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.
I was hesitant to read Courtney Summer’s This is Not a Test because I’m not a fan of zombies. However, This is Not a Test keeps zombies to a minimum, with them mainly appearing in flashbacks and in the denouement. I can see how zombie fans would be disappointed with the lack of action and epic fight scenes, but I was fine with it because the all of characters were rendered with such complexity, from their inner motivations to their flaws. I was skeptical how Summers could make being stuck in a school last 300 pages, but she did–and beautifully too. This is Not a Test is a wonderful, poignant character-driven story and what happens when you are stuck in a school with five less-than-perfect people in a hopeless situation, which may be more evil than the rancid zombies looming outside.
Solane, The Girl Who Wants to Die…But Can’t Seem To Do It Right:
Solane is a unique protagonist, while everyone is fighting for survival, she’s contemplating the best way to die without being a burden on everyone else. She’s not the fierce survivor who slashes through hoards of zombies with a strong will to survive. She also tries to get herself eaten by zombies, but somehow her plans always foil. Oh the irony! It’s through Solane’s eyes that we get her story behind her suicidal intentions; even though I find her character gloomy, I could understand her motivations. I found her character realistic, especially when she voices her disgust towards Harrison, the wimpy freshman who always makes the already dire situation worse with his crying. I could relate to her (don’t worry, not the suicidal part), even if she isn’t the nicest of people.
She’s a gloomy, passively reserved character, but I also found her surprisingly thoughtful. It would be so easy for her to slit her wrists, but she decides not to do so for she doesn’t want her peers to deal with her corpse. I would also like to think that part of her doesn’t really want to die. We find out her father’s abuse and her being abandoned by her older sister that made her sink into depression. I liked the complexity in her relationship with her older sister, she wants her to be safe, but she also blames her sister. It’s as if she wants to use her sister as an excuse to wallow in depression. The suicide note she keeps in her pocket is written to her sister, as if she wants to make her sister feel guilty for her death.
Harrison, The Crybaby That Everyone Secretly Wants to Punch in the Face:
He is the reason why I think all the others are very nice people: they manage to put up with his whining. If it was me, I would have slapped this kid in the face, and probably gagged him so he would stop crying. He somewhat redeems himself in the end, but I suspect he was kept unlikable because Sloane wanted nothing to do with him, so we never got his back story. I was annoyed with him, but I don’t know if I would have been able to muster courage either amidst a zombie apocalypse where everyone I ever knew was either dead or developed an palate for my brains.
He pretty much faded in the background for much of the story. I pitied him, because he knew he was being dead weight.
And he tries desperately to be in everyone’s good graces, or at least stay out of everyone’s way so they won’t feed him to zombies. For some reason, I was expecting him to extract revenge. Hey, it’s always the silent ones you have to watch out for.
Grace, The Student-body President and Nice Girl:
For a nice girl, I didn’t expect her to be that promiscuous. She’s the only one that kept Trace, her twin brother, in check and acted as a peer-mediator. She’s secretly weak even if her position calls for bravery. She has her flaws, but I found her to be a flat character and the most boring out of the group. Sure, she was nice but that was it. No one had a reason to dislike her, but she wasn’t the brave, righteous person either.
Trace, The Jerk Everyone Loves To Hate:
He’s the one that stirs up unnecessary problems to get on everyone’s nerves. His anger is not completely misplaced for he does have his reasons. He just doesn’t know how to deal with his grief, so he displaces it with anger and blame. He blames other so that he won’t have to live with the guilt–but deep down, he knows it isn’t working. I’m surprised at the maturity of his peers to let him go on his tirade instead of giving him a cold, hard reality check. Underneath his anger is just a lonely guy.
Cary and Rhys, Because I Am Too Lazy to Give Them Each Their Own Section:
For an Asian guy (I am guessing from his last name), Cary Chen breaks the stereotype. He doesn’t do well academically and he is a drug dealer. And apparently he is also a sexy beast. Cary might not do well in school, but he gets an A+ in survival skills, even if had some evil intentions. He didn’t survive by being a nice guy. Rhys’ back story is heartbreaking, and I admire him. There’s no reason to dislike him, but I have nothing to say about him either. Go figure.
There’s a tiny pinch of romance. Although I would rather call it “being desperate” instead. It’s more of trying to make light of the dire situation than a romance.
Overall, I loved the story. My only gripe was Sloane spent her time being emo and made the pace slower than I would’ve liked. There were also a few minor events that weren’t fully explained. But it’s definitely on my list of top YA reads of the year. The characters were so well developed that my heart ached for them throughout the story. A refreshing new direction for the zombie genre (even though it barely had anything to do with zombies).
On a separate note, what’s the best way to stop yourself from becoming a zombie in the middle of a zombie fight? Would drinking cyanide be fast enough before a zombie bite? Just wondering.
Fudge! Just when I thought I was okay with going back to depressing, dark, murder-filled novels…I need a recovery book again!
Spoilery Thoughts I Need To Get Out of My System (Highlight Below To Read..or not):
So…what was Roger doing lying out there? Did Mr Baxter really ditch him?
And what about the suspicions about “medical processing”?
Why did Trace have to die like a jerk? Go slit your wrists or something, not lure every zombie in hearing distance!