I read this book MONTHS ago, and despite my best intentions am only now getting around to writing the review. Shame, shame!Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) by Justina Ireland
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 3, 2018
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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. 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.
Dread Nation takes two genres and turns them both on their respective heads. Historical fiction? Check. Paranormal? Check. African-american heroine in a world populated with zombies? CHECK. This book is so unusual and is such a needed addition in a world of all-white fantasy and paranormal casts.
“I am surrounded by nothing but suicidal muttonheads.”
I love it when a book can make me laugh, even when it isn’t a FUNNY book. Jane has such a dry wit and all the nerve in the world, I loved her. I also thoroughly enjoyed the historical elements of narrative. While set in the post-Civil War era South, there have been some rather large changes…such as the Civil War being spurred on by a zombie epidemic, and the use of former and freed slaves as the front line soldiers against zombies…whether they want to be, or not. As Jane points out on more than one occasion, what kind of freedom is this?
“Sometimes you have to live down to people’s expectations, Kate. If you can do that, you’ll get much further in life.”
Mainly Jane. Because, to be honest, Jane was the only character that truly stood out to me. Everyone else was sort of in the background and not fleshed out very much. I think that was acceptable because it really did accent Jane’s outlook on life – she tries not to get TOO attached to anyone, because the likelihood of them dying or at least being ripped out of her life is all too real.
It was well-paced and interesting. I never felt bored. I’m afraid of giving too much away so I don’t want to say much more than that…but there are lots of zombies. And kickass girls and women.
The description was fantastic! I loved the alternate history styling of the antebellum south. You don’t really need much history background to still be immersed in this world, which makes it appeal to more people, I think.
I really did enjoy this book, but I still had a couple of issues. First of all, Jane is a rather…cool character. Not quite frigid, but cool. While I love her no-holds-barred attitude and almost total lack of fear, it was hard to feel like I really knew her. Second, before I read this book, I read in many places that it was good for bisexual rep. I was pretty disappointed on that count, because there is literally one mention of Jane’s bisexuality and it was like a fly-by…”Oh BTW I’m bisexual” – and then nothing else. Ever. It felt like it was just stuffed in there to have one more talking point for diversity, instead of actually being a part of Jane and her identity. I am ALL FOR representation, but I don’t think drive-by labeling does anyone ANY favors, and that is really what it felt like.
All in all this was a great read and I am definitely on board for Book 2!
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