This is Not A Test by Courtney Summers [G!veaway Alert]

Publication Date: June 19th, 2012
St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: Paperback, 326 pages
RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars
SUMMARY
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?

There are not a lot of authors who I consider a sure thing; even fewer books that I knew I’d love soon after reading its synopsis. This is Not A Test is a book that I’ve pined over for months now, so you can just imagine how high my expectations were.  It always amazes me when a book meets that standard and then some. From the creepiest, prettiest cover I’ve ever laid eyes on, to the tactile allure of the summary, Ms. Summers delivered a novel heaped with terror and suspense. This book decimated every other zombie book I’ve ever read so far, which is surprising because this book wasn’t a gore-fest by any stretch. Courtney Summers veered away from the zombie novel norm by highlighting her characters’ emotions as they struggle and deal with their own demons, new and old, all while the world was on the cusp of zombie apocalypse. In a way, it was like The Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan – books that focused on the human element sparsely peppered with the carnage of living in a world overrun by zombies.

From the get go, Courtney will overcome you with fear – and no, I’m not talking about your fear of the undead. I’m talking about something a bit closer to the disturbing reality of abuse. Sloane Price had planned to escape the violence of living with her father. The only way she thought she could go was to kill herself. So goes Sloan’s soliloquies about the ways she wanted to go. Swallowing pills would’ve been the easiest way but her sister took that choice away when she abandoned her to their abusive father. A contagion struck; turning the entire population into rabid, flesh eating monsters and Sloan, feeling abandoned and alone, succumbed to the reality that the only way out is to give up the illusions of surviving.

Six kids – stranded in a school surrounded by zombies. That is the simple plot line this book was about. But come on, Summers is known for creating some pretty angst-filled characters, so you know it won’t be as simple as a story about six kids battling the undead with baseball bats and crowbars. You know she’ll twist your guts and it won’t be because the character ended up swathed in zombie matter and you’re feeling like you want to spill your own guts – literally. You know she’ll squeeze your heart and it’s not because you just witnessed a thirteen year-old boy bashed the head of his undead English teacher. The lady knows how to write broken characters and Sloane Price was quite possibly one of the messiest. It’s not enough that Sloane’s character is abused, bruised and battered. Summers had to go and throw in some zombies just for fun. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Either way, be prepared for a heart-ripping read.

The book focused on how these six kids would behave and their state of minds as they dealt with the helplessness of their situations. It was easy to get lost in the emotions and psyches of the characters that I sometimes forget the book was also about zombies. Therein lies my dilemma; because sometimes, it was easy to ignore the fact that outside, the world succumbed to people who were once alive but now dead – reanimated, if I may. This zombie book was pretty tame by Jonathan Maberry standards. But the emotions and terrors were intensified somehow. The characters (especially Sloane) were very adept in making you feel their horror – whether imagined or not. You’ll see the shadow that they see, you’ll feel every single trickle of dread, every pump of blood and at the same time, you’ll agonized about all the could’ve beens and what will not be. Even if the majority of the book didn’t focus on the gore, the last ten pages more than made up for it. It was intense.

VERDICT: This book rocked in the most un-zombie way possible. Courtney Summers took the rudimentary zombie apocalypse story elements and added just the right perfectly flawed characters to take her readers on a higher (but different) level of zombie awesome. Emotional, gripping, and superb. Words that best described what I’d just read. What I want to know is, Ms. Summers, tell us what happens next. 

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  • Thanks so much for the giveaway, Joy! Now that I think about it, I have actually not read that many zombie books … time to redeem that :)!
    I definitely liked Mira Grant's Feed a lot, though, so I'll go with that choice.

  • Favorite Zombie well not really Zombie would be Die For Me or maybe Dark Kiss!

  • Believe it or not I haven't read that many. I think the only one I've read is Generation Dead!

    ~Paige @ Comfort Books

  • So far: FEED by Mira Grant! 😀
    Thanks for the giveaway! (ileana-rafflecopter)

  • I am SO glad to hear that! I love zombie novels, but only if they're well done (and there are plenty out there right now that are sub-par), so I'm thrilled to hear that this one is good. Thanks for letting us know!

    My favorite zombie novel is actually a zombie short story in the Zombies vs Unicorns anthology. I wish I could remember the title, but I don't…however, it was the last story in the collection, and it was about how the adults became zombies and the kids are now occupying a desert city, trying to survive and run their own society. It just really STUCK with me, ya know? I recommend that anthology to everyone, though. 🙂

  • My favorite zombie book so far is Feed by Mira Grant. Thanks for a giveaway Joy! 🙂

  • The First Days by Rhiannon Frater. Thanks for the giveaway! This book sounds awesome!

  • I haven't read any zombie books so I don't have a favorite yet but This Is Not A Test sounds fantastic!

  • This is such a fantastic review Joy! I'm so glad you loved it too! It was so tense but I just couldn't stop reading! I think this would be my favourite zombie book ever! Thanks so much for the giveaway! 🙂

  • Either Dearly Departed or Generation Dead.

  • My favorite zombie book so far is Hollowland by Amanda Hocking! It is awesome, really. You should check it out, if you haven't already.
    Thank you for the giveaway and for making it international! ^^

  • THIS IS NOT A TEST. I was lucky enough to read an eARC of it and I really enjoyed it! I'd be so happy if I owned the real thing. 🙂 Thanks for this giveaway!

  • I am also going to have to so with Dearly Departed by Lia Habel as well. I have many I want to read though, this one included. However it's not just your review that says this is about more than Zombies. Thank you so much for another awesome giveaway!!

  • My favourite zombie book so far is Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel! I haven't read many zombie books but I'm really interested in This is Not A Test! Thank you so much for the giveaway! 🙂