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Dread Nation (Dread Nation #1)

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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. B 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.


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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. B 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.

30 review for Dread Nation (Dread Nation #1)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies

    The worst thing about this book is that I mentally read it with a Southern drawl. It is unbelievably annoying. Most of the time, I go into a book with certain expectations. "I'm going to love this book" "Oh, this sounds just awful" so on and so forth. I have to admit, the premise didn't sound that great to me. Zombies are boring. Civil-war era America (even after a zombie apocalypse) doesn't sound terribly awesome either. So I have to admit I started this book with a whole lot of skepticism, and The worst thing about this book is that I mentally read it with a Southern drawl. It is unbelievably annoying. Most of the time, I go into a book with certain expectations. "I'm going to love this book" "Oh, this sounds just awful" so on and so forth. I have to admit, the premise didn't sound that great to me. Zombies are boring. Civil-war era America (even after a zombie apocalypse) doesn't sound terribly awesome either. So I have to admit I started this book with a whole lot of skepticism, and the first 50 pages fulfilled my expectations. The heroine is kind of annoying. The other characters don't seem that great. But then, to my great surprise it became really good. The book caught me with the first zombie fight scene. It is damned hard to make that exciting. Tbh most zombie series are pretty boring to me. I ain't scurred of anything I can outrun, and considering I go to the gym and do massive amounts of cardio (in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, of course. The Zombie Survival Guide book recommends cardio), I can pretty much outrun anything you can imagine. RAWR! So the concept of shambling braaaaaaaaaains zombie really isn't that terrifying to me. The worst thing about a zombie apocalypse would be not being able to shower regularly tbh. Oh, and there would probably be no cell service *insert screaming emoji here* But back to the book. The premise is that there's a zombie apocalypse but the US has pretty much recovered, the cities are safe. Zombies (here called shamblers) are still wandering around, and blah blah something Act passed and now our half-black heroine, Jane is at a finishing school of sorts where one learns to kill zombies and become a fancy Attendant to white ladies. An Attendant’s job is simple: keep her charge from being killed by the dead, and her virtue from being compromised by potential suitors. It is a task easier said than done. There is a lot more action than I expected. The mystery is interesting. Jane herself is kind of bitchy (which I hated at first) but that is reined in by her self-awareness. She recognizes her own biases and tries to reason with herself. She is an incredibly strong, confident character. And speaking of biases, Katherine another girl at the finishing school, who is initially Jane's rival. She is beautiful, a golden-haired, light-eyed black girl who can "pass" as white. I really liked the way Jane and Katherine's relationship develops. The mystery is compelling. The friendship well-build. The romance believable and barely noticeable. This was a really fun read, besides the Southern accent in which I read it. DAMMIT.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elise (TheBookishActress)

    I shrug. “My momma always said the best way to get what you want from people is to give them what they think they want. Sometimes you have to live down to people’s expectations, Kate. If you can do that, you’ll get much further in life.” Honestly, black zombie hunters in the Reconstruction era is definitely the best historical fiction concept of all time. And the fact that this totally, completely lived up to my hopes? Even better. I think this is a book action fans are going to enjoy. Dread I shrug. “My momma always said the best way to get what you want from people is to give them what they think they want. Sometimes you have to live down to people’s expectations, Kate. If you can do that, you’ll get much further in life.” Honestly, black zombie hunters in the Reconstruction era is definitely the best historical fiction concept of all time. And the fact that this totally, completely lived up to my hopes? Even better. I think this is a book action fans are going to enjoy. Dread Nation may be a full 450 pages, but I felt like this book never stopped moving. I even felt - and I never say this about 500 page books, because come on - that I could've broken a reading slump with this. I solidly enjoyed every moment I spent reading. Beyond the nonstop action, I adored our two lead characters. Yes, I said two lead characters, but for once the other lead isn't our badass girl lead's love interest - she's her girl best friend. THANK GOD. ➽ Jane, our lead, is a fantastic actress, fantastic liar, and even, at times, a slightly unreliable narrator. And she loves dragging people. And she is the bi icon we all need in our lives. While I somewhat wished she has a more solid character arc - you all know me and my character arcs - her character has such a strong voice that I ended up loving her anyway. ➽ Katherine, a character so developed I'd almost consider her a protagonist, is so good. She's black, but light skinned enough to pass as white, something that leads to resentment from her fellow trainees. Also, she's established quite clearly as ace-aro without the terminology being used, which: A+. Besides the nonstop action and the character work, the best thing about this book is probably the theme work. Jane and Katherine's friendships originates from a plotline involving slut-shaming, girl competition, and Jane's own internalized dislike for lighter-skinned black people being majorly subverted. And given that there's no romance, the friendship between Jane and Katherine serves as the centerpiece of the book. And the themes around racism are so well-done - this is an ownvoices book and it definitely shows. Okay, and also, a rant: hooooooo boy, I am such a slut for history. This is un-boring historical fiction that still keeps all the nerdy references. The worldbuilding is full of nods to history. The use of terms like the Five Civilized Tribes, “War Between The States,” and “War Of Northern Aggression.” The entire thematic point of the combat schools for black and indigenous people. Deep South States are now called Lost States of the South due to lack of patrols and lack of winter during which dead lie down, the mention of germs as a controversial idea and idea of an original Gettysburg strain and a transferable Custer strain, the scientific racism developing around “coloreds,” the conflict of party-based Survivalists vs the Egalitarians, and the little details of the worldbuilding, like the fact that carriages are called ponies because all the horses have all been eaten - it's all there and it's all brilliant. YES, I AM A NERD. LEAVE ME ALONE. While there's a cast of intriguing side characters, something I really enjoyed here is that for the most part, the characters facing oppression are the focus. While characters like Professor Ghering and Miss Duncan are given dimension, the lens of the book falls mainly on characters like Red Jack, who are actually dealing with the problems caused by slavery. It's both a realistic aspect, considering Jane narrates, and an aspect that I really appreciate and haven't seen in enough books thus far. As several comments on negative or mediocre reviews of this book seem to imply that people only like this book because they respect the author, I want to clarify that at least for me, this is a review of the book, not the author . I have had no trouble in the past giving negative reviews to people I respect, and frankly, it seems disrespectful to both Ireland herself and to the positive reviewers on this page to imply that people only liked the book because they like the author. Like, dude, if you don't like this book that's fine, but don't get offended by the fact that other people did like this book? Maybe they just disagreed with you. Come on. Listen, diverse YA historical fiction is really bringing back literature right now. It's not a coincidence that all three of the BR Squad - Melanie, Destiny, and I - gave this a full five. Not only is this book relevant, especially now, it's also just one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently. I can hardly wait for Dread Nation to release. I don't even know how I'm going to wait for the sequel - reread, maybe? But either way, you are all going to love this. Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Youtube

  3. 4 out of 5

    Em

    a fantasy story about black zombie hunters in the reconstruction era, featuring a bisexual girl and an aro-ace girl?? TAKE ALL MY MONEY

  4. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Heilig

    This is what i'm envisioning after every zombie slay.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ☆♥☆Kotyonok꧁꧂

