Thursday, March 29, 2018

Book Review: Dread Nation

Title: Dread Nation (Dread Nation #1)
Author: Justina Ireland
Genre: Young Adult | Historical Fiction | Horror

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Source: Publisher
Format: e-ARC

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 (goodreads).

Dread Nation was addicting from page one. 
Plot: Ireland's creative mind had her wondering "what if the Civil War were interrupted by the dead rising and eating everyone?" and I loved every minute of it. From Ireland's author note, she put a lot of research into the historical accuracy of this book (save you know, the zombies) and explored the bigotry and pure hatred from those who wanted to control both blacks and natives. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Dread Nation as it was more complex than expected. Dread Nation tackled conspiracies, politics, and explored how powerful whites continued to ensure their positions. There was nonstop action that was broken up with letters Jane wrote back home which made Dread Nation a real page-turner. Fair warning, the ending will have you wanting to get your hands on book 2 to continue the adventure and learn more about Jane's world. 

Character: One thing I didn't expect was Dread Nation to be funny, and that's all thanks to Jane McKeene. Jane was full of sass and sarcasm and I adored her. She understood the complexities of her world and was not amused by any of the "negros are no better than livestock" conversations that she had to participate in. I don't think there are words to explain how much I loved Jane; she was a survivor and that sometimes meant that she had to do some messy things, she was clever, and she was a complete badass with a pair of sickles. 

What I also loved about Dread Nation was how easily Ireland introduced side characters. There were characters who were fated to die 10 minutes later that I still cared about. I especially adored Jane's relationship with her fellow Attendant, Katherine. 

There wasn't much romance in Dread Nation, but I wonder if that is planned for later down the road. 

Worldbuilding: 1860's zombie-invested United States was one of the most realistic worlds I've ever had the pleasure of stepping in to. It was so believable to me because Ireland explored the power struggle of whites demanding to stay in command even with dead people literally eating their neighbors. 

Dread Nation took place predominately in two locations, the urban and (rumored) zombie-free Baltimore as well as the frontierland of Kansas. I was amazed by how Ireland had politics respond to the zombie outbreak and what lengths people would go to in order to feel safe and have any sort of semblance of their former lifestyle. 

Short N Sweet: Dread Nation is an exhilarating page-turner with a main character you'll fall in love with almost immediately. 


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