This is Not a Test

This is Not a Test - Courtney Summers

Man, I have such mixed feelings about this book, I’m not sure where to start—so maybe with the good stuff is as good a place as any. :)

1. Ms Summer’s writing was a breeze to read and she obvious has a great talent for it. Yes, the story is present tense with no slips that I noticed. And yes, the story is mostly compiled of ‘tell’ with very little ‘show’. But never of these bothered me, because it was so consistently written, it was easy to keep going without a stumble to my flow.

2. The story has a great opening chapter. All in the space of approximately 15 pages (or so), we have a handle on our MC’s background with plenty of detail to help us empathise with her; we have conflict; we have action; we have a whole lot of ‘oh, my!’. Trust me when I say, this first chapter is definitely a drawer-inner.

3). The voice. I liked the MC’s voice a lot. Some might not connect with her easily. This could be because of the constant ‘want’ to end her life—though I think the urge to do exactly this even before the uproar was adequately explained for the reader to understand the depression and mindset of the MC. Or is could be because of the constant ‘tell’ mentioned above. I didn’t feel disconnected from her. I felt her pain. I felt her losses. I understand the almost ‘distant’ way in which the narration was written. And I so wanted her to find an element of peace, that it almost became the driving point of the story for me.

4) I liked the premise. In some bizarre, twisted kind of way, it almost reminded me of a Breakfast Clubmeets Lord of the Flies meets The Hole meets zombies. But I think that might be because the entire tone of this novel is so dark, so depressing, and massively has a person questioning their own humanity and standards.

5) Rhys. I liked Rhys a LOT. And I liked what he contributed to the story and most of his interest in the MC. He seemed to understand from the off that this complicated girl had a darkness spreading inside of her, and whilst at first I wondered about his motivations, I believe his own loneliness, his own demons, simply made him desperate to connect and the only way he could do so was by linking up with someone as f-d up as himself. There was one part, however, I felt didn’t need to go the way it did—or as far as it did—as it didn’t add more to the story than holding back would have done, but I still enjoyed meeting him a lot and loved his perseverance.

6) The rest of the characters. Each of the characters highlighted throughout this novel was individual, and with their own issues, and I felt they were each portrayed with finesse. And good job on getting me to connect with (some of) these, too. As I seriously felt the blow (despite how much the MC’s narration skimmed over it—as though in a dealing process) when we lost one of the characters who’d begun to resolve himself in my eyes.

7) The outlook of the book. This isn’t a zombie novel that has the characters fighting their way from one town to the next in search of food and civilisation. It concentrates wholly on the psychological effects of a zombie outbreak—which can/could be a lot darker than some of the lighter reads might have us believe. I’ve only ever read one other zombie novel that has taken this approach, and I applaud the author’s execution of this, as it was very well done. Though, I could argue that it was also partly some of the book’s undoing, because it contributed greatly to a depressing overall tone.

Okay, so that’s quite a lot of good, right? So why am I having such trouble with this one?

Well, although the parts of why aren’t as big in quantity as the pluses, they are definitely bigger in quality. Here they are:

1) The world building. There wasn’t any. At all. There is this mass outbreak of  ‘infected’ (or Zombies, if you will), and they’re thrown so rapidly at the reader in the opening, that we have no forewarning of what’s coming … which almost means no explanation. I kept expecting that explanation to come at some point throughout the book—especially as chapter 2 leaps from that great opening to 7 days later, but it never comes. So the reader has absolutely no idea why. Why was this happening? What had caused it? And the characters didn’t even seem to question it. Which took away some of the credibility of the tale, for me.

2) The ending. Mostly because that comment above—about how needing the MC to find some peace? Yeah, that never happened. At all. And the bit right before the ending? Where a certain someone who is mentioned the entire length of the book shows up? Dude, I predicted that from pretty early on. What I hadn’t predicted was the lack of ending. There is no ending to this book. It’s just left hanging. And the MC is just as depressed as at the beginning of the book, with absolutely no resolution, which to mean kinda means there is very, very little character development within these pages. And the fact the ending is so damn depressing means I was pretty depressed when I read that last page—and the lack of ending just left me feeling somewhat … well, empty, I guess.

So, I had a tough time deciding on a rating for this. Because ordinarily, I book written as well as this one that kept me reading would rate an easy 4 stars for me, but I was so hollowed out at the end, and felt that way for hours (and longer whenever I thought about the book) after finishing—though, some could argue that it is the sign of a good book. I suppose my point is that I read for escapism purposes, and when I’m left feeling down by something I’ve read (and not in a good way), then it hasn’t achieved what I hoped for at the outset. So I’m gonna have to go with …