    Initially I wasn’t going to read this because I had absolutely no interest in it, but after seeing a reviewer remove their RATING because apparently you can’t give a black author anything less than 5 stars (see the comments of the review, how pathetic. How fucking pathetic.) because of a "power imbalance", I’ve decided to read this. Because I’m brown and we all know because of that I cannot be racist and have no fucking power in society, hence I live in a van down by the river after I escaped th Initially I wasn’t going to read this because I had absolutely no interest in it, but after seeing a reviewer remove their RATING because apparently you can’t give a black author anything less than 5 stars (see the comments of the review, how pathetic. How fucking pathetic.) because of a "power imbalance", I’ve decided to read this. Because I’m brown and we all know because of that I cannot be racist and have no fucking power in society, hence I live in a van down by the river after I escaped the concentration camp Trump put me in because I’m from the Middle East and get spit on by white people that give 3 star ratings to books by black authors everyday. Also I identify as a potato-cat and am misgendered everyday and I sexually identify as Scarlet Johanson's tampon. My oppression is real. So now I’ve read it. I see reviews saying it’s going to be one of the biggest books of 2018. Mark my words, it will not be. It’s not of a high enough caliber nor does it have a compelling enough summary (let alone story) to come anywhere near to getting big. I say this with the utmost honesty because this book is genuinely not great. It’s not necessarily bad, just boring as hell. Either I got the Boring AF Edition of this book, or people are just hyping it up because "BLACK AUTHOR BLACK AUTHOR DIVERSE DIVERSE BLACK MC!!!!111!!" I think it’s the latter. Also quick disclaimer, no I am not rating this low because of personal opinions on the author. Now it's true I don’t like that unprofessional twat, and I’ll admit I was going into this worried my bias would make me nit pick everything, but that wasn’t the case. I didn’t nit pick. I actually didn't have many notes on this book. I just genuinely did not enjoy this book. I generally start an audio book off at 1.0 speed at the beginning, then move it to 1.25 near the middle, then 1.5 from the middle to end. With this book, I kept increasing the speed at the beginning and ended up putting it at 2.0 speed just to get it fucking moving because it WASN'T fucking moving. (Side note: even at one point I had it at 2.5 speed. And yes I understood it just fine at that speed.) It felt like nothing even happened in this book. Like the "conflict" was a little detour, a mini episode. The end was basically like the beginning because nothing really changed, you just went on this brief road trip with the MC and then we were right back to square one in the end. The story was so...weak. (It reminded me a lot of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in a way.) I actually quite liked the MC, Jane, at points. She had sass and funny internal thoughts, but other than that she falls pretty flat. I enjoyed this other character a lot more, Katherine, who is actually black but has white skin, so she’s "passing" white. She was the most interesting character to me because she provided a different perspective, she walked an interesting line in society and had trouble figuring out to which group she belonged to (white or black that is). Ultimately she’s on the side of the black people, but she’s seen by society, which at the time is right after the civil war, so it’s very racist, as white. I really liked this character, and I loved the development of her relationship with Jane. She’s probably the only character who’s situation can be interpreted as commentary to today’s society. Which brings me to another point I keep seeing people make on this book—that it’s "very important" 🙄 and has substantial commentary on race. No. Just no. What even. Did I get the Stupid-Nothing-New-Not-Important Edition of this book along with the Boring AF Edition? Here’s the thing fellow shitheads. If you’re going to write a book that has some sort of commentary on society, your best chance at doing this is 1) writing a dystopian 2) writing a contemporary or 3) some third option I haven’t figured out yet like a satire or some shit. A historical fiction is the worst possible way to do this because it usually doesn’t work. Now I saw an interview by Justina Ireland saying she wrote this historical fiction with an anachronism in it, that like the musical Hamilton, the anachronism allows for commentary on society today. Ireland says in the interview, "Hamilton works because it adds enough historical anachronisms that a modern readership can understand it. With Jane, you know who she is just by reading her dialogue. Her nemesis/reluctant friend is very much of the time period. She’s always dressed nice. She represents the true 1880s. Jane exists outside of that timeline and historical period. That's the reader’s entry point." Full article: https://www.bustle.com/p/dread-nation... .... It worked for Hamilton. It didn't work for you Justina sweetie. The anachronism only serves to allow black girls to fight, it is not extended enough to make a substantial commentary on today’s society. The anachronism only serves to allow the plot you wanted to create to take place, it does not serve as some important dialogue. It’s difficult to do commentary in regards to historical fiction, because society is not the same as it is then. This commentary is based on how society was in the past. That’s not to say there isn’t racism today—of course there is. I’m not denying the remnants of the past and the historical forces that DO influence today’s world, but to draw a comparison between racism of the 1880s and 2018 is beyond reaching at best and just fucking ridiculous and stupid at worst. America is not perfect, but it’s also not the fucking 1880s. This book actually didn’t complain about white people as much as I thought it would—what the hell's up Justina, you disappointed me XD. And any complaints or anger the MC has is justified because, again, the time period. Then there’s the matter of the MC being bisexual. Now I don’t care what sexuality she is, but I did take pleasant delight in seeing people praise this "rep". Why? Because it’s so fucking hypocritical. The same people that bash SJM for not having diversity, and that the one non straight character she had, Aedion, was only bi off page. On page he’s in a straight relationship, so people had a problem with that. But isn’t that the same thing here? The MC has no romantic female relationship, so really, Justina Ireland is being as pandering as JK Rowling is with the "Dumbledoorpost is gay!!11! but I never showed it but that's okay, because ahahah IM SO WOKE!!11", and as pandering as SJM is being with the "Aedion is bi but I’m never going to show it but still look how inclusive I am!111!!". .... I fucking hate SJMs books, and I do think there is valid criticisms against her on her depiction of representation, but dammit that’s just so unfair. It’s like with whatever book I read I see something she was bashed for and when it’s done in a different book (ex. Children of Blood and Bone, all straight able-bodied beautiful black people, it’s like Throne of Glass in Wakanda), suddenly everyone is so damn quiet because BLACK AUTHOR BLACK MC!!111!!! How. Fucking. Pathetic. And this double standard really takes away from your argument my shitheads. If you’re going to call something out, then be damn consistent and call it all out. Or just keep your damn mouth shut because your double standards aren’t fixing anything, it’s just virtue signaling nonsense. The romance in general was bland and pointless, the love interest was absent for most of the book and the MC was apparently already in love with him before the book. So it was a whole lot of telling not showing and the guy was just plain useless. Overall this book is being over-hyped because the author is black and it has a black main character. It is not important. It is being protected at all costs and given an easy rating because apparently, you can’t give a black author a bad rating (BUT I CAN. HA!). The author’s followers are probably flagging any bad reviews (they’ve probably flagged this already, so if you made it this far in the review, yay it’s still up!). There is a disgusting mob mentality on this site, from readers and non-readers. There is little intellectual honesty when reviewing and rating books on this site. And I say this in regards to people who 1 starred this book without reading it as well, because that’s just as petty as giving it a 5 star "to be nice, support POC!!11!1" or remove your rating because of a "power imbalance". Seriously fuck all of you. Would I recommend this book? No, but don’t let that stop you from reading this. If you liked it, good for you. I didn’t and that’s that. 1.5 stars. Happy Triggering shitheads.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)

    3 Stars "It's a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part." I just want to preface this review by saying I think this book is extremely important. It's historical fiction with zombies, sure, but it also centers on a very strong, biracial woman. I can't speak for the representation as a whole, but I will say I loved how unapologetic Jane is. Taking place in an alternate US where zombies rose up during the Civil War, this takes a long hard look at institutionalized racism. Jane is a st 3 Stars "It's a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part." I just want to preface this review by saying I think this book is extremely important. It's historical fiction with zombies, sure, but it also centers on a very strong, biracial woman. I can't speak for the representation as a whole, but I will say I loved how unapologetic Jane is. Taking place in an alternate US where zombies rose up during the Civil War, this takes a long hard look at institutionalized racism. Jane is a student at 'Miss Preston's School of Combat' where she trains to fight the zombies (or "shamblers") for 'privileged white folk.' She's also razor-sharp in how she's precisely aware of how others perceive her. This also has some wonderful discussions about femininity, as both mains are (very different) young women. Jane initially resents Kate, as Kate is more traditionally feminine, and with lighter features that allow her to "pass." Not only do these two learn to work together, but their initial dislike and Jane's assumptions are addressed. There's also also great ace and bi representation But as amazing as these discussions were-- and as much fun as the zombie slaying was, the plot is a mess. It honestly felt like two different books combined into one, as the entire first half is dedicated to a setting and characters that rapidly shift to something entirely different. Instead of a linear plot that builds things just happen. The story doesn't build much tension, instead relying solely upon character arcs while chaos occurs. (Side note: I loved how smart and intuitive Jane was, but she also somehow seems to correctly guess everything??) Jane's letters back home are intriguing and tell a completely different story in-between chapters-- but it adds up to set-up for three separate stories Sadly to me, so much of this build up led to a tiny (and kind of random) conclusion. There's a lot of set up for the rest of the series, but there's still something dissatisfying about how completely unfinished everything is. Overall: I have a feeling this is going to be one of my most unpopular opinions, as I can see this being very successful (and I hope it is!) But while there were so many great things about this book, the haphazard plot really detracted from them for me. I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review! Thanks to Balzer + Bray for the opportunity! (Quotes not final!)

