This is not a test (by Courtney Summers)

18 08 2012

Sigh… I don’t think the cat will ever become Courtney Summers’ number one fan. After the OK effort of Some Girls Are and the only mediocre (at best) Cracked Up To Be, the cat still wanted to give Courtney Does Zombie a go. Zombie splatter seems to be a good enough means to combine a post-apocalyptic society with the daily musing of a teenager with a severe cause of personal trauma. This Is Not a Test, bring it on!

OK, so I’m going to start by stating the obvious: This is not a zombie book. Despite the fact that it deals with 6 teenagers thrown together by circumstance – and this ‘circumstance’ = zombie apocalypse – the author is quite adamant in not making this book be about zombies but about Sloane, the main character of This Is Not A Test, and what to do when everyone else just wants to survive, when you’d made the conscious decision not to go on living any longer, right about when the zombie apocalypse hit.  So Sloane has lost all the will to live, which probably explains why she’s such a boring character, I mean seriously, apathy much? All this is perfectly explainable through the harsh life that Sloane has led up to now, but it takes a lot out of the reader to stick with Sloane as protagonist. It’s hard to feel any sort of emotional connection to a depressed character that has seemingly no emotions of her own anymore and feels empty and dead inside…  We read over and over again how she has to battle those inner demons – sister gone, father gone (the reason for both is told only sparsely throughout the narrative) – let alone that there’s much enthusiasm or will for her to battle the outside demons!

Also the other character are not really that interesting to begin with. The main issue I had here is that they went on and on about the same damn thing over and over again. Trace hates Cary because he thinks he sent out his parents into an alley crawling with zombies, and he lets him know he hates him over and over again.  Harrison has no personality whatsoever, and the other characters let us know over and over again. Grace is just so … nice, and Sloane lets us know over and over again. I’m sure this is to establish “character” and “personality”, but these characters are just so bland, and I’d much rather have had some world-building… which we don’t get (they’re just cooped up in the school all the time).

There are some zombies for sure, and they’re mean and nasty but because there is very little moving about, there’s not really a lot of human-zombie interaction… which is why I say “This is not a zombie book”.  We also don’t know what happened for the zombies to be there in the first place. Color me curious, but the cat just wants to know! But that’s probably not just in this book, lots of zombie books/movies are just about “There are zombies,… how do we deal with them?”  rather than “There are zombies! What the hell happened?”

Now all this probably sounds like the cat didn’t like reading the book? That’s not particularly true. I did enjoy  (well to a certain extent at least) reading most of it and this is mostly because of the way that Courtney Summers writes. Courtney Summer’s prose is sparse and not off-putting in any way, and she can set mood and atmosphere…  But the cat has the same issues with This Is Not A Test as with the other Summers’ books: “ Yeah, it’s OK, for entertainment, and for as long as it lasts, but also, it’s you know, mèh… It’s not that great.” And there’s just something that irks you but you can’t really put your finger on it? That’s what I have with This Is Not A Test.

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