Review Blog

Nov 05 2013

This is not a test by Courtney Summers

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St Martins Griffin, 2012. ISBN 9780312656744.
(Age: 15+) Recommended. End of world. Zombies. Dystopian fiction. Suicide.
YALSA Awards for Best Fiction for Young Adults (2013), an ALA/YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers (2013). Six teenagers have taken refuge in Cortege High School as the world around them is taken over by the dead. One bite will kill and turn a person and everywhere there is chaos. Sloane is one of the group, but psychologically and physically damaged by an abusive father, she finds it difficult to see a reason for living, especially as her sister Lucy had abandoned her six months before. As the days crawl by and the undead pound on the doors, the dynamics of the group take over and Sloane has to decide whether she wants to survive or not.
This is not your usual action packed zombie book. Even though there are plenty of exciting encounters with zombies, it is the thoughts and behaviour of Sloane that dominate the book. Summers vividly describes the pain and emptiness of Sloane's isolation and helplessness.
She is a damaged girl who constantly thinks of ending her life. Her father has physically and mentally abused her and her sister Lucy, on whom she relied utterly, left her alone to cope with her father. While the rest of the group struggle desperately to survive, Sloane looks on and feels that this might be her opportunity to end it all.
A lot of the tension in the novel stems from six very different teenagers trying to understand the enormity of what is happening and what they will need to do to survive. They are faced with life and death decisions, trying to decide when it is ethical to kill someone or to deny them access to a safe building. The other group members are all vividly brought to life as the crisis situation brings out both the best and the worst in their characters. Thrust together, there are leadership struggles between Cary and Trace, partnerships are made and broken and while Rhys is constantly helpful to Sloane, he makes her examine her actions in light of what happens to other people.
This is an exhausting but thought provoking book that is sure to win fans of the horror genre and will also appeal to reluctant readers.
Pat Pledger

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