Review & Author Interview: This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

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Title: This Is Not A Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Release Date: June 19, 2012 (paperback)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 336
Source: Copy Provided by St. Martin's Press (thank you!)

Overall: 4.5 Stars

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 Thoughts:
This Is Not A Test may be a slight departure from the contemporary novels which Courtney Summers usually writes, but it didn't deter from delivering a strong character-driven storyline. It explores human nature in the darkest of times and the difficult choices to be made in order to survive. This Is Not A Test is a post-apocalyptic novel unlike anything I've ever read before, with a theatrical touch that's easy to visualize but also brings out powerful feelings that settle in your chest.

As humanity descends into madness and zombies pound against the barricades hastily thrown up at Cortege High, six students take refuge inside and wait in isolation from the rest of the world. Wait for hope. Wait for rescue. Wait for death to come and finally take them all. Sloane Price gave up trying to live several months ago, after her older sister, Lily, suddenly ran away from home. Now Sloane's struggling to simply exist in the present and find a reason to keep holding on.

Everyone would like to think if they faced a life-or-death situation, they would act morally and bravely until the very end, but when it actually happens, that's a whole other matter. And that's what I really liked about This Is Not A Test; the actions and mindsets of the characters are very believable. My heart completely went out to Sloane. Similar to Courtney Summers's previous protagonists, she's a depressed young woman, one of those lost souls you want to wrap your arms around in comfort and banish her dark thoughts. 

Every page of the novel is emotionally-charged, and there's a delicate tension that threatens to snap as readers wait for the inevitable moment when something will go horribly wrong. This Is Not A Test is one of Courtney Summers's best novels yet, which is really saying something because I've loved all of her previous books! I cannot wait to see what she'll have in store for us next!

Thanks to Raincoast Books, I was also able to ask Courtney Summers a few questions about This Is Not A Test and her other novels! Without further ado, here's my Q&A with the Canadian author: 

1) Who was your favourite character to write about in This Is Not A Test?

Sloane was--it'd would have been really difficult to write from her perspective if she hadn't been. But after Sloane, definitely Trace. He was so outspoken and awful but also very vulnerable. I loved writing him!

2) Your previous novels, Cracked Up to Be, Some Girls Are and Fall For Anything, have all been within the contemporary YA genre. What inspired you to write about an impending zombie apocalypse this time around?

I've always known that I'd write a zombie novel, because I've always loved zombies--it was just a matter of when. After finishing Fall for Anything, it felt to me like it was time to mix it up a little.

3) Was there a deleted scene from This Is Not A Test that you wish had made it into the final version?

Not really! I've been trying to think if there's one, but most of my deleted scenes are deleted for a reason--they are disasters I can't in good conscience inflict on people. There were two other characters--Sabrina and Will--that didn't make it into the final version. I gave all of Sabrina's character traits to Grace and some of Will's to Harrison. I'm glad they stayed out of it though. They slowed down the book. 

4) I'm always anticipating what kind of pain you'll rain down on your characters in a completely heart-wrenching scene. Was there ever a time when you were writing a particularly difficult scene in one of your novels that just had to walk away from it for awhile?

That's a great question. I've never been one of those writers who has to step back from the pain I'm causing my characters, no matter how awful or traumatic it is. That said, the scene in Some Girls Are--where they lock Regina in the supply closet with Donnie--was tough. It was essential, but hard to include in the book. I believed those characters would do that to Regina (I still do) but it's disturbing.

5) Can you share with us what you're working on next for readers to enjoy?

Right now I'm working on my fifth book, ALL THE RAGE. It's coming out in 2013 from St. Martin's Press and it's about a girl who wakes up on the side of the road with no memory of how she got there, with a semi-erased message she left for herself her only clue. As she pieces together the evening before and all of the events leading up to it, a dark and sinister game is revealed. It's kind of a psychological thriller mystery--no zombies. A zombie apocalypse would be a reprieve for the poor characters in this book! (ominous music)

Thanks for having me on your blog, Liz! :)


Thanks so much to Courtney Summers for answering my questions! If you'd like to learn more about This Is Not A Test, you can visit Courtney Summer's author website.

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  1. Loved this book! It was just the right mix of contemporary and paranormal. All the Rage sounds fascinating. I can't wait!

    1. I know, right? All the Rage sounds awesome! I can't wait to read it too, Christa! :)

  2. This is the only one of Summers' books I've read but I loved it because although it was a zombie novel, it didn't really focus on zombies but on the characters. I too loved that the characters acted so realistically, Liz.

    1. Zahida, you simply MUST read more of her books; I think you would really like them! And yesss, it's so different from other zombie books. I loved how it focused on developing the characters.

  3. This was honestly my favorite book of the year. I love love loooooved it. And the interview was great! Everyone NEEDS to read this book :)

    1. I totally second that everyone needs to read This Is Not A Test, Ciara! :)

  4. Oh, I had heard a lot about this book but hadn't seen a review so far.
    I'm glad the book was good for you and the interview was great!

    1. Hopefully, you'll get a chance to read the book one day, Alex! :)

  5. I absolutely loved this book! I love how you describe it as emotionally charged and that there's a delicate tension that threatens to snap. It's so true, I loved Summers' descriptions throughout and how the zombies were the background to a much bigger story.

  6. I am so ashamed that I have never read any of Courtney's books! They really sound like they have amazing writing, realistic characters, and emotionally moving plots. Glad she decided to mix things up and write a zombie book!