Dread Nation

Dread Nation

Book - 2018
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"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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY : Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780062570604
Branch Call Number: y IRELAND 2018
Characteristics: 451 pages ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: Dread nation : rise up


From Library Staff

When families go missing in Baltimore County, Jane McKeene, who is studying to become an Attendant, finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy that has her fighting for her life against powerful enemies.

During the Civil War the dead begin to rise sparking a new form of slavery. Black and Native children are forced to attend combat schools in order to learn to fight the dead and protect white well-to-do socialites. When wealthy families start to go missing, Jane finds herself caught in a conspira... Read More »

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Jan 16, 2019

This would have been a more solid story if Ireland had a better editor.

The "War between the States" has been interrupted by a zombie apocalypse. Now, blacks are utilized not just for plantation work and as servants, but as trainable militia to be the first line of defense against the undead, in protection of whites. "Clearly", it's crucial that armed and weapons-proficient black people know their place in life; that they are inferior, as deemed by God. Jane, the mixed-race daughter of a plantation owner, is being trained to be a Attendant, hoping to be hired by a wealthy woman to become her protector. While Jane is cognizant of the difficulties she'll face in life due to her skin tone, she has goals to make the most of her position and see the world.

But men with power always want more, and there are opportunist who are seeking to set up independent cities where they can rule above all. Jane is kidnapped and sent there when she begins to uncover a plot by the Mayor of Baltimore to try to harness even the undead as slave labor. From there, she must try to plot her escape, save her friends, and reunite with her mother.

This is a decent book, but not exceptional. I found another reviewer who did a good job of putting my criticisms into words:

"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?"

jpainter Nov 30, 2018

Best review and commentary on this book that I've read is by Alex Brown on Tor.com here: https://www.tor.com/2018/04/03/book-reviews-dread-nation-by-justina-ireland/
Per Alex Brown, "There are three main ways to read Dread Nation. Some readers will focus on the pop culture candy of a nineteenth century alt-history zombie apocalypse. Many (including those who call themselves allies) will relish the allegorical way Ireland explores racism, classism, feminism, sexism, and bigotry. They might even catch wind of the conversations about colorism. And then there’s the third way wherein Black Americans have a conversation with each other about our shared heritage and lived experiences." Go read the review, if you're hesitant about context and approach.
I'm eagerly waiting for the rest of this series.

DPLjulie Nov 02, 2018

In this alternative history, the end of the Civil War is hastened when the battlefield dead rise, walk and begin to feast on (and “turn”) their compatriots. Under the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, young people like Jane have become adept at killing the dead. Jane is better than most, having supplemented her boarding school drills with unauthorized rescue missions outside the walls of the school grounds. But Jane finds that the simple and predictable hunger of the “shamblers” is nothing compared to the sinister corruption she uncovers as she tries to survive and escape the remote Western outpost of Summerland.

CedarMill_MarkR Oct 04, 2018

What if zombies rose from the dead during the Civil War and former slaves had to be trained to fight them? Dread Nation answers this question as the reader follows Jane McKeene, a highly trained African American zombie fighter as she navigates a still deeply prejudiced world as it struggles to combat a much deeper existential threat. A great read.

JessicaGma Sep 04, 2018

I can't say I care much for zombie stories but this was a fantastic read - Zombies during the Civil War? Yes please. Jane was amazing, and the story went some places I did not expect. If you read anything this year from YA, this would be an excellent suggestion.

KateHillier Sep 04, 2018

This alternate history involving slavery and zombies and how that changed (or didn't change) the course of American history was awesome. I loved Jane lots and lots and I loved the friends she had. Not her prime choices in companions but they were the companions they needed. The humans are as worse if not more than the 'shamblers' and I basically blasted through this as much as I wanted to savour it.

Chapel_Hill_KrystalB Aug 06, 2018

Favorite YA of the year. Strong female protagonist seriously taking care of business after the dead start walking at the Battle of Gettysburg. Solid characters, realized settings, descriptive action. There are two camps- the Survivalists, who believe that, despite the apocalyptic circumstances, the U.S. must return to its historic social structure (i.e. slavery), and the Egalitarians, who do not. I found myself drawing a lot of comparisons to other periods of history in addition to present day (yes, despite the zombies). No matter the battle, I would absolutely want Jan McKeene on my side. "Stopping the Survivalists. It's a lofty goal, but I ain't ever been one for half measures."

ArapahoeJulieD Aug 01, 2018

What would happen if zombies rose up on the fields of Gettysburg? Justina Ireland paints a compelling picture of what it would be like!

Jul 31, 2018

One of my top reads in 2018! This book tempers a terrifyingly dangerous setting with a bright, delightful and determined protagonist. While the book retains factual touches, the creativity in the storyline isn't held hostage by historical accuracy.

AnnabelleLee27 Jul 13, 2018

A rollicking post-civil war era alt-history with a strong, smart, and inspiring African American heroine. The novel develops many fascinating characters while taking on issues of racism, class, gender expectations, sexuality, and friendship (and zombies!). The first part of the book set near Baltimore is the strongest while the second half set out west is less developed and feels more stereotypical in its presentation. The ending is far too abrupt and unfinished (as with many books which are part of a series). Still, this is a fresh, fun, and exciting read.

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OPL_KrisC Jun 28, 2018

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

May 10, 2018

ElenaLikesBooks thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

SCTeenBookClub May 02, 2018

SCTeenBookClub thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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SCTeenBookClub May 02, 2018

Parents need to know that Dread Nation is alternative-history zombie thriller that takes place after the U.S. Civil War ends not with the South's surrender but when the dead begin to rise up on the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. Author Justina Ireland explores what would've happened had zombies (or shamblers, as they're called in the book) stopped the war in order for Americans to come together to battle the undead (or force black and indigenous folks to fight them). Like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the book features a good deal of violence, as is appropriate to a story about zombie slayers (lots of deaths either from the undead eating live humans, or from humans shooting, stabbing, decapitating the undead, or people beating, stabbing, and shooting one another). There are also some racial slurs of the era ("darkie," "colored," "pickaninny," "coon," etc.) in the story. Parents and teens who read the book together can discuss a host of socio-political and historical issues, from institutional racism and white supremacy to shadism, passing, educational segregation, well-intentioned but ineffective white benevolence, and more.


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jpainter Nov 30, 2018

"It's a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part."


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