It reminded my a little of The Walking Dead, in that it’s set in a zombie apocalypse but the zombies are merely the backdrop for the human drama. But while The Walking Dead features a mostly adult cast (give or take an annoying kid or two), This Is Not A Test focuses on six teens as they hole up in their high school and try to figure out how to survive. Or if they even want to.
You see, the book opens with the protagonist, Sloane, contemplating suicide. But not because of a zombie apocalypse. Because of the very human problem of living in an abusive home and feeling abandoned by her sister, the one person who promised to take care of her. Then zombies appear on the scene and it’s almost a relief to her. She’s away from her abuser for the first time in her life, but she’s still despairing that her sister left her. Oh, and the fact that the world’s gone to hell. Much of the book centres around the tension between her desire to die and her increasing interest in life, and it’s quite a fascinating concept.
I also really enjoyed watching the dynamics of the group unfold. A lot of conflict derived from who survived when they perhaps shouldn’t have – and who didn’t survive when they should have. It was also interesting to see how people who wouldn't normally interact adapted to living in constant close quarters. There was a lot of tension but also a lot of lovely bonding moments.
The setting of the school and the atmosphere of impending doom was awesomely claustrophobic. There's one particular section early on where the zombies are constantly banging on all doors and windows and it's dreadful (in a good way). The repeated unchanging messages of "This is not a test" also added to the tense mood. It all felt very authentic.
What I loved most of all about This Is Not A Test were the raw emotions. Anger, despair, hope, fear, love, hate, attraction, detest, grief... there are so many emotions the characters go through and they're all beautifully and realistically rendered. Forget braaaaains, this zombie book will grab your heart and twist it and rip it and squish it until all your left with are frayed nerves and FEELS. So many feels.
|Lily Collins as Sloane|
|Steven R. McQueen as Rhys|
Published: 2012, St Martin's Griffith
Get It: Book Depository