Monday, December 3, 2012
This is Not a Test
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012
Plot Summary: Sixteen-year-old Sloane Price’s life has been a nightmare. She and her 19-year-old sister, Lily, have been raised by the strict hand of their father who took his rage out on the two daughters. Lily, Slone’s protector, always promised to be there for Sloane and that when she graduated from high school they would run away from home. Unfortunately, six months ago Sloane woke up to find Lily left without her and Sloane has just been going through the motions of life with no will to live. She’s getting ready to return to school after a long absence (in which the “story” is she has the flu that’s been going around but the real truth is that her father beat her sad bad she couldn’t leave the house) when all of a sudden someone is calling for help from outside and a crazed person breaks into their house trying to attack her father who shoves a shard of glass in the woman’s eyes. Fast forward seven days and Sloane is now trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. She’s taken shelter with a few classmates and they all fought their way to Cortege High School and have barricaded themselves inside. As the days pass slowly and they live in intense fear of being found, they have remote security and safety in the school with still has a water tank on the roof, food supplies, and more. However, soon they are pitted against themselves as the stress and horror of the situation gets to them. Grace and Trace, twins, blame Cary for getting their parents killed in a zombie ambush on the way to the high school. Harrison, a nerdy freshman, can’t stop crying at everything. Rhys isn’t happy when he finds out that Sloane just wants to die and volunteered to go outside to see a hurt man because she hoped she’s bet bit and die. Things heat up when they discover their former English teacher found a way inside the school but when they discover he has been bit (but he insists that it wasn’t from an infected) they force him outside to die and they live in fear trying to find how he got in the barricaded building. When the emergency radio finally says that there are survivor camps set up the teens have to decide if they are willing to try to make the 100-mile trek to the closest one. As they are getting ready to leave Sloane finds her lost phone and discovers a text message that she missed—it is from her father saying to come home, Lily is back, and it’s safe. The teens set out with the intention of hitting up Sloane’s house on the way to the camp to see if her sister came back and is alive. What they don’t bargain on is the fact that the zombies have just been silently waiting for any living thing to come to them before they attack.
Critical Evaluation: This is one of those well-written zombie novels that isn’t about zombies at the heart of the matter. The fact that the infection is never really explained (which I don’t like—the most we get is hints that maybe the flu that hit the town had something to do with the mutation that occurred), there really isn’t much zombie action throughout the novel. We have the first instance when Sloane’s house is attacked and then we move forward in time when the teens take refuge in the school. Most of the novel the teens are surrounded with zombies banging on the doors and windows but they are relatively safe. When a gas station a couple of miles away blows up, it attracts the zombies and they leave the high school for what appears to be the rest of the novel. Their only outside contact is with their former teacher and then they aren’t attacked again until they venture out to Sloane’s house. The real meat of the plot is from the teens’ interactions with one another while trapped in the school fearing for their lives. It is really about human nature as each teen has a reason to hate each other, the loneliness causes some to pair off to try and get any human contact they can, they all face tough decisions (trusting that their teacher isn’t infecting and letting him stay in the school trusting that they all won’t die or sending him outside to change or possibly be killed if he was telling the truth and isn’t infected), and the utter potential hopelessness of their situation. Sloane is a very interesting choice for the main character as she starts the novel wishing she was dead anyway but somehow ends up surviving longer than many people who actually want to live. There are some excellent moments of pure suspense and horror that will make readers jump. The ending is sad but there is a resolution for Sloane and she can hopefully move on with her life.
Reader's Annotation: Sloane’s sister has run away without her leaving Sloane left behind with the desire to die. The last thing she expects to happen is for zombies to take over and her sudden death wish slowly turns to a strong sense for survival.
Author Information: Summers was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, in 1986 and currently resides in a small town not far from there. When she was five, sheI wanted to be a “singer on Sunday and a geologist on Mondays.” When she was around nine, she gave up her geology and music-based dreams and decided she was meant to be an actor and then a director, screenwriter, and cinematographer. At 14, she became Vice President of her town’s local theatre guild and she also dropped out of high school. At eighteen, she decided to write a novel. Cracked Up to Be was her fourth written novel and her first to be published. She was twenty-one when it sold and twenty-two when it hit shelves. Since then, she has published three more books—Some Girls Are, Fall for Anything, and This is Not a Test. All the Rage will be out in 2013 (Summers, n.d.).
Curriculum Ties: N/A
Booktalking Ideas: Read the scene where Sloane’s father, not even knowing the infected are zombies, kills a crazed woman by shoving a shard of broken glass into her eye.
Reading Level/Interest Age: 14+
Challenge Issues: Violence, language
Challenge Defense: If this book were challenged, I would make sure the library has a Challenge Defense File ready for such a situation. Inside the Challenge Defense File, librarians and the public could find:
· A copy of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill)
· A copy of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at http://www.ala.org/offices/oif/statementspols/ftrstatement/freedomreadstatement)
· A copy of the library’s own selection policy (my library, the La Vista Public Library, has a policy but it is not online so I can’t link to it as an example).
· A copy of the library’s citizen’s complaint/reconsideration form (my library, the La Vista Public Library’s, form is called the City of La Vista Service Request form).
· Copies of reviews—both good and bad—from reputable library and publishing services to justify why a book was selected for inclusion in the collection. These include not only reviews from such journals as School Library Journal, VOYA, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, but also any mention of books on YALSA lists and other copies of articles about any awards or nominations such books may have received.
· Include a short rationale file for other coworkers so if the librarian in charge of selecting materials is not available when a challenge occurs the other staff members have some information to go by (the rational would include such information as a short summary, what could be challenged, reviews, awards and nominations, etc.)
· Include for staff members a copy of “Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials,” a document written by the American Library Association. Make sure that staff reviews this document periodically so they are prepared and know how to face such situations. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/challengeslibrarymaterials/copingwithchallenges/strategiestips)
Reason for Inclusion: An excellent zombie novel that perfectly mixes horror with great character development.
Summers, C. (n.d.). Bio. Retrieved from http://courtneysummers.ca/about/