BOOK REVIEW: This is Not a Test (This is Not a Test #1) by Courtney SummersThis is Not a Test (This is Not a Test #1)
by Courtney Summers
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Synopsis:

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?

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.
Thud.

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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