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. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?
I’m going to preface this by saying that this review is probably going to be a little all over the place, as I’m having a hard time really putting my feelings into words. There were aspects of this book that were absolutely brutal to read; the main character, Sloane, is pretty much done with life and wanting to end it all. You get a pretty good look at why she feels this way – her father abused her and her sister, Lily, and even though Lily promised they’d run off together to escape him, it was really only Lily who ran away and escaped – but her thought processes are so depressing that there were times I had to put this book aside and take a break. Then on top of this, the zombie apocalypse has arrived, and the dead are taking over. Sloane and five others have managed to barricade themselves in their high school, but the dead are right outside, sometimes pounding down the doors. There is an overwhelming sense of despair because of this, which just makes what Sloane is feeling about ten times worse to read about.
However, with that being said, there was something truly gripping about this book. To call this a zombie book would be doing it a disservice, because while the book is set during said zombie apocalypse, the whole point of the book is Sloane’s look at life while the others around her – particularly Cary – are doing anything and everything they can to survive. Her point of view is completely at odds with everyone else’s, and there are all of these little asides that she says or thinks that really just get to the reader, particularly when it comes to them having to make some hard decisions: “I know we’re not bad people, not deep down inside” (pg. 183). For someone who is pretty much living only because she hasn’t been able to off herself yet, Sloane is a very compelling character, and I kind of spent the whole time wanting to shake her, and for her to realize that she really could do something with her life even though Lily left her. And what better time to do so then when the world is falling apart and she’s finally got a bit of freedom, in that she’s out from under her father’s thumb? But instead of focusing on how to survive (although she’s very good at this, even if she doesn’t mean to be), she keeps thinking of these elaborate ways to go out. There was one line that really struck me about Sloane, and it came up towards the end: “[We won’t be able to see our deaths coming] and I haven’t once imagined a death that was out of my control since this started” (pg. 291). Kind of puts her whole thought process into focus, you know? She’s full of these contradictions and keeps doing and saying these things that go are a direct opposite to what she’s thinking in her head, and I just couldn’t help but be pulled in.
And then you have all of these things that happen because it is the end of the world, and Sloane keeps pointing them out and making note of them, and it just makes you think the entire time you’re reading the book, something along the line of, “I wonder if this would have happened or if x would have done this under different circumstances?” And in one respect – [SPOILER] i.e. the relationship that happens between Sloane and Rhys, which I couldn’t help but love [/SPOILER] – I would certainly hope it would, because I think it would have helped, but you can’t help but think of it as an “end of the world” thing (which is exactly what Sloane says about something else that happened that I won’t get into to avoid giving out any other spoilers).
Even if you’re not a fan of zombies – and I would definitely put myself in that camp – I think you could find something to like about this book. The parts with the zombies are frightening and horrifying and terrible, make no mistake, and there is that sense of overwhelming despair, but Sloane’s personal journey is something that anyone would be able to connect with. This Is Not A Test will be out in North America on June 19, 2012. I definitely recommend it.
An ARC of this book was provided for free via a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.