Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Title: This Is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release date: June 19th 2012
Pages: 320
Genre: YA; paranormal/science fiction
Source: NetGalley/author
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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?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wow. Why do I do that to myself? Each of Courtney Summers's books is a punch in the stomach. Actually, no - each of Courtney Summers's words is a punch in the stomach. After finishing This Is Not a Test, I am... broken. In the best possible way.

So, obviously, This Is Not a Test is not the kind of book I usually read. I stick to contemporary YA, and anything paranormal or science-fiction-y doesn't really interest me. But this is Courtney freaking Summers we're talking about, so I decided not to care and read the book anyways. I was a little worried, though, that I wouldn't like This Is Not a Test because it's not the depressed girl contemps we know from Courtney Summers. But, guys? There was no need to worry. This book is fantastic.

I think Courtney Summers must be some kind of genius. This Is Not a Test is unlike anything I've ever read. I don't even know what genre it belongs to. It's not a zombie-book, and it's not contemps, either - it's the classic Courtney Summers story of a seriously messed up, depressed girl... and there are zombies. The whole thing is just crazy good. With this book, Courtney Summers can appeal to both fans of the dark contemporary YA she normally writes, as well as to readers looking for page-turning, hold-your-breath action. The balance between the two is perfect.

Courtney Summers can write a depressed girl like nobody's business. The voices of her MCs come from that deep, dark place inside of me - she writes those dark thoughts I can't even admit to myself. I didn't like Sloane, per se, but I was fascinated by living inside her head.

And then there's the writing. Courtney Summers's writing is really something special. It amazes me, what she can do with so few words. The writing is sparse and the style is immediate - you feel like you're right there with the characters, like everything is happening right now. You have to keep reading, have to watch the story unfold, and you can't turn away until you've finished the whole book.

Me being the reader that I am, I liked the emotional aspect of the story a lot better than the zombie/action aspect. I don't want to say too much - I like how vague the description is, how you don't know in the beginning what is going on with Sloane - but it's so well-done. Because of the sparse style, you don't find out every detail, every reason behind it, but it works. Sloane's story is real - she's not trying to explain anything to us, she's just telling us what's going on, and we get to learn about her life that way. The reader gets just enough information to be invested in the story. With another book, this might have been something I'd criticize, but it's actually something I've come to love about Courtney Summers books.

That's not to say I didn't like the zombie-aspect, too. The fast-paced action had me flipping the pages way past my bed-time, and I loved every minute of it.

This is Not a Test is classic Courtney Summers... with zombies. With Sloane's dark inner conflict perfectly balanced with gripping action, this book can be whatever a reader is looking for - and more.

Who are some authors that can make you feel something with just a few words?


  1. Another contemp-author going paranormal! That idea really makes me doubt in a lot of ways. But the way you wrote your review, I think I'm going to love this zombie book from a contemp-author. I already have Fall For Anything and Some Girls Are. I have to read those two soon and this one too.

    Nice review, Hannah! I'm glad this book didn't fail you even if it's from a contemp-author. :)

  2. I absolutely adored this book. I was lucky enough to get one of the NetGalleys of it back in January (I think?) and I still remember the feeling I had the day after I finished it. I remember reading it all on my iphone (such a horrible idea!) in the dark and not being able to force myself to stop. There's something addictive and compelling about each and every sentence that you don't want to give up, really. 

    Awesome review! 

  3. I have so much love for this book, and I am NOT a zombie person.  There was so much emotion wrapped up in this was an amazing book

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  4. I've heard nothing but awesome things about this book! 

    What I love about the story and the character is that she doesn't want to survive, unlike everyone else who wants to live. I think that's a great unique twist to the zombie tale, and it makes for a lot of great character development.

    I've also read reviews that rave about the guys in this story. Apparently Rhys is swoonworthy:) What's the romance like? Does it go well with the characters?

  5. This sounds like THE contemporary paranormal read. Even though, books that make me very, very emotional are not my pick but i would still love to read ths one.

    Great review! =d

  6. To be honest, I didn't focus much on the romance, if you can even call it that. There are some interesting male characters, and some match-ups between the characters, but... I don't know how to explain it. It's just, this book is so dark and everything in it is, you know, Courtney Summers-y, so it's not like there's swoonworty, cute romance. The relationship between the teens stuck in the school is really well-done, and it fits into the story, but I wouldn't call it a nice romance.

  7. I haven't read anything by Courtney Summers, so I don't know the texture of her writing.

    For some reason a lot of reviewers talk about Rhys and how he's perfect - maybe I misunderstood and he's just a way for her to overcome some problems, look beyond the darkness.

    It will be interesting to see the dynamics between her and the other characters seeing as they want to live and she doesn't care. Will they get upset at her for not fighting hard enough? Will they decide to ignore her? Is she forced to fight alongside them even though she doesn't care if she lives, because  helping others is the right thing to do?

    Sounds like a great read and I really loved your review:)

  8. Before, I wasn't really interested in This is Not a Test... But now, I'm starting to gain interest. The dystopian YA genre's popularity initiated by The Hunger Games is affecting all writers. In some ways, even more than Twilight did. I am kind of glad about this, but am worried about authors trying to write books up to par with the Hunger Games in terms of popularity. It looks like Courtney Summers is not one of them.

  9. I'd never read a Courtney Summers book before this one, but I was so impressed.  You are completely correct, the way she writes is sparse but so emotional.

    Another author that I love that writes similarly is Tabitha Suzuma - I've read two of her books now, and both of them I was completely enthralled.

    Great review :)

  10. You've never read Courtney Summers!? You're seriously missing out!!

    Yeah, I saw it more like that, Rhys just helping Sloane work through her stuff, not too much romance. But something like romance *is* there, so you didn't necessarily misunderstand - I guess I just focused on different things than those reviewers.

    Are those questions rhetorical or do you actually want me to answer them?

  11. I've read Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, and you're right, her writing is very emotional too! I didn't think it's as sparse as Courtney Summers's, but it's definitely really good. I should read some of her other books...

  12. I'm not sure you can compare This Is Not a Test to The Hunger Games - I don't even think you can call it dystopian. This Is Not a Test is kind of sci-fi and paranormal, but it also has a lot of contemporary elements, and it's just really different. But in general, that's definitely true!

  13. I've read everything Courtney's written, and I also know she is (and always has been) a HUGE fan of zombie lore. This isn't something she woke up and decided to use to spice things up; I suspect this may be the book she was always meant to write. I love her gritty stories and am waiting not-so-patiently for this one! Thanks for the review!

  14. I've never read a Courtney Summers book, and I'm not really into Zombies (although today's review is Rhiannon Frater's series *lol* ) But I keep hearing nothing but great about Summers, and I think I may have to give this book a try! 

    Thanks for the great review :) 
    -Jac @ For Love and Books

  15. THIS IS NOT A TEST is a harrowing, yet fast read. I couldn't put it down. I think it took me an hour, maybe an hour and a half total, because I could not wait to know what happened next. I wanted Sloane and the others to somehow find a way to overcome. This is not a story where the humans are indistinguishable from the zombies. The teens have a better nature and they often appeal to it. (Not that their baser natures don't get in some hits.) There are reasons to like and dislike all six, but I personally didn't want any of them to die. (Note to soft-hearted readers: this is a zombie book.)


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