Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Genre: Historical, Young Adult, Retelling

Pages: 418

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At once provocative, terrifying, and darkly subversive, Dread Nation is Justina Ireland’s stunning vision of an America both foreign and familiar—a country on the brink, at the explosive crossroads where race, humanity, and survival meet.

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, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education 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.


My Thoughts

An interesting twist on history—with zombies!

This was a slower read for me. While the world-building is phenomenal, and Jane is a spectacular leading female, the book didn’t hold its spark for me. The first half I enjoyed thoroughly because it kept a quick pace, but once a decision is made and Jane is moved, things come to a near halt. Because of this, it felt as though the story was treading water, biding its time to draw out the latter half of the story so it ends on a cliffhanger [it does, spoiler…] but it truly felt like it was saving up its steam for the sequel.

Other things to note.

The side characters were enjoyable, but there are a few who had me scratching my head when it came to relevance, or why they continued to be there. The author left a few too many strings untied for me, creating a drag of a story.

Do I recommend this book? I do. I found it enjoyable, even though it lacked in some areas. I still give it a solid 3.

Do you prefer Zombies or vampires?

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