A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that This Is Not a Test is an unconventional zombie book because for the majority of the story, the main character and five classmates are relatively safe within the confines of their high school. More a psychological thriller than a zombie action story, the book deals with some heavy issues (physical abuse, abandonment, suicidal tendencies, violence, vigilantism, depression). Several characters die either in flashbacks or in the present, some by the teeth of ravenous zombies, another by gunshot, one by his own hand. The romance is fraught and intense, with a couple of characters who barely know each other nearly going all the way. The language is as strong as the violence -- lots of "f--k" and "s--t" and "a--hole." Although the zombie invasion is the framing story, this is ultimately a story of surviving against all odds.
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What's the story?
It's the end of the world as 16-year-old Sloane Price knows it, as zombies begin to swarm her town, turning the living into the undead. For six months, ever since her older sister, Lily, left her alone with their physically abusive father, Sloane has secretly wanted to die -- but all of a sudden she finds herself in the relative safety of her high school with five other teens: popular twins Trace and Grace, whom she envies for their closeness; Rhys, who had a locker near hers; Cary, the Cortege High drug dealer who once had a fling with Lily; and Harrison, a freshman no one knew before disaster struck. As the five teens struggle to keep their high school safe, they must deal with damaging secrets (including Sloane's death wish) and the constant threat of a break in security.
Is it any good?
Canadian author Courtney Summers has created a page-turning tale that's equal parts angsty high-school drama and zombie apocalypse thriller. Although the zombies pose a continuous threat, they aren't the characters' most immediate problem. Most of THIS IS NOT A TEST takes place in the mostly undead-free days that the teens spend (re)acquainting themselves with one another, fighting over the mundane (how to ration cafeteria food), and struggling with the growing rancor between Trace and Cary, whom the twins blame for their parents' death just before the group reached the high school.
The most intriguing aspect of the story is Sloane's conflicting feelings. She genuinely wants to help her classmates stay alive, but she's so bereft that she's not sure she wants to keep on living herself. An intense burst of romance with Rhys seems more like a form of release than an undying (pun intended) love, but there's a promise for something more as the two emerge as the most likely to beat the overwhelming odds against them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that, for a zombie book, This Is Not a Test has relatively few zombie encounters in it. Is the constant state of fear the teens experience as frightening as the bloodier scenes?
Why are books about a zombie apocalypse and other end-of-the-world situations so popular? How is this one different from others in the genre?
Is it believable how much the teens swear and drink and hook up with one another? Does that seem authentic considering the circumstances?
- Author: Courtney Summers
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press
- Publication date: June 19, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Kindle
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