In an ideal world Sloane Price would have been dead long before the world ended. Lily would not have taken her sleeping pills with her when she left Sloane behind. Then Sloane could have spun out into oblivion long before the dead started walking.
But nothing about this world is ideal. Not anymore.
Instead of being able to fade away, Sloane is caught up with six other students who have sought refuge inside the local high school. Locked inside with shelter and supplies, Sloane can’t leave without putting others at risk. She can’t die when everyone around her is working so hard to live.
The world is over. There is nothing left. Still, with everything crumbling around her, Sloane might finally learn that some things are worth holding onto in This is Not a Test (2012) by Courtney Summers.
This is Not a Test is Summers’ fourth novel. It is also her first foray into what I’m going to call “less realistic” fiction as compared to her other works. I hesitate to call this fantasy, dystopian or science fiction. Despite the ravening zombie hoards it just doesn’t fit into those genres with a story so firmly grounded on Sloane’s personal journey and so little explanation for her bleak new world. At the same time, again because of the zombies, it is equally impossible to fit this book into realistic or contemporary fiction.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with This is Not a Test as a zombie story at all. While the opening sequence is eerie and engaging, the actual zombie aspect of the book was thin on plot and explanation serving as a bleak backdrop and little else. Like many zombie stories, this novel stops short of examining what survival after the end of the world really looks like.
While some sequences were very cinematic and shockingly atmospheric, very little happens inThis is Not a Test. Summers chooses instead to focus on characters, some of whom are interesting and some of whom are simply not.* It was also frustrating to watch so many of the characters fall into the typical zombie story tropes–seen in countless other films and books–when there was so much potential to take the story in a totally new direction.**
Upon finishing This is Not a Test I was left wondering what I had really gone through with these characters.*** As a reader I seemed to be in the same place I was at the beginning by the time I finished. This is Not a Test is an interesting riff on some familiar post-apocalyptic themes. Sadly, it does not add anything new to the conversation.
*Sloane spends most of the novel dreaming about finally killing herself. Having a heroine who doesn’t want to be present in her own story is a hard sell as far as sympathetic characters go.
**SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER: I’m still not sure if it was an intentional nod to the movie trope but I was underwhelmed when Sloane and her love interest wound up being the characters to make it to the end of the novel.SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
Possible Pairings: Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King, Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, More Than This by Patrick Ness, Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott