I owe a huge thanks to Courtney Summers for giving me a second chance to read and review this after my netgalley rejection. It made my day and I'm so glad This Is Not a Test was all that I'd hoped it would be.
I'm going to say what I said at the start of my reviews or before I started reading: Feed, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Other Life and even the one I was sure would be the exception to the rule - The Reapers Are the Angels, and that is that zombie novels have never been my thing. I've searched and searched for that one book that would allow me to share in my friends' love for novels of the walking dead, brain-eating variety. This is the first - yes, the very first - book about zombies I have enjoyed. Ah, but then I suppose this isn't really that much about zombies.
As with Courtney Summers' other novels, this is mostly a book about people, about survival. Summers does survival tales best, it doesn't matter whether the threat is zombies, grief or a bunch of bitchy teenage girls, every situation is equally poignant and Summers never fails to leave a lasting impression.
This is the tale of a group of teenagers who barricade themselves into what was once their high school as the zombie apocalypse descends outside. Each character has something important to offer this novel and, for me, when you can make this kind of statement it puts Courtney Summers up their with the few others who have this rare talent - Melina Marchetta, Megan Whalen Turner, to name a couple. And on top of that, they all have a story, they are all fighting something that goes beyond the realm of living corpses, and this is what I like most about this novel. In most zombie stories, people fight until they die and maybe one or two survive... but Courtney Summers remembers that, even in the apocalypse, living is about more than just not getting eaten and perhaps sometimes there are scarier things out there than those zombies, and even death.
Also, it is worth noting, I have always said that zombies do not scare me at all. When watching horror films, if zombies manage to get any kind of reaction from me it's usually amusement at their silly moans. But this was one hell of a creepy novel. I'm not sure why this book managed to give me chills when so many others failed, but I admit it, I was freaked out, and not always at the zombies.
My only criticism will not be a problem for some people. In fact, you may find it positive. Summers' endings are always sharp, brutal, effective but sometimes a little too abrupt for me. The ending to this will leave you thinking, wondering... you will undoubtedly be affected by it. But, for me, there was a lack of closure that I felt I needed from a novel I'd become so emotionally invested in. Otherwise, this was a fantastic novel and I knew Courtney Summers wouldn't let me down. I will read everything she writes, no question.