*This review may contain spoilers, please continue at your own risk*
Quick Synopsis: 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.
I previously attempted to read this novel back in 2014, however, I was not that taken in. Although, I recently made the decision to give it a second chance and I’m absolutely thrilled I did! I certainly loved this book and the following novella.
Firstly, let me state, this is more than a zombie novel; this story focuses on issues not too often seen in Young Adult fiction and tackles them head on and realistically. With the zombie apocalypse as a backdrop, this novel discusses morals, abuse and its later effects, trust, friendship, hope and guilt; all powerful subjects which are translated beautifully, realistically and in some case, subtly. The most powerful aspect explored is the abuse main protagonist Sloane faced prior to and at the beginning of the novel, at the hands of her father. This is the basic driving force of all Sloane’s decisions. It is an ever present thought in her mind, along with her sister’s abandonment. I found that I was torn between wanting Sloane to achieve her desires and wanting her to survive. She’s a complicated character, who is stronger than she believes herself to be, and her development thoughout the story is quite substantial. The first person narrative only enhances my understanding and empathy towards Sloane.
Secondly, the cast within the novel are a diverse group, portrayed through the various personalities people often meet throughout their life: The cool stoner, the practical survivalist, the unforgiving brute, the loving sister, the crybaby, the teacher nobody likes and the complicated loner. Although, some may seem clichéd when described simplistically, they are portrayed fairly realistically instead of stereotypically (How many -ally endings are allowed in one sentence?). I took delight in unveiling their pasts, goals and motivations, while disliking some of them for their actions *cough* Mr Baxter *cough*. My favorite character is definitely Rhys, mainly due to his later expansion in Please Remain Calm, where he takes up the ropes of narrating the story. His concern for others and selflessness is rather engaging and the events are exceptionally thrilling – He certainly made the novella worth the read.
Thirdly, Courtney Summers is a force to be reckoned with. This novel in another’s hands would result in a drab and boring story, however, this author not only makes the story engaging, but manages to leave an impact on the reader; I questioned my own morals while reading this, just by thinking of the decisions I would have made in some of the character’s positions. My heart sank and was lifted, again and again. The unexpected shocks were endless, I found I had to lay my book down after certain parts, just to breath. Simply put: It. Was. Amazing. The ending was anticipated in the back of my mind, nevertheless, it was still quite satisfying and the following novella’s ending was…I have no words. I can’t wait for what is to come next. Unfortunately, I will not be holding my breath, due to the fact that there was a three year gap between This is Not a Test and Please Remain Calm.
Overall, this has certainly been one of my favorite reads so far, defiantly in my Top 10 books this year and possibly, of all time. I am going to give this book and the following novella a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars. Praise to Courtney Summers, I can not wait to read more of her work, hopefully another novella – especially, considering how Please Remain Calm ended.
Thank you for reading this review. Go check out This is Not a Test and Please Remain Calm for yourself! And share your opinions in the comments below.