The protagonist is Sloane Price, a teenage girl who, before the disaster strikes, has already decided to take her own life in order to escape the brutality she endures at the hands of her abusive father and the pain that she feels at being abandoned by her older sister who she saw as her only means of escape.
I think the other reviews that have been written about this book are very fair in pointing out that this is not predominantly a zombie gore-fest book (although it does have a couple of horrific moments) but more an examination of the relationships between the six trapped students and their differing reactions to each other and their situation.
It also studies the juxtaposition between Sloane, who would wlecome death, and the others who all desperately want to live.
My view is that Courtney Summers made a very brave decision in writing a novel which is so purely character driven. There is most certainly a huge risk involved in writing a story which is a. 90% set in the same location throughout and b.does not have a huge amount happening in it apart from the interaction between the characters. In the wrong hands,these factors could have made for a very boring read, but this is anything but.
Courtney Summers does an excellent job of creating the feeling of claustrophobia and mounting tension within the school and drawing the reader in to the ever fluctuating moods between the characters and it is that keep the pages turning.
This I Not a Test is, at times, quite a bleak story - as the subject matter determines that it must be if it is to be believed. The characters are, after all, in a very bleak situation. Yet it also has moments that are truly tender and touching, most notably between Grace and Trace, twin siblings that are two of the trapped students and I found that I cared about the fates of the secondary characters as much, if not more so, than the fate of Sloane herself.
If I had to make one criticism of this novel, it would be about Sloane and that much of her character development is based on the fact that she is supposedly suicidal. We are told at the start of the novel that a big reason that she has not yet killed herself is because her errant sister has absconded with the medication that she planned on using to take an overdose. If she was intent on this path, then she could have surely popped down to the nearest pharmacy and bought a sack load of paracetemol which would have been equally effective. We are also told that, by the time the kids reach the school, it has taken them seven days to cross town, constantly evading capture and death at the hands of the zombies. Which again raises the question of why if she wants to die has she tried so hard to live? Added to this, the reason for her feeling the way she does is because she can't see a way of escaping her abusive father, but the one positive thing that the zombie attack does is free her from him. It therefore seemed to me that her reason for wanting to die no longer exists and perhaps it would have made more logical sense for the juxtaposition to be that, of the group, she is the one who welcomes the disaster that has befallen them because she has finally got the freedom that she craved.
That said, any work of fiction requires the reader to suspend disbelief to varying degrees and although these points don't necessarily fit with the story being told, it didn't stop me enjoying it.
As for the ending, I don't know if TINAT is meant to be part of an ongoing series, and it does have scope to be, but in a way I hope it stays as a stand alone book. Sometimes it is frustrating to not have all the characters fates tied up with a neat little bow by the end of the book, but in this instance I liked the fact that the surviving character's fates remain unknown. Given the circumstances, I felt that it was just as it should be and the ending was very poignant for it.
This was a moving, captivating read despite some minor plot flaws and I'll definitely be checking out the other books written by Courtney Summers .

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 5, 2012 – Shelved

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