  7. 5 out of 5

    may ➹

    I honest to god was so excited to read this book. black queer girls + zombies? that’s a CONCEPT. a really really great concept but I truly truly cannot support someone who implies that Asian women like myself... are not women of color. I’m really sad to be taking this off my TBR but someone saying that Asians aren’t people of color makes me sick, and it’s even worse when someone I respect[ed] says that. read this book if you want!! it’s certainly an important book in YA. but I truly cannot make m I honest to god was so excited to read this book. black queer girls + zombies? that’s a CONCEPT. a really really great concept but I truly truly cannot support someone who implies that Asian women like myself... are not women of color. I’m really sad to be taking this off my TBR but someone saying that Asians aren’t people of color makes me sick, and it’s even worse when someone I respect[ed] says that. read this book if you want!! it’s certainly an important book in YA. but I truly cannot make myself read this [I won’t be giving anyone info on what happened since it’s draining, and I would link you to what went down, but unfortunately, it’s all been deleted]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Abron

    2.5 The year is 1880 and slavery has kind of ended in the traditional sense but blacks and native Americans are now forced to enter combat schools to learn how to fight zombies. Our main character is Jane who is a sassy bi-racial zombie killing machine that takes no shits from anyone. This book has all the fixin’s, Katherine a snooty student who is passing as white, Jackson a sexy hustler/sexual harasser, a racist sheriff, and a corrupt mayor. Our trio lives and trains in Baltimore and their only 2.5 The year is 1880 and slavery has kind of ended in the traditional sense but blacks and native Americans are now forced to enter combat schools to learn how to fight zombies. Our main character is Jane who is a sassy bi-racial zombie killing machine that takes no shits from anyone. This book has all the fixin’s, Katherine a snooty student who is passing as white, Jackson a sexy hustler/sexual harasser, a racist sheriff, and a corrupt mayor. Our trio lives and trains in Baltimore and their only future of becoming personal bodyguards for “rich white folks” is not something they are looking forward to until they are abducted and forced to fight zombies in the new hope for America-Kansas. Dread Nation is what I like to call a book that has all bones and no meat. There’s a solid idea but it’s basically bunch of events, zombie attacks, in-between a bunch of nothing. This book is contingent on world building because this is a new world. Post Civil War America is different than what we know because of zombies so there needs to be some solid world building BUT because this book is written in first person where Jane talks to the reader, the entire world is info dumped. When you have a first person POV, your world building options are limited. I looked through my personal library of fantasy and almost all of them are third person with the exception of Kiss of Deception that relies on interludes of old texts for world building. With Dread Nation, all we get is the old south with their plantations and zombies. Then they go to the old west where there’s a brothel, a church, and a saloon, and zombies. That’s not world building; that’s all old west movies. If that’s what Ireland is going for, relying on the reader’s preconceived ideas of the old south and the old west, why did this book need to be 464 pages? Ireland tried to do something with the Katherine Jane relationship where they start off as enemies but it ended up being nothing new or special. Jane is an okay character as far as her sass but she’s also smarter than everyone else in the room and that got annoying. A racist who constantly calls the blacks darkies does not a villain make. We expect the corrupt white sheriff to be racist but what else about him makes him evil? There were several white villains like this and it got repetitive. This is really just a book that contain themes and storylines that we’ve all read a bunch of times. There’s nothing new here which is a shame because it’s an interesting idea.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Zoraida

    This book is fucking badass. Yes, there are zombies, but there are also young girls trying their damndest to survive in a world that doesn't want them. This book is just as important as The Hate U Give and Dear Martin. We like to romanticize the past and the old west, but need constant reminders about the ways that things haven't changed at all. It's an examination of America, old and new, and the idea that perhaps humanity is worse than a plague of zombies. Jane is someone I want to see slay the This book is fucking badass. Yes, there are zombies, but there are also young girls trying their damndest to survive in a world that doesn't want them. This book is just as important as The Hate U Give and Dear Martin. We like to romanticize the past and the old west, but need constant reminders about the ways that things haven't changed at all. It's an examination of America, old and new, and the idea that perhaps humanity is worse than a plague of zombies. Jane is someone I want to see slay the undead, but someone I also want to see protected above all.

  10. 4 out of 5

    shady boots | #WatchPOSE

    Originally started as a buddy read with Lola but she wasn't into it so I went ahead and finished it myself. :p I thought this had a pretty strong start. I was really enjoying it up until around the 40% mark. From then on, my interest sort of waned. I guess its partly due to the whole zombie thing; let's be honest, they're not the most exciting supernatural monsters to read about. Most of the time they're just lumbering, brainless things designed to move the plot forward and provide action scenes. Originally started as a buddy read with Lola but she wasn't into it so I went ahead and finished it myself. :p I thought this had a pretty strong start. I was really enjoying it up until around the 40% mark. From then on, my interest sort of waned. I guess its partly due to the whole zombie thing; let's be honest, they're not the most exciting supernatural monsters to read about. Most of the time they're just lumbering, brainless things designed to move the plot forward and provide action scenes. I'm afraid that was still somewhat the case with this book; the author didn't do anything new or interesting with the zombie mythos, they're pretty much the standard ones. The world of this book besides the zombies wasn't that intriguing either. I felt very uncomfortable reading this book a lot of the time, but that's to be expected. Any fictional media that tackles racism is bound to be very unsettling to read, especially ones that take place in an era of history where slavery and the dehumanization of black people was still in its heyday, as is the case with this book. It's not pleasant to revisit this time period, but it is one that's rarely seen in YA, especially from the point of view of the oppressed, so I have to give kudos to the author for that aspect. It also highlights that even in a world crawling with zombies, the real vile creatures will always be the same: straight white men. (LMAO I'm totally kidding! 🤣 But seriously, straight white men scare the crap out of me nine times out of ten) The main reason I stuck around was for the protagonist Jane, who I really liked. She's strong, intelligent, witty and feisty. I really enjoyed her personality, and I also liked her friendship with her companion Katherine. I sort of felt falsely advertised though, because a lot of the buzz from this book came from the fact that it had an aro-ace (aromantic, asexual) main character, but it actually wasn't Jane who was aro-ace but Katherine. I figured I should mention this because I didn't want anyone else getting misconceptions and then get disappointed. Throughout the book, it's pretty clear that Jane exhibited a lot of physical and emotional attraction to a few of the male characters. Then again, I'm not sure if aro-ace people are still able to experience sexual or emotional attraction, so if anyone more well-versed in the subject, or if any of you actually are aro-ace yourself, then I implore you to educate me on this. I'm always eager to learn more. I think that's all I wanted to say, really. I enjoyed this book for a while cause I grew attached to Jane, but other than that I wasn't all that invested in anything else. I wanted more queer representation, as the buzz for this book claimed there would be, but alas there was very little of that. The ending was vaguely cliffhanger-ish but I don't think I'd be interested in future sequels personally.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    2.5 stars It’s a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part. Now I really liked this book up to a point and the concept is original. It also explores racism in an original way. And damn, did it outrage me at certain points. But it also inspired me to learn more. (Mainly about what the author's note refers to at the end - the real life boarding schools Native American children were sent to to learn to be "civilized"). Here we have an alternate history America where the Civil War ended w 2.5 stars It’s a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part. Now I really liked this book up to a point and the concept is original. It also explores racism in an original way. And damn, did it outrage me at certain points. But it also inspired me to learn more. (Mainly about what the author's note refers to at the end - the real life boarding schools Native American children were sent to to learn to be "civilized"). Here we have an alternate history America where the Civil War ended with the dead beginning to rise leading to a very different country as we remember it. In an attempt to solve the problem (because the Army isn't a match for zombies), the Native and Negro Reeducation Act is put in place and schools like Miss Preston's School of Combat for Negro Girls started popping up to teach students how to put down the dead. In the novel, zombies are referred to as shamblers. And there is more than just learning to put down zombies for Jane McKeene. Or there should be. She is excellent at combat, but struggles in etiquette. One must know etiquette to have a chance at being chosen as an Attendant once you graduate. An Attendant is typically hired by some rich woman to protect her from being killed by a shambles & to keep her virtue in tact. Getting hired as an Attendant is Jane's main concern until they begin to realize families from Baltimore County are going missing. Is the dead the least of Jane's worries? The story is told entirely from Jane's perspective in 1st person. This doesn't exactly help when it comes to the world-building, since we are always seeing only what Jane is seeing. I was left wanting, and even needing, a lot more from the world-building. I did enjoy how sassy Jane is. She is very smart, though her impulsiveness tends to cause problems. I really liked how her relationship with Katherine developed over time. At the beginning of each chapter is an excerpt from a letter from either Jane or her mother. These add a little more to the story and help connect it to Jane's past before the school. What I didn't like was mainly where the plot goes after Baltimore. The themes are still present making it interesting enough. But the excitement doesn't exist here. & I have issues with one of the villains beyond him being racist. And this is on top of my problem with the world-building. Now the best part of this book is the exploration of racism. It is done so well. And made it so this is one hell of an important read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    8.1 out of 10 @ https://1000yearplan.com/2018/05/03/c... Dystopias are popular settings for YA novels; while most imagine a future where a class of people is oppressed by a system of authoritarian social control, Justina Ireland’s canny new horror western Dread Nation locates its dystopic vision in America’s past. History diverges when the dead start returning en masse, hungry for human flesh, bringing an early end to the Civil War and the institution of slavery – but only in the barest sense. No 8.1 out of 10 @ https://1000yearplan.com/2018/05/03/c... Dystopias are popular settings for YA novels; while most imagine a future where a class of people is oppressed by a system of authoritarian social control, Justina Ireland’s canny new horror western Dread Nation locates its dystopic vision in America’s past. History diverges when the dead start returning en masse, hungry for human flesh, bringing an early end to the Civil War and the institution of slavery – but only in the barest sense. No longer forced to work on plantations, Black Americans are instead conscripted at a young age to train as soldiers to battle the “shamblers” (my new favorite euphemism for the walking dead) that are overrunning the country. Jane McKeene is one such “attendant”-in-training, lucky enough to be receiving her education at the prestigious Miss Preston’s School for Combat in Baltimore in 1880. Her good fortune runs out when she and her class rival Katherine, along with runaway Red Jack, uncover an illegal scheme by the city’s mayor and are shipped off to Summerland – a frontier enclave in Kansas that promises to restore white Christian supremacy to America and treats its Black and Native American militia little better than chuck for the meat grinder. Many of the story elements that make dystopian YA fiction popular are also staples of the western genre – love triangles between characters from different classes, lone heroes standing up to injustice, landscapes defined by violence and industrial transformation – so the familiar elements are a comfortable fit in Ireland’s reformulation. The classic western narrative, though, depicts the westward march as an act of heroic advancement, a taming of the “wild” frontier for the benefit of civilization. Dread Nation may offer an alternative history of the west, but its depiction of institutionalized racism and classism – where marginalized peoples are forced into a perpetual fight for survival amidst the stampede of “progress” – is little changed by the disruptive insertion of the shambler hordes. Dread Nation’s genre-hybrid premise functions seamlessly on every level – as western, horror, YA, and alt-history (a toss-off General Custer joke is my favorite laugh-out-loud moment in the book). Jane is a fantastic protagonist, a trickster-like woman-at-arms who is loyal to her ideals and to the people she cares about above any nation or creed. Her budding friendship with Katherine (herself an excellent subversion of the “tragic mulatto” stereotype) is the most affecting relationship in the story. Of all the praiseworthy facets of Dread Nation, my favorite is how its episodic, cliffhanger structure – full of foot-dangling dangers and feats of boldness and bravado – parallels the classic (and historically, often woman-centered) newspaper serials Jane loves to read. Perhaps it will find a natural home as an adaptation for one of the online streaming services, whichever is gutsy enough to do it justice.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Krista Regester

