Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Review: This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

Book cover of This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers
The end of 2012 saw nearly every blogger I know posting some kind of 'Best Books of 2012' list. Some books I'd read, more books I hadn't. By far though, the book that featured on the most lists had to be This Is Not A Test. I actually bought it way back in Autumn (or maybe I won it in a giveaway?) and was champing at the bit to read it... but then I didn't, as is always the way. I vowed though that it would be one of the first books I got to in 2013 and I actually kept that promise. The end result is a great, fast-moving, action-packed story... but with a protagonist I loathed like no other.

Plot summary: 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.

On the whole, this book is awesome and I swear that nobody should be able to use the word 'unputdownable' until they've read this book. I ran through it in a day and while I admit it was during a read-a-thon, that didn't have much to do with my desperate need to keep reading.

The action begins straight away and doesn't really stop, resulting in a tense atmosphere that almost seeps through the pages. I think it's that tension that really makes the book - it stays at a stable level throughout but it never gets old. It's actually written very well - and I don't just mean '...for a YA book.' My only gripe with the prose is that it seems to use only very short sentences pretty much all the time. Like this. It's annoying. It stops the flow.  I get it though. Well, sometimes. When there's action. Otherwise? Not so much.

Some parts of the book are very, very moving and made me tear up at some ungodly hour of the morning. You know when you have to kind of pause and look up from the book, just to process what on earth just happened? Yeah, that. I don't mean Sloane's self-pitying monologues here, but when they're talking about lost loved ones, for example, is wonderfully written.

"You let me go out there with you," he says. "You risked my life--"

"I wasn't going to let you die--"

"Oh, fuck you, Sloane-"

"I wasn't! I didn't--"

"Well, it came just a little too close for my comfort--"

"You wouldn't let me go! I wanted to go and you wouldn't let me--"

"If you want to die, do it like a normal person-- slit your wrists or something! Jesus!"

Well played, that man.

And that's a nice sedge-way into Sloane herself. I knew I wasn't going to like her. I heard the premise of the book and was instantly hyper-aware that we just weren't going to get along, so I decided before I started the novel to put this aside and concentrate on the rest. Hey, I thought naively. Maybe I won't even mention it in my review. I'm a grown-up, after all. However. Clearly I was seriously underprepared for exactly how much I was going to loathe her. She sits behind a curtain, listening to her worried friends call her name and panic over the fact that she's missing, and just... sits there. Listening. And self-pitying. That's on page five, guys.

She's awful. Like a caricature of the worst female protagonist ever. Way too over the top. My review notebook just degenerates into a list of scrawled expletives. The thing is, she constantly talks about how she wishes she could die, but NOBODY IS STOPPING HER. I genuinely and literally cannot explain adequately how much I hated her, and yes, it did ruin the book a little.

My other complaint is how rushed the ending was. The first time It happened (I can't really talk about it without spoilering), it was amazing. I was shocked and full of respect for Courtney Summers for actually doing It. Then It happened again. And again. It honestly seemed like she couldn't figure out how to end it, so just scrawled down any way she could. One of the biggest plot points that had to come to a huge revelation... didn't. I felt a little cheated, I think.

Then again... the rest of the book is pretty amazing. I would have given it five stars were it not for Sloane and the rushed ending. Unfortunately both of those combined did ruin the book and while I don't give ratings, it would have lowered from a solid five stars to about three and a half.

Read a different review of This Is Not A Test over at Lit Addicted Brit.


  1. I already wanted to read this but now I'm even more excited. I need an uputdownable book at the moment!

  2. I know that you won't think this is strong enough of a willing-her-to-go-away but I think that Sloane would have worked *much* better as a peripheral character or maybe as someone who narrated a chapter or two. Being inside her head for the whole book is a step too far...or lots of steps too far, I suppose!

    The bit that freaked me out the most was the bit when Sloane was in the dark corridor and there's SOMETHING THERE. I'm glad that I read most of this at home because I must have looked completely ridiculous!

    I felt exactly the same about the ending - the first time, I was horrified and by the end, I was just...numb? Actually, I think that I was a bit disgruntled and irritable but numb to the events. This is hard to talk about without talking about it, isn't it? *sigh* You know what I mean...!

  3. Unputdownable, you say? Pretty awesomesauce, you say? *I must not buy this book I must not buy this book I must not buy this book* I'm doing really well on this book buying ban thingy, and then you come along, like a blonde high-heeled DEVIL ON MA SHOULDER and start doing Tempting. BAD Hanna.


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