Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)by Published 03 Apr 2018
|Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1).pdf|
|Publisher||Balzer + Bray|
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.
"Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)" Reviews
✨ If you preorder from The Ivy Bookshop you’ll get a signed copy of Dread Nation!
✨ Email a copy of your receipt to [email protected] and Justina will mail you stickers and 2 of 5 color and send post cards! (US mailing addresses only, I'm sorry!)
ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
“It’s a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part”
Mark my words, this is going to be one of the biggest books that 2018 will offer, and it will be completely deserving of every award it will win. Dread Nation is the perfect mix of action and suspense, while always having oppression be at the forefront of the story. This book was thought-provoking, moving, intense, so very well written, and completely and absolutely enthralling. This book was nothing short of amazing and it’s one of the best things I’ve read this entire year.
Jane McKeene is a sixteen-year-old girl, who has never known a world where the dead don’t walk among humans. And I use the word “walk” to really mean that they are zombies that will bite you and make you into one of them to continue on their never-ending killing spree. They can be fast, they can be smart, but they will always be very deadly.
Jane grew up on a plantation in Kentucky, where her mother actually runs the plantation. Jane is biracial (black and white), but her mother tries to keep it a secret that Jane is her daughter. There are other women who help raise and take care of Jane, but once she turns fourteen she is taken to Massachusetts to attend Miss Preston’s School of Combat. And that’s where the story truly takes off.
“Keeping the peace in this country isn’t that hard, as long as nobody important dies.”
Just like actual history, even though slavery is abolished, white people come up with different ways to keep people of color as slaves, but just without the title. The blacks and Native children in this world have to go to combat schools to eventually protect the whites from zombies. Miss Preston’s School of Combat is actually one of the better schools, and Jane is learning to become an attendant, which means she will watch over a rich white woman and protect her at all costs upon graduating and/or purchase.
Jane isn’t sure if this is the life she wants, even though she doesn’t have many options. All she knows that she wants to get back to Kentucky and see her mother and the people she loves again. But Jane soon enters a world of conspiracy and sabotage, filled with people who warp religion to do their racist bidding. Jane then quickly realizes that humans are far more dangerous than the zombies that she’s been training to kill.
“The problem in this world ain’t sinners, or even the dead. It is men who will step on anyone who stands in the way of their pursuit of power.”
This story is told in two parts, and in a very unique way. Between each chapter there is a letter either from Jane or from her mother. This helps weave the story together, and lets you know more about Jane’s past and what will become of her future. My heart broke more and more as the correspondence went on, but I also found myself more and more desperate for more letters. I not only loved this story, but I love the way the story was told. I want to read everything by Justina Ireland.
This book mirrors the society we live in today and makes you think about all those uncomfortable topics that people would rather ignore and pretend do not exist. From prison systems, to black lives matter, to systemic racism, this book is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable, specifically white people. But it’s the kind of uncomfortability people need in this day and age when we are normalizing hate speech and passing it off as free speech. Where we are living in a world where white supremacists can rally and spread their hatred at no cost, but black people fear for their life when being pulled over by the cops. Our country cares more about trying to stop football players kneeling for that injustice than doing anything to actually fix it, while also trying to misconstrue their protests as something that it isn’t. We need this uncomfortability and, more importantly, things need to change.
The racial diversity in this is so important, too, because not only is this book unapologetically black, it also heavily talks about what it is like to be a black person that is light enough to pass as white. What it feels like to feel like you don’t belong in either community, because you’ll be reminded that you’re not “black enough” and because people will constantly remind you that you’ll never be white. I have a very close friend who talks to me about this, and it’s just something that is near and dear to my heart and I love that Justina incorporated this element on top of an amazingly diverse cast of characters and while also having important discussions that reflects the world we live in today.
“Most important, it was my fault that my skin was brown and Momma’s wasn’t and that she had the terrible misfortune to love me anyway.”
Also, Jane is so not straight! I don't feel comfortable giving her a label, but I do personally feel like she identifies under the bisexual umbrella. But it is important to note that there is not a relationship between Jane and another girl on page.