    Just wow. I am so impressed with this novel. Dread Nation is a mosh posh of all the best things in life: zombies, hardcore heroines, BISEXUALS, and some superb snarkiness. Can I get an amen? Seriously. I couldn’t put this down. I didn’t want it to end. Every single character matters. Every single line is important. Jane McKeene is a badass lady. She is relatable, smart, strong, and somehow kept her shit together when everything went down. Something that is worth pointing out is how the chapters Just wow. I am so impressed with this novel. Dread Nation is a mosh posh of all the best things in life: zombies, hardcore heroines, BISEXUALS, and some superb snarkiness. Can I get an amen? Seriously. I couldn’t put this down. I didn’t want it to end. Every single character matters. Every single line is important. Jane McKeene is a badass lady. She is relatable, smart, strong, and somehow kept her shit together when everything went down. Something that is worth pointing out is how the chapters would begin with bits of correspondence between Jane and her mother. This was so touching and how it related with what was going on currently was just so good! I am also quietly(loudly) shipping Jane + Kate.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    I absolutely loved this book. Of course the alt-history post-civil war era setting tells you that the story will be harsh. It's a zombie book, yes, but the walking dead are just part of the larger landscape of horror that non-whites have to live in. The relationship between the two main characters, Jane and Katherine, is incredibly well done. They start out barely tolerating each other, but over time they become friends. How that relationship comes about and grows is integral to the story, and t I absolutely loved this book. Of course the alt-history post-civil war era setting tells you that the story will be harsh. It's a zombie book, yes, but the walking dead are just part of the larger landscape of horror that non-whites have to live in. The relationship between the two main characters, Jane and Katherine, is incredibly well done. They start out barely tolerating each other, but over time they become friends. How that relationship comes about and grows is integral to the story, and the focus on this friendship never wavers during the telling. My one critique relates more to the author's statement about basing the combat schools on the American equivalent of native Residential Schools. I don't know if the legacy of Residential Schools is as commonly kown and accepted as it is in Canada, where it is seen as a great stain in our country's history, but I didn't feel the representation of the combat schools as analogous to Residential Schools was very good. In Dread Nation there is the feeling that despite the bad of the schools, that the attendees are essentially well treated and are actually getting some good from attending them. In fact, Residential Schools were one of the ultimate tools of colonialism and aimed at the cultural genocide of native people. I don't think anyone here would ever imply that there was any benefit at all to children being put into the Residential School system. I realize that Ireland's main story centres on the experience of oppression and legacy of slavery for black Americans, but I felt like the whole experience of native people was somewhat subsumed unfairly into that narrative. Probably if I hadn't read the author's notes this wouldn't have bothered me, but from what I have heard about her, she is one of those authors who feel strongly that black authors can speak most effectively about the black experience of oppression. Ironically I felt that by explicitly modelling the Residential School she co-opted an important story the consequences of which even today, native survivors of the system still live with. But, that said, I had a hard time putting this book down, and it was an emotional ride for me. One of my favourite books of 2018.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shaun Hutchinson

    Absolutely stunning. This will absolutely be one of my top 5 favorite books of the year.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance

    4.5 shamblers This was one of my most anticipated books for spring from the moment I heard of it and laid eyes on that cover. I have no idea what struck this chord other then I love history and figured this alternate derailment (from the current one) will be epic. A dystopian setting in the past versus the future as in most YA novels. BAM…a dystopian, YA, alternate historical fiction genre has been created. And I am all for it! The setting for Dread Nation begins during the Civil War years. Jane M 4.5 shamblers This was one of my most anticipated books for spring from the moment I heard of it and laid eyes on that cover. I have no idea what struck this chord other then I love history and figured this alternate derailment (from the current one) will be epic. A dystopian setting in the past versus the future as in most YA novels. BAM…a dystopian, YA, alternate historical fiction genre has been created. And I am all for it! The setting for Dread Nation begins during the Civil War years. Jane McKeene is attending Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, funded by Congress after the Negro and Native Reeducation Act was put in place. After the Great Discord, the US Army needs more help to provide protection of privileged families and citizens from shamblers (zombies), and these schools will put forth the help and aid needed. McKeene is top at her class. She is smart, sassy and badass. At a local lecture she is attending, the professor want to try out a new medical procedure that will put other innocent people in harm’s way. She cleverly sees through the procedure and is able to save some important people attending. This earns her the spotlight and job to be an ‘attendant’ to an upper class couple. An opportunity many girls in her place strive for to receive. But McKeene is also missing her family. Mostly her mother. At the beginning of each chapter there is a personal letter or note she or her mother writes…..and NEVER receives. This is part of an awful plot that takes her and some others from the school out West to a town called Summerland, Kansas. A town where Negros live on one side of town and the privileged higher society on the other. Lead by a strong Christian supremacist leader who preaches that Summerland has been created according to the Lords will, there are sinister, dark things going on in and around town. Are the shamblers alone the danger of town? Well, McKeene is in to find out the hard way. *** First of all, this book was ENTERTAINING! I am the least person to read anything involving horror. I am horrified of horror!!! I don’t like anything zombies either….and yet, this worked so well for me. I really liked it. This book traveled with me across the States from coast to coast. And despite all the things I hear and read surrounding the novel, I am fond it. It is YA, so keep that in mind. It isn’t a in depth fantasy, but rather lighthearted, pulse raising and entertaining. Perhaps a lighter fantasy you may say. I definitely recommend it for that. Facts from fiction…it is fantasy. Something different and new. I recommend. For more reviews and blog posts check out: https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/

