Summers, Courtney. This is Not a Test. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2012. ISBN 0312656742
Reader’s Annotation: Disaster has come with the dead coming back to life and feasting on the living. To Sloane this might be her way out from an abusive home that is no longer tolerable after her sister runs away.
Plot Summary: Sloane wants to end her life after her sister runs away leaving her alone with an abusive father but then the unimaginable happens. The dead come back to life with a craving for living flesh. One bite is all it takes to turn someone. Sloane thinks maybe this would not be such a bad thing but she gets caught up with five other students from her high school trying to survive. As the days crawl by conflicts rise, secrets are revealed and the six students must decide what is the best way for them to survive.
This is not your typical zombie book and for the most party rarely do they even make an active appearance. Instead they serve more as a background to Sloane’s inner turmoil over her sister abandoning her to survive their father’s abuse alone and her will to die.
The cast of characters are also an unusual mix. Unlike in many other zombie books or post-apocalyptic books that have the heroes performing unbelievable acts of bravery or kindness some of the characters are glaringly real. They are not self-sacrificing and make some choices that would be condemned as horrible in any other situation. It’s horrifying to read and yet makes the characters that much more real.
Sloane’s character brought mixed feelings in me. She’s lived years with an unapologetic, abusive father and her beloved older sister has run away without letting her know ahead of time. I feel like we should sympathize with her because no one should have to live through this type of situation but for most of the story she is so whiny, self-pitying and afraid of thinking for herself that she comes across as irritating instead.
The story explores a myriad of emotions that the teenagers experience and the romantic elements are also quite different from other books in that there is no love at first sight. In fact, there isn’t love at all. Instead there is reacting to the situation and wanting to have that physical contact and feeling like someone, anyone, is there with them that prompts many of the interactions.
This definitely isn’t one of those action packed, thrilling zombie reads but rather an interesting look into how different people would respond in a disaster situation.
About the author
Summers is the author of four young adult books and has a fifth, All the Rage, due out in 2013. Cracked Up to Be was the fourth book she wrote but the first to be published. She says on her website that she enjoys writing gritty and dark novels.
When not writing she likes playing video game, watching horror movies, reading good books and eating good food. She has also written a blog entry about why she writes unlikeable female protagonists which I found interesting seeing as I had a hard time liking Sloane.
Book talking idea
Discuss Sloane’s and Lily’s relationship and why Lily left without Sloane.
Discuss the hard choices the characters need to make in the name of survival.
Grades 9 and up.
Why did I include this book?
It has gotten a lot of positive advance buzz in the book blogging community and it was touted as not your ordinary zombie story. It contains a cast of complex characters who may not all be likeable but each make choices or exhibit behaviors that make the reader think about how would they react in those situations.