Friday, February 24, 2012

This Is Not a Test

This Is Not a TestThis Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an outstanding.... odd book.
To be honest, I'm not even sure how to rate it.
On the one hand, I just want to praise it, recommend it, tell you it's amazing and give it 5 stars.
On the other hand, the aspect I didn't like is so macroscopic that I can't give it what it theoretically deserves.

This is the first book by Courtney Summers that I have read but rest assured I will soon get my hands on her other ones - one I actually already own, Cracked up to be. There's something really powerful in Summers' writing style that will suck you in the story and make you feel just like she wants you to feel.
This is not a test is basically a story about a profoundly damaged girl, victim of domestic abuse, who gets stuck inside a school with a bunch of other guys, struggling for their survival.
The story per se, what led them there, the circumstances, are secondary and relatively important, as the real focus is on Sloane's internal turmoil, on the ghosts that haunt her from the past and on the tenuous and casual balance among the people who are stuck inside the school.
A sense of desperation, of oppression and of uneasiness bleeds from the pages of this book in a way I really can't help but admire. Summers is a masterful story-teller and the way she lets us, gradually, into the characters' psyche is something you don't often encounter in even skilled writers nowadays. Each single character of This is not a test steps out of the pages and comes alive in front of your eyes, 100% believable and true, stripped of false moralism or clich├ęd genre taboo, painfully authentic.
I could not, in all honesty, condemn or praise a character at any given moment in the story, their actions being far from predictable and absolutely not meant to make me either cheer or despise them.

So why are there zombies in it, you might ask?
Good question, I'm still wondering too.
The zombies are the reason I can't give this book 5 stars. I'm not sure if they were meant to give a gory, dark edge to the story - which truly is dark enough in itself - or if they were the excuse to justify the isolation of these kids in a confined space, waiting for the world to end or for someone to come save them, but they felt as a mere plot device to me. We just know that, at a given time in history, zombies appeared, no background. True, zombie invasion was not the fulcrum of the story, but the fact that I kept wondering what had happened and what the heck was going on with the outside world left me partly unsatisfied.

Still, an amazingly well-written story you certainly do not want to miss, whether you're a zombie lover or not.


  1. I did not think this was going to be a Lisa book. The fact that you liked it in spite of that, makes me want to read it more. I love zombie books so I was looking forward to this anyhow. Great review Lisa! :)

    1. But will it be a Rachel book? We'll wait and see because loving zombies doesn't really mean anything here... let me know!

    2. I know, the "vanilla queen" likes zombie books, is a contradiction! Ha. It looks like most people who've read this have really liked it, so we'll see. :)

  2. Okay now I am curious about the zombies. I have this coming up soon. I am glad you enjoyed it Lisa, now I am looking forward to it.

  3. Outstanding and odd? That's the perfect combination for a zombie-yet-not-too-zombie-ish book, I think LOL! ;) I just LOVE how you say that this book "steps out of the pages and comes alive in front of your eyes." Sometimes I find that the worlds in zombie books are hard to believe, so the way you described the realism of this book... WOW!

    Awesome review, Lisa! With the budding zombie-fan in me, I need to get my hands on this as soon as it comes out! :) Super duper excited now!!!

  4. Thanks, Lisa. You have now reshuffled my TBR pile so this is somewhere near the top. ;) Great review! I've seen a lot of praise for this book on Goodreads too and I definitely want to get stuck into it as soon as I can. I'm glad you liked it!

  5. Undeniably good, I'm very curious to see what you all will think of the zombie factor.

  6. Even if the zombies are not too important, I think I want to check this one out! Because characters are the strength behind any novel, and the level of realism you've described is more than enough to spark my interest.

    Thanks for the awesome review!

    Ron @ Stories of my life

  7. I have wanted to read this ever since I saw a post on how the cover came to be. I also have Cracked up to Be and have heard good things about both of these books.

    Great review, Lisa!

  8. Thakns for the review, I read her other book and liked it, although it was contemp.

    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog


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