Summary and book reviews of Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation

by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland X
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2019, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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About this Book

Book Summary

At once provocative, terrifying, and darkly subversive, Dread Nation is Justina Ireland's stunning vision of an America both foreign and familiar - a country on the brink, at the explosive crossroads where race, humanity, and survival meet.

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.

I know you probably worry about the number of undead out here in the East, but Baltimore County is the safest in all the country. They say so in the newspaper, and you know the paper would never lie.

Chapter 3
In Which I Relate My First Encounter with a Shambler

When I was little, back at Rose Hill, I used to sneak out of the kitchen, away from Auntie Aggie while she and the other aunties worked to feed all of the hungry mouths on the plantation. Once they were distracted I'd tiptoe out past the ovens and slip away to freedom in the fields.

Rose Hill mostly grew tobacco, which Momma and a couple of the bigger field hands would ride into town to trade for cloth and other essentials. Early on, back before I can remember, Momma had tried growing tomatoes and other vegetables; when it became obvious that her small bundle of tobacco was worth more than all the food combined, she switched. Momma is savvy like that. The dead may have risen and we might have been living in the end ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The combination of period drama, alternative timelines, fantasy elements, zombies, and complex socio-historical-cultural contexts makes this book a welcome departure from other contemporary genre-specific young adult texts. Ireland proves that it is possible to write a rollicking fantasy filled with zombies and brave zombie fighters, and also provide readers with substance and thought-provoking material that challenges them to re-evaluate how they see the world. Above all, despite, or perhaps, because of its setting, it demands that we ask of our society, if people are not seen as humans, equal under the law and with the same rights to their humanity and personhood, then, are they really free?   (Reviewed by Michelle Anya Anjirbag).

Full Review (584 words).

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Media Reviews

Publisher's Weekly
Starred Review. Mounting peril creates a pulse-pounding pace, hurtling readers toward a nail-biting conclusion that inspires and will leave them apprehensive about what's to come.

Booklist
Starred Review. Ireland delivers a necessary, subversive, and explosive novel with her fantasy-laced alternate history that does the all-important work of exploring topics of oppression, racism, and slavery while simultaneously accomplishing so much more. Brilliant and gut-wrenching. Grades 9-12.

School Library Journal
Starred Review. A perfect blend of horrors real and imagined, perfect for public and school libraries and fans of The Walking Dead.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. With a shrewd, scythe-wielding protagonist of color, Dread Nation is an exciting must-read.

The Horn Book
Starred Review. [An] absorbing page turner.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School

Carlisle School StudentsThe boarding school in Dread Nation, where children are sent after being taken from their families is based on real schools that existed across the United States. While Miss Preston's, the school in Dread Nation is specifically for girls of color to be combat-trained to fight zombies, in other respects it resembles the Native American boarding schools of the 19th and early 20th centuries. From as early as 1677 settler communities and then, later, the United States government, ran boarding schools that were intended to "civilize" indigenous youth through a regulated process of forced assimilation. One of the most infamous of these schools, which informed the author's conception of Miss Preston's, was the Carlisle Indian Industrial...

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