Author: Justina Ireland
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Published on: April 3, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
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.
This book had my attention from the minute I read about it. Zombies, the civil war, and diversity? YES PLEASE.
I want to start off by saying that this book was not terrible. The main character, Jane, was sassy and unapologetic and I loved her. She was brave and did what she knew was right, even when others saw it as wrong.
The novel takes place in an alternate America where zombies, or shamblers, had risen during the civil war. The idea of the shamblers definitely had my skin itching simply because the thought of zombies both intrigues and terrifies me.
My main issue with Dread Nation was the plot. It was honestly a mess. I feel as though the book had so much potential as to suspense and action, but instead was lacking tension. The plot was going nowhere and that the book just slowly rolled along with no real page-turning content. Things just happened and there was no build-up or excitement. Everything felt randomly placed. Literally, it felt like just random events that happen. It felt like there was no planning, it was just kind of written with events thrown in here and there to try to keep things interesting with *some* action.
The world-building fell short as well. I found myself having a hard time visualizing what Jane was explaining. Usually, when there’s an alternate world involved, I like to be able to visualize it while reading, but I couldn’t with Dread Nation. I definitely found myself needing, and wanting, more world-building.
However, the diversity is wonderful to see. There are not many POC main characters in YA fantasy so it’s lovely to see another book with a sassy, bad-a$$ POC character!
While this book wasn’t my cup of tea, I think it’s still important. I will probably read the next book, but waiting for its release won’t be a detriment.