  17. 4 out of 5

    The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears

    The cover! The cover! The cover! #representationmatters and this cover had me doing all kinds of happy dances when I first saw it. As is my usual, I own both the physical copy of Dread Nation, which goes on my steadily growing diverse bookshelf, and an ebook copy which has all my highlighted quotes. Dread Nation receives a full five stars for several reasons. The biggest one is the rare author - regardless of color - who can get me to read a novel set during the Civil War and not want to throw m The cover! The cover! The cover! #representationmatters and this cover had me doing all kinds of happy dances when I first saw it. As is my usual, I own both the physical copy of Dread Nation, which goes on my steadily growing diverse bookshelf, and an ebook copy which has all my highlighted quotes. Dread Nation receives a full five stars for several reasons. The biggest one is the rare author - regardless of color - who can get me to read a novel set during the Civil War and not want to throw my Kindle against the wall. The Fountain Pen Diva has long harbored a marked aversion to genre fiction novels about American chattel slavery ever since the "romance" I read decades ago in which the author depicted slavery as not that bad, complete with docile, happy slaves singing in the fields overseen by "benevolent" masters and mistresses. Fuck. That. Noise. Of course, Octavia Butler's Kindred was the exception to that rule, because she did not glamorize it and because she rightfully gave her heroine the agency she deserved. Secondly, traditional New York publishing has an unhealthy fixation on Black trauma to the point of excluding other narratives. Not that I'm ashamed of my ancestors, because they survived and thrived in a world that loathed them as much as they needed them, but often these stories are written for a prurient gaze, rather than the horror American slavery truly was. Also, these stories tend to have a white savior because "Black folks just can't save themselves". Sarcasm very high. Dread Nation gave me the same feels that the Greatest Of All Time goddess of sci-fi Octavia Butler did when I first read Kindred. Finally, it was OUR story to tell, OUR agency that mattered. Dread Nation, despite the fact that it's horror fantasy, is still OUR story to tell. It's given back the agency that far too many novels about slavery have tried to take away. It's a story that centers itself on the thoughts, feelings and actions of Black women in particular. Yes, it was awesome it was to have Black women not only saving themselves using both strength and guile, but saving those who look down on them. Kind of like real life. Dread Nation isn't necessarily horror because of the zombies. It's horror, because of the darker evil that was/is the mindset which dehumanized entire peoples. It's horror because re-education schools existed and were institutes of abuse - psychological and physical. But the novel is also one of hope, of strength and of bravery in the face of evil. It's the triumph of the human spirit under harsh circumstances. It's also a mirror of our own reality. I read this in one sitting because it grabbed me by the throat and kept me on tenterhooks until the end. I cared about Jane, Katherine, and the young Black girls being trained to fight zombies. Jane and Katherine especially mattered to me. Jane is smart, resourceful and brave in a world that wants to kill her spirit. The issue of colorism (an issue I'm known to speak out against, especially in genre fiction) is dealt with honestly and makes one think. However these two Black women understand what's at stake, though Katherine as white passing, sadly acknowledges (and hates) there are doors her skin shade allows her to enter. Now I'm not even a big zombie fan, and honestly only watch The Walking Dead because I like watching Michonne kick ass. The true horror of is less about the zombies and more about the humans who would rather uphold a racist system despite the fact the zombies don't care what their victims look like. For these characters, Black bodies are expendable. Before anyone even tries to ride my bra strap about giving Dread Nation five stars only because the author and leads are Black, don't be a dumbass. All skinfolk ain't kinfolk, and I've read PoC authors who earn my WTF award. Just as I've read white authors who commit fail. It's the story and the characters, stupid. The only off note for me was the character of Daniel Redfern, the Native American, but in retrospect I get where he fits in. Like Jane, he too has played a role in order to survive. Of course, I'm certain he'll have a larger role to play in the next book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*

    Brilliant. Dying for book two, and I didn't even know there was going to be a sequel when I picked this up. I loved Jane and Katherine (enemies-to-friends is a trope I'm fond of). They had some major personality differences but still had common ground and appreciated each other's skills. Still not sure how I feel about Jackson -- can I get a novella on his backstory and/or his and Jane's past... thing? The supporting characters were amazing too. The Duchess, Gideon, Auntie Aggie, Ida, even the l Brilliant. Dying for book two, and I didn't even know there was going to be a sequel when I picked this up. I loved Jane and Katherine (enemies-to-friends is a trope I'm fond of). They had some major personality differences but still had common ground and appreciated each other's skills. Still not sure how I feel about Jackson -- can I get a novella on his backstory and/or his and Jane's past... thing? The supporting characters were amazing too. The Duchess, Gideon, Auntie Aggie, Ida, even the letters between Jane and her mother. The pacing was tight, and I could visualize everything perfectly. I love the choice of sickles for Jane's weapons. I don't even know what to say about the overall story because I don't want to give anything away other than to say YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ THIS BOOK. Jane's narrative voice is so distinct, and any world-building never felt like an info dump because she was just talking to you, explaining her own inner workings as often as explaining the world she inhabits. Some of the later revelations almost knocked my socks off just because of how matter-of-factly they were handled (I wish more books did this, tbh). Give me more, Justina! I have questions about where these characters are going to end up! fancast note: I don't really have ideas nailed down for many people, but if anyone has watched that AMC show Hell on Wheels, I kept picturing a certain creepy preacher-ish someone as the pastor in the latter portion of the book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/04/14/... Dread Nation was my kind of YA. It explores history, politics, social issues, and racial relations. It features strong diverse characters, and a protagonist with one of the most powerful voices and charismatic personalities I’ve ever met. Oh, and it’s also got zombies. But leaving all that aside, I just loved this book, because at the end of the day it was a damn good story. Set during American Reconstruction Era, Dread Nat 5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/04/14/... Dread Nation was my kind of YA. It explores history, politics, social issues, and racial relations. It features strong diverse characters, and a protagonist with one of the most powerful voices and charismatic personalities I’ve ever met. Oh, and it’s also got zombies. But leaving all that aside, I just loved this book, because at the end of the day it was a damn good story. Set during American Reconstruction Era, Dread Nation stars Jane McKeene, a bi-racial young woman who was born just in time to witness the dead rise up and walk the earth, putting an unexpected halt to the conflict between the North and South. But even though the Civil War has ended, that doesn’t mean Jane is free. Along with the nation’s black and Native children, Jane was sent off to a combat training school as soon as she became of age in order to learn how to fight off the walking dead, known as shamblers. In Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane trained to become an Attendant, someone who fulfills a bodyguard-type role to protect wealthy white citizens. Jane is told she should be grateful, that this life is better and safer than being on the frontlines fighting toe-to-toe with the shamblers where one bite can mean the end. But merely guarding the well-to-do isn’t good enough for Jane. Secretly, she patrols the countryside at night, protecting the poor and the non-white population as well. This leads her friend Red Jack to approach her one day with a request to help him find his sister, who has gone missing along with several others. Together with Katherine—Jane’s sometimes-friend, sometimes-rival—our intrepid protagonist embarks on a mission to uncover the truth about the disappearances, a dangerous path that would ultimately lead the young women and Jack into the heart of Kansas. There, they become ensnared in a nefarious conspiracy, coming face to face with horrors both undead and human. Don’t let the inclusion of zombies fool you into thinking that this is a kitschy, tawdry kind of read, because nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, Dread Nation is a very important book which contains some very serious and heavy themes. That’s because the zombies here are not a gimmick; it’s instead an approach used by the author to explore racism and bigotry during this era in American history allegorically. Carefully constructed and deftly written, Dread Nation deals a number of issues that remain relevant today, examining the way society and individuals are affected by social norms and expectations. While her novel may be an alternate history set to a backdrop of an undead apocalypse, Justina Ireland succeeds in showing that, even in a world overrun with hordes of mindless flesh-eating zombies, society is still divided, and her characters continue to live under the effects of prejudice and oppression. But of course, a good book for me also has to be more than just a message. Here, I’m pleased to say Dread Nation excels as well, delivering a fast-paced narrative that never experiences a lull. While the plot itself is rather simplistic, it’s no less amazing and fun to read because of it, and I truly enjoyed how delightfully fresh and un-formulaic the story felt. The book is divided into two parts, with former focusing on Jane’s life as an Attendant. This is also where a lot of the world-building happens, and here Ireland can be forgiven for a bit of info-dumping, since all of it is so fascinating. The second part of the book deals with Jane, Kate, and Red Jack in Summerland, a small Kansas town run by a bigoted sheriff and a fanatical preacher. The story keeps readers in suspense as our characters must use all their wits and guile to survive this terrible and hateful place, not to mention the frequent scenes of heart-stopping action featuring attacks by the shamblers. And finally, this book would not have been as brilliant with anyone but Jane McKeene as the protagonist. Her mother is a wealthy white woman who has a complicated relationship with her bi-racial daughter, as revealed by Jane in her narrative as well as snippets from her letters featured at the beginning of each chapter. Jane’s upbringing at her childhood home and later at Miss Preston’s would shape the person she would eventually become—a smart, resolute, and resourceful young woman. I know YA fiction reviewers throw the term “strong female protagonist” around like candy, but Jane is the real deal. Her dialogue and relationship with her “frenemy” Katherine was also a huge part of what made this such a great read. It’s no exaggeration to say the characters made this book for me. To be honest, I’ve been a bit disheartened by the state of YA fiction lately, so I haven’t been paying as much attention to hyped books (especially to hyped books). For that reason, I hadn’t even heard of Dread Nation until about a couple weeks before its release, so this was a novel that really came out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Needless to say, I’m certainly glad I decided to check it out; I absolutely adored this book, and I can’t wait for the sequel. Audiobook Comments: I only just finished listening to Bahni Turpin’s fantastic reading of the audiobook for Children of Blood and Bone, which was my experience with her as a narrator, so I could hardly contain my excitement when I found out she was the narrator for Dread Nation as well. In short, Turpin was perfect for this book and for the main character. I could hear her energy and enthusiasm in every single line she delivered, and more than once, I thought to myself, yep, that is absolutely 100% Jane McKeene. What an amazing listen, one that I really can’t recommend highly enough.

