This Is Not a Test

This is Not a Test - Courtney Summers Courtney Summers has a way of packing an emotional punch in her stories, showcasing characters who have to come to terms and emerge from some dire circumstances. There's also no bars held when it comes to the sense of loss her novels tend to carry. This is no exception in her latest novel "This is Not a Test." While it's a story that occurs in the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse, with six surviving teens trapped in their old high school, it's more of a story where the characters have to contend with survival of another sort. Especially considering the novel's protagonist, Sloane.Sloane is a survivor of abuse at the hands of her father, and after her sister leaves her behind, she feels that much of her life isn't worth living, even as the zombie onslaught occurs. Trapped with the other survivors in their otherwise empty school, Sloane confronts both inner and outer demons that grant her an "out", but comes to realize - in the company she keeps, in coming to terms with her sister's actions and the unfolding zombie attacks - that life takes on a much bigger scope than she realizes.I'm in awe of how well written this novel was. I could sympathize with Sloane even with the mentality she takes on, because Summers' descriptions of her experiences are quite vivid and carry due emotional resonance with respect to her ordeals. I think the story also provides plenty of confrontations with respect to the threat of the zombies, and there are a number of interesting power struggles - within and external to the group - that keep the ball going as far as the action/conflict dynamic works in the novel.The deaths in this novel packed a full punch to my gut as I read this book, because Summers' does a great job showcasing the nuances and weaknesses of each of the six teens and the company they come across throughout the novel. There was even one death that just threw me completely because it was just one moment, as Sloane puts it, that character "was there" and then was gone in that same minute. It's a novel that I think many who like character explorations within a zombie survival story will enjoy, as well as those who like teen stories where coming to terms with grief and tough subjects are a significant factor.Overall score: 4/5Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher St. Martin's Griffin.