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.
Synopsis from Goodreads
This was such a fantastic book! I’ve recently read another revisionist history book (My Lady Jane) and was really excited to find Dread Nation to read about a very different kind of American Civil War. I was hooked from the synopsis alone, but my excitement definitely continued throughout the book. This was an excellent book and I can’t wait for the next one too come out!
I loved the way Ireland included the undead into American history without it seeming cheesy or dramatically changing history itself. It seems like that would be impossible (how could the presence of zombies not change history??) but the same systemic racism and disgusting treatment of African Americans and Native Americans is still very much a big part of history in this novel; the undead just give them a different role to play. Reading the Authors Notes, it was interesting that it was Ireland learning about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School that gave her the idea to write this book. Schools like this are also a dark part of Canada’s history (we call them Residential Schools) and the treatment of First Nations children in both countries was absolutely horrible. Ireland did an incredible job of adding a paranormal element to American history while also staying true to the treatment and mentality of white people in post-Civil War America. It was incredibly impressive to read.
LGBT in post-Civil War America
Jane is bisexual and it is not the focus of the book, nor is it talked at length extensively, it simply is a fact about her. Ireland does a brilliant job of not discussing sexuality as a large aspect of Jane’s life, but simply acknowledging this truth as part of who Jane is as a whole. I’m also curious to find out where Kate’s (*ahem* Katherine’s) storyline is going; I thought it was an interesting moment when she was telling Jane that she’s never felt sexual attraction to someone else, male or female (unlike Jane, who has kissed men and women). Is Katherine asexual? Will we see this develop? I’m sad to say that this is something I don’t have much knowledge about, but following different bookstagrammers I’ve learned more about some people simply not feeling sexually towards either gender, and instead simply looking for friendship/ platonic relationships. I’m not sure if this is the path we’ll see Katherine take, or if it’s simply that she’s been stuck straddling worlds for so long she hasn’t let herself become connected to anyone, or feel that way about them. Either way, both women are wonderfully crafted and I can’t wait to find out where their lives, and relationships, lead to next.
I’m never sure what to expect when an author moves from an adult fiction writing to young adult fiction. However, in this case Ireland completely knows her audience and weaves a beautiful story as she takes us on this journey with these characters. Told entirely from one perspective, we are giving a very real view of this very fictional revisionist history of America. I loved the elements of suspense and tension that she includes throughout the story, while not overwhelming us with a ton of historical information. Including zombies in any story can become cheesy very quickly, yet it was completely believable in this book. At no point did I feel like this was a grab for attention, but rather, I fully felt immersed in the world that Ireland had created for us. I’m not sure where the story is going next (I actually didn’t know that this was the beginning of a series, I thought it was a standalone!) but I can’t wait to meet up with these characters again and see where the story takes us next. It completely grabbed my attention and I’m really excited to find out where they go from here, after leaving the town.
I didn’t realize that this was a trilogy when I stared reading, so now I’m stuck waiting for the next book to come out. And I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next!
FINAL RATING: 4/5
Hi, I'm Alexandra! I love reading (largely YA fiction, but sometimes I'll read "adult" books), playing board games, Nutella, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix with my husband.
Follow Me on Instagram