And there is a major character that is part of the ace community! I can’t personally speak about this representation, but I thought it was very thoughtfully done. Plus, we need so many more stories that just normalizes sexuality. And even though I think authors are being better about LGBTQIAP+ representation, I still find it harder to find asexual characters. Even though this mention is brief, I loved this inclusion.
If you want to read a book about black girls killing zombies and putting a stop to white power-hungry men (because who honestly wouldn’t?) please give Dread Nation a try. And I hope if you do give it a try, that you will take something from it and help to raise and support marginalized voices.
This all being said; this review is coming to you from a very white and privileged reviewer. Closer upon release, when this book hopefully gets into more PoC’s hands, I would love to post some own voices reviews here and celebrate 1.) how truly amazing this book is and 2.) how PoC’s voices are the ones that matter and, more importantly, are the voices that need to be heard. Because you all might think a lot has changed in 2017 from 1865, but it really hasn’t.
Please preorder this alternative history masterpiece. The release date is set for April 3rd, 2018 and I honestly can’t sing this book’s praises enough. And please, Justina, give us more of Jane and this world! I loved this story with my whole heart. And I completely agree with Kelly that HBO should scrap their gross version of the American Civil War with Confederate and just buy the rights to this book immediately. This book is powerful, this book is beautiful, this book is life changing.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Buddy read with Elise & Destiny! ❤
I shrug. “My momma always said the best way to get what you want from people is to give them what they think they want. Sometimes you have to live down to people’s expectations, Kate. If you can do that, you’ll get much further in life.”Honestly, black zombie hunters in the Reconstruction era is definitely the best historical fiction concept of all time. And the fact that this totally, completely lived up to my expectations? Even better.
I think this is a book action fans are going to enjoy. Dread Nation may be a full 450 pages, but I felt like this book never stopped moving. I even felt - and I never say this about 500 page books, because come on - that I could've broken a reading slump with this. I solidly enjoyed every moment I spent reading.
Beyond the nonstop action, I adored our two lead characters. Yes, I said two lead characters, but for once the other lead isn't our badass girl lead's love interest - she's her girl best friend. THANK GOD.
➽ Jane, our lead, is a fantastic actress, fantastic liar, and even, at times, a slightly unreliable narrator. And she loves dragging people. And she is the bi icon we all need in our lives. While I somewhat wished she has a more solid character arc - you all know me and my character arcs - her character has such a strong voice that I ended up loving her anyway.
➽ Katherine, a character so developed I'd almost consider her a protagonist, is so good. She's black, but light skinned enough to pass as white, something that leads to resentment from her fellow trainees. Also, she's established quite clearly as ace-aro without the terminology being used, which: A+.
Besides the nonstop action and the character work, the best thing about this book is probably the theme work. Jane and Katherine's friendships originates from a plotline involving slut-shaming, girl competition, and Jane's own internalized dislike for lighter-skinned black people being majorly subverted. And given that there's no romance, the friendship between Jane and Katherine serves as the centerpiece of the book. And the themes around racism are so well-done - this is an ownvoices book and it definitely shows.
Okay, and also, a rant: hooooooo boy, I am such a slut for history. This is un-boring historical fiction that still keeps all the nerdy references. The worldbuilding is full of nods to history. The use of terms like the Five Civilized Tribes, “War Between The States,” and “War Of Northern Aggression.” The entire thematic point of the combat schools for black and indigenous people. Deep South States are now called Lost States of the South due to lack of patrols and lack of winter during which dead lie down, the mention of germs as a controversial idea and idea of an original Gettysburg strain and a transferable Custer strain, the scientific racism developing around “coloreds,” the conflict of party-based Survivalists vs the Egalitarians, and the little details of the worldbuilding, like the fact that carriages are called ponies because all the horses have all been eaten - it's all there and it's all brilliant. YES, I AM A NERD. LEAVE ME ALONE.
While there's a cast of intriguing side characters, something I really enjoyed here is that for the most part, the characters facing oppression are the focus. While Professor Ghering and Miss Duncan are both intriguing characters, the lens of the book falls mainly on characters like Red Jack, who are actually dealing with the problems caused by slavery. It's both a realistic aspect, considering Jane narrates, and an aspect that I haven't seen in many books thus far.
