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 wantto 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 doyou hold on to?
Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: June 19th 2012 by St. Martin's Griffin
Four Stars: A dark, haunting tale of survival and tough choices.
Thud! Thud! Thud! The constant, repetitive sounds of the living dead beating against the barricaded doors of the high school. They are relentless; driven by their insatiable need to feed on live human flesh. Inside the high school, are six teenagers who survived seven days of hell before finally finding shelter in their high school. Their only link to the outside world and the unknown terror that stalks them, is the repeating female voice on the radio, advising them that "this is not a test" and to seek shelter immediately and wait for help to come. The question is when or if help will come? Will the barricades continue to hold? Is it the end of the world? Will they be next? Thud! Thud! The hours are endless and time seems to standstill as the band of survivors struggle with the reality of their world and wonder if they can survive not only the zombies but themselves.....
What I Liked:
- This is an intense book! Yes, this is a zombie book, but not in the way you expect. The zombies in actuality, are for the most part, just a small element of the book. Aside from some flashbacks and an encounter in the middle, they are really not much of a presence until the final scenes. If you are picking this up expecting a gory zombie infestation, you will likely be disappointed. What you will find is a book that exposes the psychological torment that the survivors endure. Some are fighting to repress the decisions that got them to safety. Others are grappling with the not knowing the fate of their loved ones, while others know the fate of their families and are struggling to cope with the loss. Watching how they all deal with their situations is intriguing. The waves of emotion, the choices and the will to live. There are intense moments of anger and fear and then the painful realization of being alone, and needing the closeness and contact with another human, just to know you can still feel and that you are alive. Secluding the characters and placing them in a sequestered high school allows you to get in their heads and shoes and feel their terror, since neither you or the characters know the extent of the zombie apocalypse. It is the not knowing that keeps you glued to the pages.
- Sloane, the narrator and protagonist is a conundrum. The story opens with her contemplating her suicide. She is trapped under the abusive thumb of her father, and then on that morning when she plans to end it all, the zombie infestation raids through her world and changes everything. The difference between Sloane and the rest of the characters is that she wants to die. Her soul and will to live died months ago when her older sister, her protector, ran away, leaving her alone with her despicable father. She is a shell, long withered and dead, except her body hasn't caught up with her defunct soul. Having Sloane as the tragic narrator was quite shocking. When everyone else is battling to live, she is plotting her death. The reader has no idea why she wants to die, you have to keep reading to uncover the bits and fragments of her cruel life. Her voice is unique and certainly will be one that will stick with me.
- This is a book that relies heavily on atmospheric tension. There is little action through the majority of the book. Instead the reader is fed vivid scraps of prior events in order to have an understanding as to what happened before they arrived at the school. As the reader,you are thrust into the school, behind the barricades with the others as an ignorant witness. As the story unfolds, you see how the issues weigh heavily on the guilt ridden survives and you watch each of them slowly unravel a little more with each passing day, never knowing completely the full extent of the zombie hoard. The author does such a good job of hooking you into the story, that you soon drop your obsession with the zombies and focus on the here and now with the survivors. It is a gripping read. Filled with tension and drama.
And The Not So Much:
- If you are expecting to read this and revel in the zombies, prepare to be disappointed. This book maintains a strict first person narrative. You are seeing everything through Sloane's eyes as they happen, so you are in the dark just like she is as far as the how and why the zombies are there. If you are a reader that needs the details and the world building, this book lacks all of that.
- Sloane is a difficult character. You feel sympathetic toward her as you learn what led her to her painful decision. Yet, I held out hope that someone she would learn to live again and that she would have that desire. Unfortunately, this book has an open ending, so I am left to decide for myself Sloane's fate. I guess it is better than a cliffhanger. I am one of those readers who hates being left in the air. I want closure and I didn't get this at the end.
- Even though I loved the strategic way the author placed me blind in the school with the survivors, I longed for more insight. I wanted to know where the zombies came from? Was the infection world wide? And everything else zombie related.
This is Not a Test, is a gripping read that thrusts you into the aftermath of a zombie invasion. As you read this, you will ask yourself, what would I do? How strong is your will to live? Could you survive the zombie hoard? Would you want to? After living in the darkened confines of the school, while listening to the constant thuds on the doors and the droning voice on the radio, I am not sure I would want to. Ms. Summers crafts a dark, gritty, depressing read that will leave you muddling over the prospects of a zombie invasion.
“I drink until l feel like the ocean is in my stomach and when I’m done, I’m spent.”
“Maybe it’s not safe to be out here alone. Maybe I should go back and wake someone up. I don’t. If anything happens, it will just happen to me.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to stop. I’m not supposed to be here and the world has ended and it’s too stupid and sad for words and it’s changed time; a second is a minute, a minute is an hour, an hour is a day, a day is a month, a month is a year, and a year---I can’t be here that long.”
“I’m standing on the edge of a cliff and it feels like my heart is missing.”
“I am so sad is makes me heavier than the sum of my parts.”
“The walk to him takes forever. It’s hard to breathe around how badly I feel right now.”
“The energy in the room shifts. They’re kissing still, but now they’re really kissing. It’s so open and so honest and so end of the world and I can feel it from where I’m standing.”
“The rain, I hear it. I imagine it. Fat drops of water splashing onto roofs, tracing slick wet trails down before turning back into smaller droplets that hit the pavement and splash, making puddles.”
“Maybe the only way our story can end is varying degrees of sad. And that I miss, that I need her, and this kind of missing, this kind of need, the kind of emptiness it leaves behind is worse than waking up one day and finding the whole world has collapsed in on itself, that I was over long before it was.”
A big thank you to St. Martin's Griffin Publishing for providing me with a copy for review.