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Thursday, April 19, 2012

This Is Not A Test - Courtney Summers

Title: This Is Not A Test
Author: Courtney Summers

Format: e-arc provided by publicist.

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?

This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year!  Seriously, it was superbThis is not a test was terrifying and raw, and as far as I am concerned, a definite foreshadow of the future.  Yes, there are people out there who make fun of me (hello to all of my coworkers!) but I have no doubt that this is our future.  It is not a question of “if”, but rather “when”.  Right… back to the book.

This is not a test starts off with Sloane in the kitchen with her father.  She’s about to go back to school for the first time in a couple weeks, and the author doesn’t come right out and say why, but you know.  Sloane’s father is super strict, and she is afraid to tell him that she doesn’t want to finish her toast.  That might seem insignificant to you or I, but to her it instills a definite sense of fear. This first chapter had such an eerie quietness; it was almost like the silence was a character in the book.  Do you know what I mean? Like it was thick with silence. 

Then there is chaos at the front door.  Pandemonium outside.  Confusion and blood.  Her dad is in a fight with a woman who is clearly deranged.  Isn’t she?

            “He stares at her body and sits there, drenched in someone else’s life, and he looks so calm, like he knew this was coming, like the way this morning started it was only ever going to end up like this.”

To me this story feels… punctuated. The imagery comes across in brief synapses.  Lie when you are watching a movie and a person is drifting in an out of consciousness, when eyes open and close, and the picture is different every time they open.  The effect in this book was fabulous.  The first few pages are pretty calm and I’m terrified for what is to come.  The unknown of what’s happening is quite possibly even more frightening than the actual act of what’s happening.

Seven days later. 

There are so many fantastic passages in this story that I could quote!  Seriously, I could make an entire review of just quotes and you would be so enthralled that you would be frothing at the mouth just as I was to read this story.  Is that a bad zombie joke?  Ha-ha.  The writing is beautiful, descriptive, and you definitely feel like you are right there.  I mean, it all felt so real.

There are six teenagers and they’ve made their way to the high school.  Rhys, Cary, Trace & Grace (twins), Harrison and of course, Sloane.  Somehow, someway they’ve made it past the hordes of infected “people” and they’ve barricaded themselves in the high school.  Pretty darn smart if you ask me.  You’ve got food, water, entertainment, every facility you could just about hope for.  Except Sloane doesn’t want to really survive.  She’s been a survivor her whole life, and so much has happened in a short amount of time that her will is just sort of short circuited. You really feel for her.  This is a first person point of view, which doesn’t always agree well with me.  But in this story it fits the whole urgent-but-waiting theme perfectly.  There are a few action scenes, but this book is not battle after battle with the undead.  It’s more psychological than that.  There are some battles, but it’s not really about the infected, it’s about the survivors.

And let me just take a minute here to mention the formatting.  Now I’ve read a digital e-arc in Adobe Digital Editions, so I don’t know if it will be different later when the book is released or in print, but let me point out some of my formatting awe here.  Some pages are blank.  Some have one paragraph or so.  Some have blood spatters.  It is so perfectly artistic, so beautiful… I really hope this is something that transfers to the final editions.  I really felt as if not only was I reading something wonderful, but visually it took me to another place also.

Part two of this book explores a lot of group mentality issues and how you deal with the zombie apocalypse (my words, not the author’s) as an individual and as a group.  It is so interesting how quickly the author immerses you into this story, that you find yourself yelling at the pages.  “Don’t go there!!”  and “Turn around!!!!”  If you find a survivor who isn’t a part of your original core group, well, they are not really a survivor at all then, are they?  You can’t trust them, can you? Do you take them in and embrace the addition of another living breathing person, or do you toss them out and make them fend for themselves because you just don’t really know their intentions, do you?

Part three will shake the foundation of everything you’ve come to believe about this story. It is a game changer, and dynamics definitely shift.  It’s hard to know what is real and what is not when everything in your life for weeks now seems like something out of someone’s imagination and not the real thing.  Courtney Summers does such a perfect job at illustrating the characters with her words, and not just the glamorous good stuff.  We get to see all sides of this group.  We see how they break down and how they build up, how they handle living now that everything they know has been chewed to pieces.

And Part four, well, part four I’d call hope.  Hope to die, hope to live, who the hell knows what you are hoping for.  For every person it is different.  Personally I was hoping it would never end, the book that is.  I can’t wait for summer when this is released in June so I can go buy a print copy because this book needs to sit on my shelf with the rest of my favorites.  Put this book on your to-be-read this.  Follow it.  It’s not just a zombie story; it’s a look at what happens when all hell breaks loose. 

Oh, and one more thing before I go.  Did you see that cover?  Isn’t it just a thing of beauty?  The way you can’t see her face, and there is such movement, as chaotic as it is.  Perfect.