Book Review of This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Posted May 22, 2012 by Kara in Uncategorized / 21 Comments

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: June 19th, 2012
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic
Source: NetGalley
FTC: As always, I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Blurb: 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 wantto 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?

Review: The simple way to describe This is Not a Test is to say it’s a book about 6 teenagers, trapped in a school that are trying to survive amidst a zombie outbreak. But it is so much more than that. This is a book that is more about the internal conflict within the characters than the action going on around them. Not that that action doesn’t play a part in the book, because it does. It just is not the focal point. And that’s what really sets this story apart from others in the same genre.

I really liked This is Not a Test . I wasn’t blown away like some others were, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. One issue that kept me from enjoying it as much as I could have? I didn’t care for the ending. I just felt it ended too insubstantially for me. I wanted more. I’m not saying I wanted a happy ending, but I could have used some more answers. It just kind of stopped. And I hate books that just kind of stop. To me, sometimes it feels like the author doesn’t know how to write a proper ending. And I know this is a total personal preference of mine, but those are the types of book endings I usually find myself getting angry over. I wasn’t angry here, just more disappointed.

As for the characterizations, I thought Sloane was amazingly written. For someone I have nothing in common with, it was sure easy to relate with her and commiserate. I always felt like I could understand where Sloane was coming from, even when I really should not have been able to. She had a distinct voice that was unforgettable and it carried throughout the book and it truly made her jump right off the page. The things she felt were easy for me to feel. The other characters felt flat to me. Don’t get me wrong, Sloane’s situation had my emotions in knots, but I didn’t care for the rest of the characters as much as I felt I could have. There were scenes where I should have been holding my breath because they were so suspenseful and I just didn’t feel that much. It is very possible that because Sloane WAS so well developed, she made the other characters seem significant. Or it just could be that the depth wasn’t there. I haven’t fully decided yet.

The one thing that DID blow me away about This is Not a Test was the writing style. And I think this is a running thing with Courtney Summer’s books. She has a distinct voice and way with words that really sets her apart from other writers. She’s not a very wordy writer, so she goes for maximum impact in as few words as possible. And it really works. I really felt the hopelessness and claustrophobic tone in the book as I was reading. There were times when my heart was in my throat. And then on top of everything, you have a girl who was planning on killing herself before the zombies showed up. So throughout the book, she is basically waiting for the right time to take herself out of the world and throw herself to the zombies. She thinks there is nothing worth living for. Her life was shit before the zombie outbreak and it just went from bad to worse. This book was crazy. 

So yeah. It didn’t blow me away, but it did totally work for me. I loved this book, and as a stand alone (which is rare right now), I think it will be a memorable book. The author managed to write a zombie novel that went way deeper than most do. There were some serious issues (suicide and physical abuse) that were touched on in this novel. It’s definitely riveting and hard to put down. And I really cannot wait to read the author’s other books.

To preorder a copy of This is Not a Test from, click here: This Is Not a Test.

Other Reviews:

Reading Lark 5/5 Stars

21 responses to “Book Review of This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

  1. I just reviewed this one yesterday, and I actually really liked it once I got past the part about the zombies being more of a backdrop than the heart of the novel. Summers is a genius when it comes to characterization for sure!

    Great review…I’m your newest follower! 🙂

    • Thank you, Melissa! I will return the favor to you effective immediately.

      And I agree with you about the zombies being a backdrop. It took a little getting used to, but once I did, I loved it.

  2. Kara,

    I definitely see what you’re talking about with the ending, although it didn’t especially bother me. I gave the book a four two, though, and I wonder if that’s why, perhaps subconsciously. Makes sense now that I think more. I could edit this comment, or I can let you enjoy my ramblings.

    I totally agree with you about Sloane, and about the other characters. However, I would like to propose a third theory. I think the reason the other characters felt under-developed might be Sloane’s perspective. She’s sort of a step removed from the world. And she’s so lost in her own pain that I’m not sure she has the ability to completely see anyone else. Just my theory.

    Another great review!

    • I prefer to enjoy your ramblings, Christina. I like the analytical way you look at some details in books that I miss.

      And that is a great point you mentioned about Sloane being lost in her own world and not able to really understand the characters. I’m not sure I agree, but I can definitely see where you are coming from. If I ever re-read this one, I will try to visualize that while I am reading.

  3. You’ve got me so excited to read this and I’m not even a huge zombie-book-fan! I like the sound of Sloane, strong girl characters are always a bonus and I can’t wait to see how Courtney writes, I love authors who have a fantastic way of wording their stories.

    • She has a very distinct writing style. You will either love it or hate it. But most love it. And the thing is, there are zombies but I’m not sure I would classify this as a zombie book. I hope you enjoy it!

  4. Yay so happy you liked this and yes her writing style is amazing it was my first Courtney book and I’ve added all her others on my list I really like how she writes! Great review, muffin!

  5. I love this review. You express yourself so well, Kara. I have been immensely curious about this book, as it sounds so good, but I normally don’t like zombie novels. I think I’ll give this one a try though 🙂

  6. I think the mark of great writing is getting you to relate to characters that you typically would not. So I love that you said that happened in this book. Now I def want to read it. and You can can count me in for the chat party on June 1! that sounds like so much fun, thank you for the invite 🙂

    • So glad to hear you are coming!! And I hope you really enjoy this book. Like I said, it didn’t blow me away like it did some others, but I can definitely appreciated skilled writing and storytelling and Courtney Summers is ace at that.

  7. The characters are so realistic that you can totally see yourself in the same position and act the same way if you had to endure the conditions they were under. I totally wanted to give the beatdowns to some of them because they were irking the crap out of me but you wouldn’t identify with them so much if they didn’t do some of the things they did. Even though there are six main characters here, they are all distinguishable from the other so you’ll have no problems figuring out who is who.

    I love how there isn’t much of a romance. With all the romance laden YA novels these days, it can get quite tedious reading books that place too much emphasis on this angle. Yes, while there is a small amount of attraction and feelings by some of the characters it isn’t discussed upon in lengthy scenes and it never becomes the forefront of the story. This book is about survival and the human condition, nothing less.

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