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Dread Nation - Review

I think I found my new favorite author! It took me two years to get to this book, and now I'm mad I didn't come for it sooner! Dread Nation by Justina Ireland is a historical fiction/zombie mashup that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. Who would have thought reading about black zombie hunters in the Reconstruction era would feel so … right?

Trained at Miss Preston's School of Combat for Negro Girls in both weaponry and etiquette, Jane McKeene is poised for a successful career protecting the wealthy from the plague of the walking dead. But that's not a life Jane wants. Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn't pay much mind to the eastern cities' politics, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families begin to go missing, Jane uncovers a conspiracy that pits her against some powerful enemies. Sent far from home, Jane will need all her resourcefulness, wit, and character strength to survive.

Why didn't anybody tell me about this book! It reminds me of Pride and the Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. I'm not a fan of the played-out Zombie craze, but Ireland wrote this book in a way where I couldn't wait for the undead to show up so that I can see Jane in action. Jane is a very bold girl who is always two steps ahead of the game. She is unapologetic and stands up for what's right in the unjust world. And speaking of an unjust world, Ireland did an excellent job of world-building. Between the theme, the transitions, and the well-put-together story, there was never a dull moment.

Ireland took her time with this book. You can tell by the amount of research she used to craft her story. One of her biggest influences for the school Jane attended came from the very real historic boarding and industrial schools built in the 1860s. In earlier times, Europeans thought it would be a great idea to remove Native American children from their homes and enroll them into these schools where they can learn to be more "civilized." The first time I ever heard about schools like these came from another book I read; the Dear America series called, "My Heart Is On the Ground – The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl" by Ann Rinaldi.

Do you know what's messed up about those institutions? Not only was it a tactic to assimilate Western culture on Indians, but for those who decided to take the education were eventually shunned from their tribes because they weren't considered Indian anymore. The children weren't looked at as European either, so they were cast out from both sides of society. In a way, I saw the similarities in this with Jane's best friend Kate, and her issues with passing for white. As annoying as Katherine is with her high society snobbery, she remembers that she is still a black girl at a moment's turn.

I wish I did see more of the storyline between Jane and her ex-boyfriend, Jackson. I think they had a great dynamic with each other and would have loved to see what happened between them in the past. I'd also like to see what will happen if Gideons' new character was added in the complicated love spat. Maybe Ireland will enlighten us on the sequel, Deathless Divide because, of course, there's a cliff hanger. I really need to stop picking up books with cliffhangers. But this one I don't mind, because I'm ready for part 2!

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