  20. 5 out of 5

    rachel • typed truths

    • bloody brilliant • adored the characters so much • literally crying because there's an incredible aroace character!! and a bi female protagonist. in a histfic 🙌😭 • just adored it

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    2.5 stars (an extra 0.5 star for Katherine) Strong elements outweighed by weak plot. I wasn’t even going to read it (zombies are so 5 years ago and I am so over them!), but then I saw 6 starred reviews - and succumbed to my curiosity. Actually, zombies do add an interesting dimension to this post-Civil War alternative history. In this novel, they shift power dynamics away from white supremacy (anyone can fall prey to shamblers, even and especially abusive slave owners, which can level the playing 2.5 stars (an extra 0.5 star for Katherine) Strong elements outweighed by weak plot. I wasn’t even going to read it (zombies are so 5 years ago and I am so over them!), but then I saw 6 starred reviews - and succumbed to my curiosity. Actually, zombies do add an interesting dimension to this post-Civil War alternative history. In this novel, they shift power dynamics away from white supremacy (anyone can fall prey to shamblers, even and especially abusive slave owners, which can level the playing field a little), and this is examined somewhat in the first, strongest IMO, part of the novel. But then it all is abandoned in favor of a lackluster Wild West story line that cursorily touches on slavery and fully indulges in Bible-thumper/racist white men /brothel madam caricatures, at the same time failing to sufficiently develop the zombie threat. The totally anachronistic voice of the main character doesn't help either. Still, some things I appreciated - Jane’s complicated relationship with her mother; racial passing; the author’s attempt (weak) to highlight boarding schools for Native children. Not enough to make me want to read the sequel though.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Five humongous stars! This book was so incredible. You have the girls who are just trying to survive in an unjust world while also being the front line fighters against zombie like creatures. Jane and Kate were so amusing to read about and amazingly well written and deep characters. There is so much more to this book than just being a zombie book so I hope people take more from it than that. My quick and simple overall: this book was beyond entertaining. It was thought invoking and you just ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five humongous stars! This book was so incredible. You have the girls who are just trying to survive in an unjust world while also being the front line fighters against zombie like creatures. Jane and Kate were so amusing to read about and amazingly well written and deep characters. There is so much more to this book than just being a zombie book so I hope people take more from it than that. My quick and simple overall: this book was beyond entertaining. It was thought invoking and you just don’t take that away from a lot of fantasy books nowadays. Loved it!!!!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    First off, before anything else, if you called yourself a feminist and don’t see this cover and go ‘gimme’ you are not a true feminist. Woman, that cover. Whoever designed it – props. Major props and hopefully a large raise. I first noticed this title last year because of the cover. It popped up on my GR feed. I don’t normally read much in the way of zombie titles –for a variety of reasons – but this looked awesome, though for some reason I thought the main character was going to West Point or First off, before anything else, if you called yourself a feminist and don’t see this cover and go ‘gimme’ you are not a true feminist. Woman, that cover. Whoever designed it – props. Major props and hopefully a large raise. I first noticed this title last year because of the cover. It popped up on my GR feed. I don’t normally read much in the way of zombie titles –for a variety of reasons – but this looked awesome, though for some reason I thought the main character was going to West Point or something. Needless to say, much anticipated, so a great worry of please don’t be a letdown. It’s not. At first blush, Ireland’s book looks like a mash up of Huck Finn with Michonne from the Walking Dead (though the main character Jane uses sickles). It is and isn’t. It’s so much more. It’s true that Ireland seems to be drawing quite a bit on Finn, and Jane harkens to him, but Ireland also seems to be drawing on Kate Chopin. And yet, it is so much more. Jane is a young woman who is going to a school for girls. This school trains girls to kill shamblers aka zombie. All the girls at the school are black because the government has mandated that all blacks and Native Americans (I’m being polite, Ireland uses the correct term for the 1880s, coming from a white man) be sent to schools to learn how to kill the undead (slavery is supposedly illegal but Jim Crow and Reconstruction exist). In one swoop, Ireland combines residential schools and their abuses with Jim Crow and the use of Army recruitment centers in minority and lower income areas. She also works in medical experiments on minorities. This isn’t your normal zombie book. And that’s important because in North America most people disregard the connection between zombies and forced labor, a form of slavery that continues after the slave’s death. That’s the horror. Not the brain eating. It’s true that Cherie Priest set her steampunk zombie series in an alternate Civil War, but her zombies are more connected to drug use. Ireland’s use of zombies during the Civil War and Reconstruction is far more powerful and visceral. The sense of uncomfortable and not right is far stronger than, say, in the Walking Dead. In part this is due to how people use the zombie plague, but also because of the symbolism connected with zombies. Jane is wonderfully drawn character though she is also the book’s major flaw. There are too many cases and situations where she is the only capable woman or girl. Or the smartest. This is a flaw that is all too common to a great many novels staring kick ass heroines. Unlike some people, Ireland does try to argument. Just when you think Jane is going to be a bit too princess perfect, Ireland seems to realize as well and someone else does something that earns Jane’s admiration. Jane does grow over the course of the novel, and she also is not the girl that everyone lusts after. So, she is almost too perfect, but that almost is important. That, and Jane is a black woman in a time and place that sees as the lowest of the low. She must constantly downplay her intelligence (the use of reading in this book is absolutely beautiful) and constantly deals with insults. She has a sense of humor, but she is also, rightly, angry and struggling in an unfair, racist system. She grows over the course of the book, and her voice is a real one. Her voice, despite its use of 1800 terms, is also a very real, modern one when dealing with issues like slavery and killing. There are more than a few scenes with connections to police shooting of unarmed African-Americans. This book should be taught along with The Hate U Give. And not because it is the first alternate history book I’ve read that gives us an alternate history Ida B. Wells. Jane is surrounded by believable characters. I love Kate. I’ve always loved Michelle Sagara West and Kelly Armstrong because they showed women being strong in radically different but equally important ways. I have to add Justine Ireland. Kate is a wonderful character and her story arc is just as powerful as Jane’s. Ireland deserves a reward simply for what Kate says towards the end of the book about relationships. There does seem to be a hint of a standard YA love triangle, but romantic love is not the focus of the book. Jane’s potential beaux include an ex, Red Jack, who makes his way the only way he can, and Gideon who she is attracted to because of his smarts as well as his chest. How cool is that? The most powerful part of the story, however, are the parts of letters that head each chapter. For part of the book, the letter is one (or more) from Jane to her mother who lives at Rose Hill. In the last section of the book, the letter is one (or more) from Jane’s mother to Jane. The letters are powerful because of what they must say and what they can’t say, simply because both women know that the letters may be read by a third party. It is though Jane, who is bi-racial and her mother’s back story that Ireland deftly subverts the use of the mulatto, in particular the tragic mulatto, in literature. In a world that never was, Ireland shows us the world that is and makes the reader confront it. Updated: I still love the book, but there is something a little off about the only Native American character and how he is used. I'm not quite sure what, but it almost feels like a standard noble savage trophe.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeweliana

