Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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May 4, 2020


Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, derailing the War between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, however, the battle for survival is as political as it is personal — and the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

So, full disclosure, this book holds a special place in my heart because I loved Jane McKeene and Katherine Deveraux. I’ve read this book twice and I love how clever Jane was and how she fought against a system that wasn’t meant to profit her.

But it’s also special to me, because this was one of the first books that got me back into reading when I was in a really dark place towards the end of my teaching career and reminded me that black girls are amazing. I loved the characters and their spirit and just the voice of the story. The way it’s written really pulls you into the world from the first page.

All that being said, let’s get a little objective here.

The story follows Jane McKeene as she navigates through school at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls and then later follows her after she’s shipped off to Kansas, to Summerland.

While at Miss Preston’s Jane learns how to fight zombies — or rather, shamblers. Jane is extremely proficient at what she does and is second to only Katherine Deveraux. Aside from learning to fight, the girls learn how to be members of “proper society” as they would say.

This all takes place in an altered timeline of US history, right after the battle of Gettysburg. Now, I’m not a history buff, but to understand the premise of this book, you have to understand what the Civil War — or rather, “The War Between the States” — was.

The short version of the story is this — Northern states wanted to abolish slavery and Southern states didn’t because that’s how they made all their money. Tensions rose until the Southern states receded from the union and one of the only wars to be fought on American soil began — the Civil War. Northern states won (thank God) and slavery was abolished and we continue on to today where we continue to fight for basic human rights — but that’s a rant I’m not getting into.

We’re talking about Dread Nation and Jane McKeene and the war in her version history comes to an end because the dead start rising up and eating people, so the two sides unite to fight a common enemy.

The best part of this book for me were the characters — they’re all top notch, even the characters you hate. The plot also keeps you turning pages — it’s political, but not overly complicated, and it will keep you wondering how Jane will get out of her next mess. I also absolutely love Jane’s last interaction with Pastor Snyder — that’s probably one of my top ten moments in a book.

Honestly, I think this whole book is amazing. I love Jane’s strength — the retelling of history with zombies — the relationships, because Jane isn’t an overly friendly person — the flow of the story — the pace at which you get Jane and Katherine’s backstory. I would highly recommend you give this one a read.

You can grab a copy of the book from Bookshop or Amazon.

But, that’s my two cents on this book — spend it how you like!

Until next time, may your days be lovely and your books interesting.

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