Rating: 5 of 5 stars.
There's some zombie books where things constantly happen. There's constant fights and narrow escapes and the entire story, you're on the edge of your seat, waiting for the next thing to happen.
This is Not a Test isn't that book.
It starts off with a bang, the dead have risen and they're tearing up the streets, and then we jump. And we're suddenly inside the high school, with a group of 5 others, and the zombies are outside but the real conflict is inside. Both in the halls between the survivors and inside our protagonist, Sloane, who didn't want to be a survivor in the first place.
That's not to say stuff doesn't happen. It does. And somehow, those scenes are even more powerful because they aren't constantly happening. You don't get desensitized to it like you would in the Constantly Happening books. It's the constant threat of them that is so chilling, the knowledge that they're out there, lurking, somewhere. Or that they're pounding on the doors, mindless and starving, and maybe they can get in and maybe they can't and maybe everyone is just putting off the inevitable, that they're all gonna die anyways and OH SHIT UNEXPECTED ZOMBIE IS UNEXPECTED. Those moments hit harder, have more of a punch, because it's like, "internal, internal, internal, BAM! EXTERNAL, BITCHES! ZOMBIES ALL UP IN YOUR GRILL!"
Sloane is a compelling character. She's a mess, and rightly so. She's suicidal and her heart is a mangled muscle inside her chest and she finds herself going along with these kids she knew mostly in passing before, but her mangled heart isn't in the surviving. She's a bystander, waiting for her way out. A way out that won't injure or kill one of the others, because even though she wants to end it all, she doesn't want to be selfish about it. She doesn't want to take anyone else out with her.
I can't heap enough praise on this book. It's not a pretty story. Dear God, it's not a pretty story, but it's powerful. It's brutal and unmerciful and gritty but it's realistic, or as realistic as a book that has zombies in it can be, anyway. Even though Sloane's outlook is bleak, you find yourself hoping enough for the both of you. You want this girl to survive, you want things to be okay for her, even when she doesn't. You want her to hook up with Rhys. You want everything for this broken girl in a world where there's nothing.
And Summers' writing? Hot damn. That woman wields a pen like an emeffing knife. There were so many lines that just popped out and made me stop and go, "damn."
"I wouldn't have left you like that. Not like she did to me." I swallow hard. "She always said I'd die without her and she left anyway."
"But you didn't die," he says.
"I did," I say. "I'm just waiting for the rest of me to catch up."
"I'm so sad. I am so sad it makes me heavier than the sum of all my parts."
"I will see my father in every anger."
Do what you have to do. Beg. Borrow. Steal from your daddy's wallet. Get this book. Read it. You might not love it, but you won't put it down until you're done, and I guarantee you'll feel something.
Then come back and let's talk about the ending, because, sing it with me if you know the words, "damn."