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
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 hopes? 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 characters like Professor Ghering and Miss Duncan are given dimension, 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 really appreciate and haven't seen in enough books thus far.
As several comments on negative or mediocre reviews of this book seem to imply that people only like this book because they respect the author, I want to clarify that at least for me, this is a review of the book, not the author . I have had no trouble in the past giving negative reviews to people I respect, and frankly, it seems disrespectful to both Ireland herself and to the positive reviewers on this page to imply that people only liked the book because they like the author. Like, dude, if you don't like this book that's fine, but don't get offended by the fact that other people did like this book? Maybe they just disagreed with you. Come on.
Listen, diverse YA historical fiction is really bringing back literature 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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"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) conclusion. 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 honest to god was so excited to read this book. black queer girls + zombies? that’s a CONCEPT. a really really great concept
but I truly truly cannot support someone who implies that Asian women like myself... are not women of color. I’m really sad to be taking this off my TBR but someone saying that Asians aren’t people of color makes me sick, and it’s even worse when someone I respect[ed] says that.
read this book if you want!! it’s certainly an important book in YA. but I truly cannot make myself read this
[I won’t be giving anyone info on what happened since it’s draining, and I would link you to what went down, but unfortunately, it’s all been deleted]
This book is fucking badass. Yes, there are zombies, but there are also young girls trying their damndest to survive in a world that doesn't want them.
This book is just as important as The Hate U Give and Dear Martin. We like to romanticize the past and the old west, but need constant reminders about the ways that things haven't changed at all. It's an examination of America, old and new, and the idea that perhaps humanity is worse than a plague of zombies.
Jane is someone I want to see slay the undead, but someone I also want to see protected above all.
The year is 1880 and slavery has kind of ended in the traditional sense but blacks and native Americans are now forced to enter combat schools to learn how to fight zombies.
Our main character is Jane who is a sassy bi-racial zombie killing machine that takes no shits from anyone. This book has all the fixin’s, Katherine a snooty student who is passing as white, Jackson a sexy hustler/sexual harasser, a racist sheriff, and a corrupt mayor. Our trio lives and trains in Baltimore and their only future of becoming personal bodyguards for “rich white folks” is not something they are looking forward to until they are abducted and forced to fight zombies in the new hope for America-Kansas.
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?
Ireland tried to do something with the Katherine Jane relationship where they start off as enemies but it ended up being nothing new or special. Jane is an okay character as far as her sass but she’s also smarter than everyone else in the room and that got annoying. A racist who constantly calls the blacks darkies does not a villain make. We expect the corrupt white sheriff to be racist but what else about him makes him evil? There were several white villains like this and it got repetitive.
This is really just a book that contain themes and storylines that we’ve all read a bunch of times. There’s nothing new here which is a shame because it’s an interesting idea.