Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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Title: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
Copyright: April 3, 2018
Genre: fiction
Format: book
Pages: 455

 

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

About the Author (Justina Ireland):

Image result for justina ireland

Justina Ireland enjoys dark chocolate, dark humor, and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. She lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows. But what you may not know about her is that:

 Over the last several years, Ireland and others in the YA world have been using Twitter to call out what they see as an enduring tradition of racist nonsense in publishing…As Ireland has repeatedly taken pains to point out, the world of children’s and young-adult literature is overwhelmingly, disproportionately white. Of some 3,700 books for children or teens that were published last year, just 340 were about children or teens who were black, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin. Of those, just 100 were written by black authors. Ireland argues that the industry should publish more books by nonwhite authors, and that white authors should think more carefully about how they represent black and brown people in their books.

My Thoughts:

This book was fantastic. I heard about this book from the Book Riot podcast and I was interested because I liked how it was an alternate history during the civil war time. I was also thrilled that the protagonist was mixed race.

The cover art grabbed my attention and it appealed to me that the author was a black woman. As I quoted earlier, there is a disproportionate amount of non-white authors published in the industry today. I’m always trying to make a conscious effort to support black authors.  Because if we don’t buy the books written by people of color then the publishers can say that they didn’t create or generate the sales that they need to be publishing books and we will miss an opportunity to experience diverse talent.

I won’t lie when I say that I was a little hesitant when I saw the word zombie in the description. But the idea of an alternate history where blacks during the civil war were trained in weaponry and etiquette. Well, I just had to see this book through. The story was easy to get into I really like the main character, Jane, who was very strong and smart.

Structurally, I like how at the very start of each chapter you would see an excerpt from a letter Jane wrote to her mother. Since she had to live apart from her mother at the boarding school, she wanted to keep in touch with her mother and we saw this represented in the letters she wrote to her mother.

Of course, you get to see the boarding school experience through Jane’s eyes and hear a lot about how she gets along with the fella girls. You also get glimpses of her past where she used to live on Rose Hill with her mother and the story unfolds really slowly chapter to chapter. I like that it is spread out throughout the story. The author doesn’t throw all the information at you in the beginning. It is delivered at a pace that really enhanced the experience of the book.

Although the story is a fantastical alternate history of the civil war era, the issues of race ring familiar today. We aren’t in that great “melting pot” that we often talked about when I was growing up. We can’t be when people have racial bias and laws that govern exacerbate those feelings. There were many action scenes much of which took place in the last quarter of the book and I just couldn’t put it down had to finish it. I believe it is the start of a series. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and looking forward to the next one.

I give this book 4 1/2 butterflies.

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