    "Her voice is deep, and she sings a fine baritone in church. She's the tallest of us here, big and dark and imposing with arms like John Henry. That's how Jane describes her best friend and how the author pretty much describes anyone who isn't light skinned. The colorism in this book disgusted me. Besides that, the story is stagnant and the characters are never developed. Let's dive into this dumpster fire, shall we? Plot: There isn't one. I'm not kidding. Any goals Jane had were never acted upo "Her voice is deep, and she sings a fine baritone in church. She's the tallest of us here, big and dark and imposing with arms like John Henry. That's how Jane describes her best friend and how the author pretty much describes anyone who isn't light skinned. The colorism in this book disgusted me. Besides that, the story is stagnant and the characters are never developed. Let's dive into this dumpster fire, shall we? Plot: There isn't one. I'm not kidding. Any goals Jane had were never acted upon. The book was a series of boring, short sequences of action, the purpose of which seemed to be to slow the characters down as they neared the ending/setup for the sequel. We also have about 3 big reveals. You won't be able to guess what they are because the author made them up as she went along and therefore, left no possible clues for readers in the text. This is not how you do a 'twist', this is how you annoy your audience. Characters: Flat as a board. I didn't care about them which made the book that much more unbearable to read. Jane: She's okay. Standard tough girl but I did like that a black girl was taking charge in a novel. I'll always be a fan of that. One thing I didn't like? (view spoiler)[Her revealing her interest in girls at the end of the story. WHY? What for? In a school for girls, that wouldn't have come up earlier in the story? NO. Cheap shot (hide spoiler)] Katherine: The lightskinned beauty. She's prim and proper. That's about as far as the extent of her character goes. Her worst moment?(view spoiler)[ Katherine laments about how hard it is to be light and pretty. That white people don't like her and colored girls are jealous of her. Nevermind the fact that these white people want to kill her, clearly it's the same as colored girls being 'jealous' of her. Jane just got the skin ripped off her back, would Katherine trade her light skin for her darker skin? Of course not. Moving tf on. (hide spoiler)] Red Jack: Lightskinned love interest. Didn't care about him either. With the conflict between him and certain characters, I couldn't understand why the hell we were supposed to care about this dude. A book for girls of color and yet all 3 of the main characters are biracial. Really covering the bases there. The rest of the supporting characters are interchangeable. There's a lot of them and honestly, I just stopped caring around page 300. Writing: It was decent at first. I felt like I was getting all the information I needed without any purple prose. But the dialogue tanked. Jane's voice is inconsistent and ranged from 1960's sock hop to 1920's flapper lingo. The dialogue also became a vehicle for info-dumping. Every time Jane asks a question, someone is conveniently around to deliver a two page speech about what's going on and why. Would I recommend? If you like slow reads with little action, yes, otherwise this one was a hard no. Simply put, this book was not good. The cover tells a story that the pages don't. 'Rise Up' paired with a brown girl and a scythe in her hand? It's about to go down, in my mind. In reality, Dread Nation isn't a tale about a people rising up against one force but rather the tale of one girl wanting one thing for herself amid societal commentary. This commentary is so important, but it's delivered in the most boring way possible. I skimmed the last 100 pages and I'll be looking at the spoilers for Dread Nation #2 on goodreads because I have no interest in continuing along with these characters for another book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Anderson

    I loved, loved, loved this book! Action-packed, but with strongly defined characters, terrific world-building, acid-drenched, laser-focused social commentary (just the way I like it), an alt-history setting, and.... zombies! This review (https://www.tor.com/2018/04/03/book-r...) does a pretty good job summing up my feelings, except that The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (my favorite book of the last decade) should be mentioned whenever Dread Nation is discussed. Writing for slightly di I loved, loved, loved this book! Action-packed, but with strongly defined characters, terrific world-building, acid-drenched, laser-focused social commentary (just the way I like it), an alt-history setting, and.... zombies! This review (https://www.tor.com/2018/04/03/book-r...) does a pretty good job summing up my feelings, except that The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (my favorite book of the last decade) should be mentioned whenever Dread Nation is discussed. Writing for slightly different audiences, both Ireland and Whitehead tell the history of the mid-19th century slant in such a brilliant way that readers will see both the realities of that time period and our own with new, horrifying clarity. Now putting on my history nerd hat: I must admit that I struggled a little bit with a few instances of anachronistic language. Then I kicked my own butt; if I can accept the shamblers (zombies) and the rest of the alternative world of this book, I'm not going to fuss about modern phrases that occasionally pop up. This is not historical fiction - this is speculative fiction set in a historical time period. And it is a fantastic read. Run, don't walk, to your independent book store or library and snag your copy today! PS - I am still pondering Debbie Reese's criticism of how Native American peoples were handled in the story and in the back matter. You can read her thoughts here: https://americanindiansinchildrenslit...

  26. 4 out of 5

    K.

    Trigger warnings: racism, slavery, violence, death, zombies, gore, seriously there's so much racism, death of a friend, I'm not kidding about the racism you guys, racial slurs. I've been excited about reading this book basically from the second I heard about it. I mean...it's a zombie story set in the 1880s with a smart af African-American, zombie-killing protagonist. Y.E.S. Sign me the hell up. And this did not disappoint. Jane is such a fierce character. She's so smart and quick-thinking and d Trigger warnings: racism, slavery, violence, death, zombies, gore, seriously there's so much racism, death of a friend, I'm not kidding about the racism you guys, racial slurs. I've been excited about reading this book basically from the second I heard about it. I mean...it's a zombie story set in the 1880s with a smart af African-American, zombie-killing protagonist. Y.E.S. Sign me the hell up. And this did not disappoint. Jane is such a fierce character. She's so smart and quick-thinking and determined and generally wonderful. Her backstory is super engrossing, and I can't wait to see where it goes next. This proved to be such a thought provoking book. There's a lot in here about white-passing privilege and about how society doesn't instantly change because of a government decree. There's basically more going on than you think with basically every single character in the story, and it kept me guessing throughout. It was so compelling and so well written, and I loved every second of it. I can't wait to see where the story goes from here.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Latoya

    Jane is a clever, impulsive and witty character. She's way too sassy for her own good but she's smart. I enjoyed her humor in the midst of everything she was going through in this world. She's a badass shambler harvester and I could easily visualize her doing it. Jane has great instincts about her surroundings and sees things that others so easily miss. So, when people begin to go missing Jane begins to piece together that it has something to do with the leaders in Baltimore County but as she ge Jane is a clever, impulsive and witty character. She's way too sassy for her own good but she's smart. I enjoyed her humor in the midst of everything she was going through in this world. She's a badass shambler harvester and I could easily visualize her doing it. Jane has great instincts about her surroundings and sees things that others so easily miss. So, when people begin to go missing Jane begins to piece together that it has something to do with the leaders in Baltimore County but as she gets closer to solving the puzzle, she and her friends get shipped off to the middle of nowhere. She sparks an unlikely friendship with her nemesis Katherine, who seems at first ditsy as all get out but managed to surprise me because she is so much more than that. Red Jack is a scoundrel that seems to show up at the least expected times but can't help but to fall for his slick charm. She misses home at Rose Hill and the uncertainties about her future make her wary. She's written countless letters to her mother but never receives word back. Each chapter begins with a letter to her mom and they are always cheery compared to what she is going through at the school in Baltimore County. She thinks her mother is upset with her for leaving and maybe that's why she hasn't heard back but the truth will spark her fury and vengeance at the betrayal. Okay, so this was a little hard for me to read considering the subject and not talking about the zombies. The way they get treated and talked about as if they are less than human is infuriating, yet it's okay for them being trained to kill and protect their betters. The Survivalists see a world that is changing and they'll do whatever they can to hold on to a semblance of the past that has them at the top of the hierarchy and the negroes subservient to them. There is one scene in particular that involves Jane that hit a nerve with the violence that highlights a moment those past ancestors had to endure that she herself never thought she would experience. I could connect to her pain, devastation, and anger as well as the other characters that had to go through the things they did in this world. Overall, this is a good beginning to Jane's story and I'm interested to see how the next book continues. The pace of this work is steady and the characters are engaging. The writing is good and the world is realistic considering the subject. I feel that anyone that's interested in zombies and a female lead that pulls you into to her life as if you are right there with her will like this one. Original post on my blog

