Book Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Book: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Published April 2018 by Balzer + Bray|455 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Dread Nation #1

Genre: YA Alternate History/Historical Fiction/Zombies

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

I really liked Dread Nation!  I feel like I’ve been hearing about it for a long time, and it’s hard to believe that it’s only been out for a few months.  Maybe it’s because I feel like there’s been A LOT of talk about it.  And it definitely lives up to the hype.

It’s interesting that the civil war was basically interrupted by zombies, and I was reminded of both Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  It’s definitely in that genre- I’m not sure what you’d call it, but I generally refer to it as the Pride and Prejudice And Zombies genre.

What horrified me the most was the fact that certain people were sent to schools like Miss Preston’s, and that it was based on real life schools where children were taken away from their families to become better integrated into society (if I’m remembering the author’s note correctly.  Unfortunately, it has since been returned to the library, so I can’t exactly refer to it either).  I didn’t realize that was something that happened, though I can’t say I’m surprised either.

The inclusion of zombies does make it an alternate history, but I also really liked the way that it explored racism, sexism and class issues.  I loved both Katherine and Jane and the friendship that formed between them, and how both girls initially didn’t like each other.  They live in a world where they are trapped, though in very different ways.

There are three different stories we see in this book- being trained at Miss Preston’s, navigating Summerland, and the letters that Jane writes/sends back home.  It was an interesting way to do things, though life at Miss Preston’s would lead to something like living at Summerland, but the letters could lead to something in the next book.  What that is, I have no idea, but I can’t wait to read the next one to find out.  This is one book I would recommend to everyone.  I know zombies aren’t everyone’s thing, but everything else in this book makes it worth reading.

4 stars,  I didn’t love Dread Nation, but I still think it’s a great book, and one worth reading.

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