“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.
I have been super craving YA horror lately, and I’m a huge sucker for good zombie stories. This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers gave me a fix for both of those, and it gave me some stuff I didn’t really know I wanted.
First, let me give you a quick summary. The bulk of this book takes place in a school where a group of teenagers is taking shelter from the zombie hoards while they try to plan a way to survive longterm. They’re each carrying secrets, they’re all hurting and scared, and they might be more dangerous to each other than the zombies outside.
The thing is, although This Is Not a Test has zombies and could technically be called a zombie book, it’s not about the zombies. They’re not remotely the focus of the story or even most of the scenes. This is a book that is truly about the characters and their dynamics with each other. They fight, they form alliances, those alliances fall apart and new ones form, they plot against each other, they save each other.
There are a million things in this book that I love – little details, big-picture things – but the one that I really want to talk about is our protagonist, Sloane. See, the day the zombie apocalypse started, Sloane was ready to kill herself. Not just feeling suicidal, not just ready – she had a plan. She was about to do it when the zombies came through her front door and everything descended into chaos. She’s saved and pulled along by a group of fellow students, but she’s not quite there.
She’s not fighting for her life, she just happens to be surviving in a dying world.
She was ready to die. There’s a certain numbness to being so suicidal that you’ve made a detailed plan, and that’s where Sloane is. The zombie apocalypse didn’t magically heal that. It doesn’t instantly wake her up and make her realize that she wants to live. She continues to struggle with it throughout the book, and I love that. In a lot of apocalyptic stories, we see these extreme events either healing mental illness, or exacerbating it to the point that the person just completely breaks and dies.
In Sloane, we see nuances and complexity to her suicidal urges. We see how it’s become part of her, and it’s not something easily shaken off – but she also can’t quite get herself to do it, because now she feels responsible for the others in her group. She doesn’t want to give them a dead body to get rid of when they can’t leave the school safely. There are a lot of storylines and emotional threads to this book, but this is the one I was the most invested in, the one I most badly needed to know the resolution for.
This Is Not a Test is emotionally intense, it’s creepy, and you should absolutely read it.
And, of course, a reminder that you can still enter to win a BOOKMARK SIGNED BY STEPHANIE DIAZ and, if you’re curious about who this new author is, check out my post about her and her debut novel, EXTRACTION.