Saturday, April 27, 2013

This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

Zombie apocalypse stories are springing up like daisies these days. After reading through the first few pages of Courtney Summers This Is Not A Test you might think that this novel will quickly fall into a long list of generic survival stories that take place in a zombie filled world. It does not take long to realize that this novel is not just about surviving in a world where the dead walk the earth. This is a story of a girl's struggle to understand what kind of life lays first outside of her home with an abusive father and then outside of the school her and a group of classmates have barricaded themselves into to stay safe from the walking dead.
Sloane, the main-character, would have committed suicide had her sister not taken the bottle of pills Sloane planned to swallow when she left, abandoning Sloane with their abusive father. After countless beatings of both Sloane and her older sister Lily the only hope that Sloane had in life was the promise of running away with her sister after she had finished high school. Living with their father was too much. The constant feeling of walking on thin ice, the beatings, and the subsequent hiding of bruises from their friends and teachers wore them down. To be free from their father was not only a constant wish that they shared, but it also made them extremely close and loving towards each other. It's no surprise then that Sloane was devastated when she awoke one morning to a note that said I'm so sorry. I can't do this anymore and no sister in sight. When her sister left, Sloane had no one to help her and no hopes of getting out of her father's house. This is until the world falls apart around her. Zombies and the ensuing chaos destroy their whole town.
After a frantic escape from her house and the separation from her father Sloane finds her self barricaded in her high school with five other students, some of which she knows and some she has only seen in the halls during school. The high school is where the majority of the story takes place. It becomes a story not of fighting through zombies and constantly aiming for the head. This is a story about the building tension between a group of kids who have involuntarily begun to live together in their school. Everyone has either witnessed their loved ones die or assumed that they will never see them again. This does not affect Sloane in the same way as it does for them though. She feels as if she was dead on the inside way before everyone began dying around her. That is what makes this story so interesting. Our main character is a girl who chose death only to be forced into helping others stay alive.
As the reader there is somewhat of a struggle to make connections with the six teenagers in the school because we are not given much of a back story on any of them and there is little character development. This is frustrating at first but as I continued reading I came to the conclusion that this unfamiliarity is what the story is really about. No one knows what kind of emotional struggles Sloan is experiencing. She believes that they can't possibly understand what this is like for her and that she is in a different situation. She finally realizes though, that this is the case for everyone. As time goes on Sloane begins to get short glimpses into the emotional depth of the five others in her group. She realizes that yes, they might not be able to understand the depth of her trouble, but she cannot possibly understand the depth of theirs either. This is what brings them closer in the end.
If you are looking for a story full of action and adventure then this story is not for you. While there is the usual panic, chaos, and death that comes with most zombie stories, this one revolves more closely on the emotional struggles that every person in this world has and the attempt at understanding them.

Publisher's Book Preview


Jessica Pagliara said...

From reading your blog, I'm a little mixed with how I feel about age groups reading this book. At first, I thought older teenagers would do best just because of the suicide references. However, it may be beneficial for younger teens to read into the emotional issues that the characters go through. Sounds like an interesting read.

Vincent Restivo said...

This seems like a very interesting read for both young kids and adult readers. As far as it goes I would be very interested to see how explicitly the author deals with the concept of abuse in the novel and develops these characters, and while I think they may be loaded topics there is no reason a young adult should not familiarize themselves with these concepts since they are all too common. Overall it seems like this is a very interesting psychological novel based on your detailed description.