YA Book Club: Zombies FTW!

{YA Book Club is the brainchild of writer/blogger Tracey Neithercott.
For guidelines and additional info, click the image above.}

August’s YA Book Club selection is: This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, which dropped June 19, 2012 from St. Martin’s Griffin…

This Is Not a Test

From Goodreads: 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?

{Back in May, I reviewed this book over at YA Confidential. I’m reposting below because, upon reading my initial thoughts, I’ve realized that my opinions regarding This is Not a Test and Courtney Summers’ writing in general haven’t changed a bit. So, here ya go…}

I don’t really consider myself a zombie girl, but I ADORED this book.

Much like Sarah Dessen, Melina Marchetta, and Lauren Oliver, Courtney Summers can be counted on to provide a captivating story. This Is Not a Test is full of twists and turns, flawed-but-awesome characters, and a teen voice that rang almost alarmingly authentic. While This Is Not a Test is not regular Courtney Summers contemporary fare, it is just as absorbing, just as unputdownable, as any of her other novels. Possibly more so.

This Is Not a Test begins with the world as we know it coming to an end. A zombie apocalypse is a brilliant backdrop against which to observe human—specifically teen—behavior. People’s true colors shine vividly when resources are limited and their lives are at risk. Cortege High School becomes the perfect little microcosm to study shifting motivations, constantly changing loyalties, and breaking points of the teens hunkered down inside. Surprisingly, the Dead lurking outside Cortege High are not the biggest challenge the teens have to face; they torment and torture each other far more than the zombies ever do.

Main character Sloane Price is another unpredictable element of This Is Not a Test. Her back story proves to be horrifying, but much like the protagonists from other novels written by Courtney Summers, she doesn’t do a whole lot to make herself likable. She’s stubborn and self-centered, and she has a tendency to be sort of blind when it comes to the emotions of those around her. Still, Sloane’s so real, so very damaged and vulnerable, it’s hard not to root for her. She thinks the way teens think, and she says what teens—albeit wrecked teens—say. She’s depressed, but she’s smart and fair and loyal when it really counts. I wanted Sloane to pull it together so badly, both for herself and for the other teens stuck inside Cortege High with her—particularly Rhys.

Speaking of Rhys… I won’t give too much away, but awhile back I read a blurb about This Is Not a Test that called the book “sexy.” I had my doubts—this is a story about zombies, for crying out loud. But yeah, I admit it: This Is Not a Test IS sexy. And Rhys? Also sexy. Come to think of it, Trace and Cary (two more boys from Cortege’s group of six) aren’t too shabby either. And Grace, Sloane’s fellow female, is awesome in her own right. Even Harrison, who’s a bit of a cry baby, has his redeeming moments. What does all of this mean? Courtney Summers writes characters who rock. She also writes books that rock!

Have you read This Is Not a Test? Thoughts? What’s YOUR favorite zombie story?


19 thoughts on “YA Book Club: Zombies FTW!

  1. Jennifer Pickrell says:

    Agreed about Courtney Summers writing awesome characters! This is the 3rd one of her books I’ve read and I always find myself rooting for them b/c no matter how unlikeable they can be at times, there’s always this glimmer or moment where I can sympathize with them.

    • katyupperman says:

      Yes! She is a master at crafting bitter, angry protagonists who are still somehow likable. I often find myself rereading passages of her books. Once for pure entertainment, and then again to study how she crafts her characters. Masterfully!

    • katyupperman says:

      Didn’t she?! Loved this book and all its clashing-yet-complementary aspects. Courtney Summers rocks, whether she’s writing straight contemporary or flesh-eating zombies. 🙂

  2. Elodie says:

    Yes, steamy and sexy! And it was done in such a way that it just fit the characters and story perfectly…It was such a gripping read. I fell my heart beat for each person in this story as they were so well developed! And I agree with you also on the fact that the voice was “almost alarmingly authentic.”! Really amazing!

    • katyupperman says:

      “Gripping” is a perfect adjective for this book, which is funny because most of it was inherently quiet. I think the couldn’t-put-it-down factor comes from the fantastic characterizations.

      Loved your review today, Elodie!

  3. Erin L. Schneider says:

    I totally agree with you on how well all of the characters were written. That coupled with the slow build of tension, was what kept me flying through the pages. So much to not want to like about Sloane, is what made me like her even more. And the ending? Holy bajeezus! Some of those twists I was NOT expecting!
    This was a great read – and I bought two more of Courtney’s books this past weekend (SOME GIRLS ARE and CRACKED UP TO BE), because I liked this one so much!
    Great review, Katy – I hope you’re doing well? I owe you a check in email. 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      SOME GIRLS ARE is absolutely fantastic… Can’t wait to hear what you think of that one, Erin. Its protagonist has the same hate-her-but-really-want-to-love-her quality.

      And yes, let’s definitely catch up via email very soon!

  4. Alison Miller says:

    I have this book at the top of my birthday list and CAN’T WAIT to order it! Also, I loved your review. It’s what sold me on this book in the first place. 🙂

  5. Rebecca B says:

    Considering how much I enjoy The Walking Dead, I really really should’ve read this one. Adding to my list!

  6. Tracey Neithercott (@T_Neithercott) says:

    I completely agree. And this: “I wanted Sloane to pull it together so badly, both for herself and for the other teens stuck inside Cortege High with her.” YES! I was constantly pulling for her and for the others, no matter how flawed they were. In fact, the flawed characters were my favorite—like Cary.

    • katyupperman says:

      I loved Cary too! He was such a constant force of leadership, yet at the same time layered and totally unpredictable.

      Man… I read THIS IS NOT A TEST back in May, and I’m already wanting to go back for a reread. Great Book Club pick this month!

    • katyupperman says:

      Totally. I should have hated Sloane. Part of me WANTED to hate Sloane. But her loyalty and unflinching honestly were endearing, and I couldn’t help but root for her. Hope you get a chance to read this one, Kirsten!

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