Between this and Mackenzie Lee, YA historical fiction - especially diverse historical fiction - is really bringing back the power right now. It's not a coincidence that all three of the BR Squad - Melanie, Destiny, and I - gave this a full five. Not only is this book relevant, especially now, it's also just one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently. I can hardly wait for Dread Nation to release. I don't even know how I'm going to wait for the sequel - reread, maybe? But either way, you are all going to love this.
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The day I came squealing and squalling into the world was the first time someone tried to kill me. I guess it should have been obvious to everyone right then that I wasn't going to have a normal life.
This has been on my "most anticipated 2018 releases" since the first time I saw its cover. A hist-fic/horror book about a young black woman killing zombies during the Civil War era? Gimme! Let me tell you the first thing I learned, though: this is not a book about zombies. This is a book including zombies, but first and foremost, this book is about racism.
If I could convince you to pick up any 2018 release, to add anything to your pre-order list, let this book be it. In fact, I'd consider it entirely forgivable if you stop reading this review right this moment just so you can scurry over to Amazon, or BookDepository, or whatever site of your choosing, and click that pre-order button, because this book is incredible, witty, hilarious, dark, intense, suspenseful, and most of all, IMPORTANT.
→ jane mckeene ←
Auntie Aggie used to say I was like as not to poke Satan with a stick just for fun. Guess not much has changed.
My god, what do I even say about Jane? Jane is the most delightful, witty, self-deprecating, hilarious, insightful, strong-minded, brave, selfless, and brilliant heroine I have read in such an incredibly long time. I don't believe I've loved a heroine so much since first meeting Katniss Everdeen nearly a decade ago. Jane can go from making you laugh in one moment to tearing up the very next. There were even a couple of times I found myself, out loud, saying, "No, Jane! No! Nooooo!" because she's so fearless and stubborn.
→ katherine deveraux ←
Katherine didn't pick the face she was born with, and it ain't her fault her perfect smile makes me want to break things.
In the beginning of the story, there's a bit of bad blood between Jane and Katherine; Katherine doesn't much care for Jane's wildness, and Jane can't help her varying shades of green envy over the fact that Katherine, despite being biracial like Jane, is light-passing enough to get treatment the rest of Miss Preston's girls will never see. We see very quickly that Jane is self-aware enough to work past the girl-on-girl hate, though, so it never felt like a petty trope as it may in some other stories.
While Katherine is never the star of the show, she really develops tremendously as a character, and by the end, I was rooting for her just as much as I was for Jane.
→ the villains ←
It's a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part.
You may be inclined to think, "Oh, it's a zombie book - the zombies are the villains!" and, with most books, you'd be right, but not Dread Nation. The zombies are the looming threat, of course, but the scariest monsters are the white people parading themselves around, treating the black and indigenous peoples like cattle to be branded, sold, and worked to death. Jane's story offers a perspective on some of the less-discussed aspects of how black individuals have been treated, such as having medical experiments tested on them, being accused of sharing more biological makeup with animals than humans, or being worked unfairly with laughably little pay.
What is perhaps the worst part of the things these awful people say throughout the book is how familiar some of it sounds even today. There is still so much racism going on in this society, and Dread Nation offers important insight into the fact that, just because slavery has ended, does not mean we live in a post-racism world. There's even a fantastic nod to the arguments many people have against things like equal opportunity employment and Affirmative Action plans, through the words of one of the white men in Summerland:
"It was mostly the colored folks that fought the shamblers. No surprise there. Government pays to send them to those fancy schools while real mean like me are left to fend for ourselves. If it wasn't for all that money going to educate [slur], we have better weapons to fight the undead, and better training for real men, too."
→ representation ←
I know I am more than my skin color.
In case you didn't know, Dread Nation's racial representation is own-voice. As a white woman, obviously, I cannot speak for POC on the rep in this book, but what I can say is that it felt wonderful, and bold, and beautiful. This book does not apologize for its blackness, and it warmed my heart so much to see these words and feelings on paper. Jane's story is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable, but to be fair, we all need to be pushed out of our comfort zones every now and then; otherwise, we never learn and grow.
