When I think of zombies, I go back to the classic George Romero movies such as Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. To me, those are the standards that I think most zombie stories should reach for. Those movies helped define this horror sub-genre.
What I loved about THIS IS NOT A TEST is that the book holds true to the classic Romero zombie story, yet successfully bends it to make the experience more personal and immediate. Like only good young adult literature can do. The use of first-person perspective drops you into this zombie apocalypse and makes you feel like the world is really coming off its rails.
But this story isn’t so much about zombies, it’s really about how humans deal with dire circumstances. How some people can gather strength and push forward…and how others can fall into the abyss. On the surface, the book is about six teens trapped inside their abandoned high school while zombies outside wait to feed on them. And yet, the book goes deeper. Exploring the mindsets of the diverse cast of characters and their struggle to survive.
So is this book a carbon-copy of Romero’s films? I would say…no. First off, the teen point of view gives the situation a fresh new perspective. And second, how the teen characters judge and react to the situation is different from a group of adults. Third, and I think the most interesting…is the use of a female protagonist who doesn’t want to live, which goes against the traditional survivalist heroine found in most horror stories. This choice gives the book a unique perspective that adds to the tension and drama of the entire novel.
Like most of Ms. Summer’s earlier works, this book is filled with delicious tension between all the characters and the writing is crafted in such a way that these characters are capable of doing anything, which keeps the reader on edge. There are plenty of great twists and turns with a quick pace that keeps you turning pages. Out of all Ms. Summers books, THIS IS NOT A TEST is my new favorite.
Bottom line…if George Romero wrote a young adult zombie novel, this would be it.
THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers comes out on June 19, 2012
Legal Disclaimer: I did receive free online access to this novel through NetGalley.com