Once you know the sounds of teeth tearing into human flesh, the wet, sloppy noise of skin and organs rolling around an infected’s mouth, of fingers with the kind of hunger driving them enough to make it possible to rip a belly open and pull all its insides out, you don’t forget it.
this follow-up novella is more of a typical zombie story than This is Not a Test. which, although i loved This is Not a Test completely, is a good thing. the use of zombies in the first one as a background foil to real-world horrors was a clever little twist on the traditional zombie novel, and it was brilliantly handled. but it’s not something easy or even advisable to replicate in a sequel—it would have diluted the power of test to have regurgitated the trick.
this one is a straight-ahead “survive the zombies” story that definitely kicks some emotional ass.
but at first, i wasn’t sold.
i’m not sure why. maybe because this one is told through rhys’ perspective, and i read test too long ago to remember much about him. sloane—her i remember and always will. and i miss her voice in this one. we don’t get to know what’s percolating inside her head—how she is reacting to everything that has happened. (and this is definitely not a standalone novella—do not read it until you have read test) we see her withdrawn, but we don’t know what’s going on in there, and rhys is not nearly as complex as sloane. he is someone who emphatically wants to survive.
but i got over it, and realigned my expectations to a more traditional male-narrated zombie survival story.
as with test, one of the most interesting things about summers’ writing is her attention to detail—specifically details that are usually glossed over in lieu of action!action!action! but there she is with the details about urination on the run and the silly fears accompanying it:
“I have to piss,” I mutter.
It takes her a minute and for that minute, my face burns and it all seems too goddamn stupid to be embarrassed about, but it’s what I’m not saying that’s making it uncomfortable. I have to go to the bathroom and I don’t want to die and then come back with my dick out, so…
and she’s there with the details of the destruction—a ruined bookstore, a dead dog beside his doghouse, a closed door.
and the exhaustion. she writes this SO well, and it made me incredibly tired just reading along.
she also has a way with the chilling descriptions:
The entire town must be here.
Here. A war was lost here, its victors still here, gazing at what’s left of the battlefield. Their backs are to us and church, church is in my head. I remember standing for the hymns and all those people in front of me, backs to me, and I couldn’t see their faces but I knew.
I knew they were opening their mouths.
shiver. she goes on in the next paragraph to make it just a little too on the nose, but that paragraph is perfect standing alone.
it’s a great story overall—and i eventually came around to appreciate rhys’ voice and watching the enigmatic sloane from the outside view. their dynamic is very well-written; it’s a pretty realistic depiction of two people who don’t know each other very well, but have shared experiences which have created a superficial bond between them. it’s rather exciting to read something like this; where the characters have no real relationship to draw upon, no archive of body language or other social cues, so rhys has no way to anticipate what sloane will do, or what she is planning. and that creates powerful tension.
and there is great action in this one. shit gets harrowing.
and then one of those endings that reminds you that YA fiction ain’t what it used to be and the world isn’t going to always give you your happy ending.
or, hell any ending.
we’re going to get a third part, right??
because i’m gonna need more.