Jane talks and thinks a lot about her skin color, because it affects literally every aspect of her life. She explains how she is biracial, and how desperately she wishes she looked white, like her mother. She recognizes how much easier her life would be if she was light-skinned. She addresses internalized racism and the fact that she fears some of her acquaintances have taken up the white men's views only because it is all they have ever known, and it is easier to be the white man's "pet".
Most of the white folks in the room are nodding and giving praise. I glance around the Negro tables and realize a few of those folks are as well. That makes me sad and scared.
There is also representation for Native American individuals, and talk of how poorly treated they have been over the years. We get to spend a short amount of time with a man who Jane describes as "the most remarkable man I've ever seen", and there is even a bit of discussion regarding how he was forced to take up a "white" name in order to fit in more properly.
Momma used to say the Indian was even worse off than the Negro, because instead of being taken from his land he'd had his land taken from him.
On top of the racial rep, there is also a bit of diversity in the sexualities represented; there's brief passing mention of bisexuality, as well as a reveal that one character is on the ace/aro spectrum. There isn't much exploration into either of these aspects, but it's viewed as perfectly normal in Jane's eyes.
→ final thoughts ←
I simply cannot say enough good things about Dread Nation. I'm forcing myself to shut up now, because otherwise, I could literally ramble at you about this story for days. The bottom line is: this is an amazing story of a strong, heroic young black woman killing zombies, protecting her friends, missing her family, and doing everything in her power to dismantle the white supremacy that has caged her and her loved ones for so long. It is beautiful, important, and one of the singular best books I have ever had the pleasure of picking up. I feel so incredibly privileged to have been granted the opportunity to read Dread Nation early and will be pre-ordering my finished copy as soon as I finish this review. I can only hope you will do the same.
CONTENT WARNINGS: racism, sexism, violence, gore, death
All quotes taken from an unfinished review copy and may differ from final release. Thank you so much to Balzer + Bray for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Buddy read with Melanie and Elise!
"It's a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part."
I just want to preface this review by saying I think this book is extremely important. It's historical fiction with zombies, sure, but it also centers on a very strong, biracial woman. I can't speak for the representation as a whole, but I will say I loved how unapologetic Jane is.
Taking place in an alternate US where zombies rose up during the Civil War, this takes a long hard look at institutionalized racism. Jane is a student at 'Miss Preston's School of Combat' where she trains to fight the zombies (or "shamblers") for 'privileged white folk.' She's also razor-sharp in how she's precisely aware of how others perceive her.
This also has some wonderful discussions about femininity, as both mains are (very different) young women. Jane initially resents Kate, as Kate is more traditionally feminine, and with lighter features that allow her to "pass." Not only do these two learn to work together, but their initial dislike and Jane's assumptions are addressed.
There's also also great ace and bi representation
But as amazing as these discussions were-- and as much fun as the zombie slaying was, the plot is a mess. It honestly felt like two different books combined into one, as the entire first half is dedicated to a setting and characters that rapidly shift to something entirely different. Instead of a linear plot that builds things just happen. The story doesn't build much tension, instead relying solely upon character arcs while chaos occurs.
(Side note: I loved how smart and intuitive Jane was, but she also somehow seems to correctly guess everything??)
Jane's letters back home are intriguing and tell a completely different story in-between chapters-- but it adds up to set-up for three separate stories Sadly to me, so much of this build up led to a tiny (and kind of random) There's a lot of set up for the rest of the series, but there's still something dissatisfying about how completely unfinished everything is.
I have a feeling this is going to be one of my most unpopular opinions, as I can see this being very successful (and I hope it is!) But while there were so many great things about this book, the haphazard plot really detracted from them for me.
I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review! Thanks to Balzer + Bray for the opportunity! (Quotes not final!)
I need this book, well I need a lot of books but I NEED THIS!
Badass female protagonists that kills ZOMBIES 🧟♀️🧟♂️??
That’s all I had to know to want to read this book📖.
1 day🤑🙀. I’m ready!