Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

– SPOILER FREE REVIEW –

Title: This is Not a Test (This is Not a Test #1)
Author: Courtney Summers
Genre: Young adult, Horror
Release date: June 19th, 2012

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Description:

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?


I read this book practically in one sitting and became one of my favorites. From the first sentence, this book grabs you and surrounds you with the apocalyptic world where our protagonist Sloane lives, internally and externally. This is not just a zombie book, but rather a heart-wrenching depiction of depression and survival that is both action and emotion-packed.

The plot wasn’t exactly anything new. We have a bunch of people who are surrounded by horrifying creatures and are trying to adapt themselves, their hopes and expectations, to this new world they live in. What sets this book apart is how well the interactions between characters and their emotions are portrayed, like the struggle for power between group members, their need for companionship, and the fear of showing vulnerability to others.

“Is this what it’s like to get close to other people–you do something insane together and then you have to share everything even if you don’t really want to?”

The main theme is the different types of survival, the desire to live, survive, and die. Sloane is battling suicidal thoughts brought on by depression, which she suffered from before the apocalypse even started. The others’ main concern are the zombies outside the school. We see how each of them fight against their own vulnerability.

The novel didn’t exactly focus in the action, but the action-driven scenes had my heart pounding. Did I not tell you zombies scare the bejesus out of me? Yeah, the threat of zombies bursting through doors is really nerve-racking for me. Especially when you want a character to survive, despite their desire to die.

Sloane, Cary, Rhys, Grace, Trace and Harrison are our main characters, all young students that were at the brim of living their lives to the fullest when their world came tumbling down, losing their families, friends and life prospects. I figured that the whole situation would weigh down on them soon and tear them apart, making all of them feel somewhat how Sloane did, but they were mostly hopeful and wanted to survive. That made Sloane’s depression so much more evident, her despair was overbearing and it has heartbreaking.

“I think there’s nothing left for me. I don’t think that for everyone else.”

“So what do they have that you don’t at this point?”

I press my lips together. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I don’t want to talk about how everyone has something even if they don’t really have it anymore, that what they had makes them strong enough for this, to keep going.”

I think there’s two types of people: the ones that identify with Sloane and the ones that identify with Rhys. I’m the former. I loved Sloane, she was perfectly written. Although I have not experienced what she did (i.e. her past and what triggers her inner battles), I could understand where she was coming from. On the other hand, I felt like the other survivors were left a little unexplored. I have to admit I didn’t care much if they died or not because I was completely invested in what happened to Sloane.

This novel is not lighthearted, so go into it prepared. If you are looking for an emotional book, here you have it, and as a plus? Diversity among the cast of characters and a good representation of depression. Additionally, it was followed by a novella called Please Remain Calm that tells a little more about what happened right after the end of This is Not a Test. It was a good continuation, so it’s worth the while. 

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Are you creeped out by zombies as much as I am? Have you read This is Not a Test or any other novels by Courtney Summers?

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