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tori (InToriLex)

    Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex This alternate history tale involving zombies had  more humor and heart than I could have hoped for. Jane sets out to learn what she can to protect herself from the undead at Ms. Preston's school of combat. She encounters formidable enemies and racist beliefs, but never backs down.  The combat schools in this book were inspired by the Native American Boarding Schools established in the 18th & 19th centuries. These schools forced Native American child Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex This alternate history tale involving zombies had  more humor and heart than I could have hoped for. Jane sets out to learn what she can to protect herself from the undead at Ms. Preston's school of combat. She encounters formidable enemies and racist beliefs, but never backs down.  The combat schools in this book were inspired by the Native American Boarding Schools established in the 18th & 19th centuries. These schools forced Native American children from their home where they were forced to remove their cultural identifiers and subject to sexual, physical, and mental abuse in hopes that they would assimilate to Euro-American culture. The Preston combat school is not as abusive but does hope to assimilate the girls to protect and serve the wealthy who can hire them. "There's nothing white folks hate more than realizing they accidentally treated a Negro like a person." There are two political parties that vie for control. Survivalists believe the undead are punishment on society for ending slavery, they are hoping to return to that order. Egalitarians believe people should be treated equal and black people should be given their appropriate rights.While Jane was not mistreated at Ms. Preston's school her curious and rebellious nature leads her into trouble where she has to navigate politically driven danger. I was struck by how formidable and clever Jane has to become in order to navigate a society which see's her as an object they can mistreat. The world building was phenomenal, the danger of the undead was taken seriously but Jane's wit made it fun. "Don't be afraid to be something you aren't, Jane. Sometimes a little subterfuge and chicanery is in order and the quickest way to achieve one's goal." I appreciated the use of Jane's letter to her Mom and chapter titles that clued you into what was next. The characters were memorable and the small victories they achieved helped to balance out the dire situations they found themselves in. The plot twists were not predictable and the action was well described. There was little romance described and non-heterosexual representation which I appreciated. It's important for young readers to know that sexuality is a spectrum. It's important to know the real history of the harsh lives Native and African American's were subjected to after slavery. This shed light on those issues in a compelling and well written way. I felt there was some back story missing which kept this from being a five star read for me. But it was still great and I cannot wait to continue on with the series. Recommended for readers who -enjoy historical young adult fiction -appreciate diverse representation written by own voice authors -want to get a lost in a world with bad ass women standing up for themselves

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jazmen

    What a read. This book grabs you in a choke hold, and does not let go until the very last page. Reminiscent of Alice in Zombieland, Dread Nation is the Walking Dead, immediately post slavery. Jane McKeene, is a black girl during the most difficult of times. Although slavery has been abolished, the negro is no more accepted than they were before. Educated in the art of killing the dead, Jane is a force to be reckoned with. With sass, that is unmatched--Jane quickly became one of my favorite charact What a read. This book grabs you in a choke hold, and does not let go until the very last page. Reminiscent of Alice in Zombieland, Dread Nation is the Walking Dead, immediately post slavery. Jane McKeene, is a black girl during the most difficult of times. Although slavery has been abolished, the negro is no more accepted than they were before. Educated in the art of killing the dead, Jane is a force to be reckoned with. With sass, that is unmatched--Jane quickly became one of my favorite characters. I admired her zest, and her unwavering bravery. Despite the circumstance, Jane stood up for what she believed in, and fought to the very end for both herself, but every other person that was mistreated before and after her. Although this reads like a historical fiction, the tone--and the feelings the novel incites is very timely, and very now. The characters are easy to root for, and so very easy to follow along with. The plot itself is intriguing--but by the end, I felt like there was more to see--and I can see why this will be a series, and I have a feeling it's going to be an exciting series. For the romance lovers, there's not much in that department--but I do believe, there will be more of it in book two--and it's something to look forward to. All in all, the book reads well, is well-written, and is filled with gore and excitement. If you love the walking dead, a little bit of history--and a lot of sass, this book is for you!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Celeste_pewter

    I’m going to preface this review by confession: I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out how to write this review, because Dread Nation is one of those books which deserves that type of consideration. It’s not only an entertaining, beautifully written book - Ireland writes with a confidence that pulls you into the book, and refuses to let you go - but it’s also a book with themes, context and ideas which tie directly into the societal issues we’ve seen, and continue to see across the nat I’m going to preface this review by confession: I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out how to write this review, because Dread Nation is one of those books which deserves that type of consideration. It’s not only an entertaining, beautifully written book - Ireland writes with a confidence that pulls you into the book, and refuses to let you go - but it’s also a book with themes, context and ideas which tie directly into the societal issues we’ve seen, and continue to see across the nation. How do you give a book like that its due? Can you give a book like that its due, without just resorting down to saying: here’s a buy link, read the book for yourself? (Since nothing I really say can be worthy of this book?) So let me start with the beginning. Ireland prefaces the book with a letter explaining the genesis of the book, stating the story was partially driven by Mike Brown’s 2014 murder and her decision to write a book which explores a story of being willing to sacrifice and die for a place, which doesn’t necessarily love you back. It’s short, but it adds important gravitas and context, and set the tone of the book for me. Whatever you do, please make sure to read Ireland’s words before reading. With that being said, Jane McKeene is a tough-at-nails heroine, who had me rooting for her from page one. She’s in impossible circumstances; she’s been uprooted to a training school to learn how to fight zombies, and that uprooting - like all the other girls who look like her - was not by choice. Jane wants nothing more than to return to her mother, but a corrupt system lands her in a place called Summerland, where it’s literally kill or be killed. Jane needs to utilize all of her wits and strength, to figure out a way to escape… There are many things Ireland does well in Dread Nation, beginning with the idea there are often many things in your life that are out of your control, but you can (and must) make the best of what you have. Jane is dealing with circumstances many would find unfathomable, including the very people Jane is called upon to protect, but she continues on with a centered determination which allows her to keep her cool even when faced with the growing horrors of Summerland. Jane’s evolution is a studied look at not only what women of color have to go through on a daily basis, but also an astute reminder of there strength that so many young people have, and how often they are underestimated by those around them. (Which seems particularly fitting, given some of the national dialogues occurring at the moment.) Ireland’s handling of zombies and the resulting alternative history is thoughtful, without being excessive. Similar to World War Z, Ireland does a solid job of explaining how humanity adapts to such a calamity, including the many ways many adopt to daily zombie killings, without being overly bloody or unbelievable. (Going to admit: excessive blood and gore is part of the reason why I have a hard time with shows like Walking Dead.) There’s a reinforcement of the idea humanity will always adapt because they have to, which opens up a lot of questions about what we inflict on ourselves, on others and specific segments of society, that will lead readers thinking, long after they’ve finished the book. I’ve spent most of this review expounding why Ireland’s book is solidly written, thoughtful and adds to some much needed conversations about race in our country, but it needs to be said: Dread Nation also just really kick-ass, as well. All of her female characters are able to fight, stand their grand and stand up to those who do not have their best interests at heart, and do it with a fierceness that had me thinking: “I really want to be that bad-ass when I grow up.” Jane proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, you don’t need anyone to save you, but yourself. It’s a heady, important lesson for young readers to learn, and I can’t wait for them to become acquainted with Jane. Highly recommend, full stop.

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