Dread Nation

Dread Nation

Book - 2018 | First edition
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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.
Publisher: New York, NY : Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780062570604 (hardcover)
0062570609 (hardcover)
Branch Call Number: Y IRELAND
Characteristics: 451 pages ; 22 cm


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From Library Staff

During the Civil War zombies rose up and changed the course of history. To protect the wealthiest citizens, poor children are sent to schools to be trained in the art of killing the undead. This alternate history combines nonstop action with social commentary on discrimination.

The undead rose on the battlefields of the Civil War -- changing America forever. Now, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws require some youth, including Jane, attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

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 requi... Read More »

Jane was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields, derailing the War Between the States. When families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane must fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

KCLSRacheal Jan 21, 2018

As someone who thought they were 110% done with zombie stories, I can say that this is something fresh and amazing. I'd recommend this to just about anyone- people who love a rip roaring good yarn, people who like well written, well crafted stories that know what they're doing, people who love fa... Read More »

From the critics

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Jun 08, 2020

Reconstruction, zombies, and mysterious happenings? YES. Looking forward to diving into the sequel soon.

There was something about this that was simultaneously SO addictive while also being a scathing, timely critique of so many things.

Jane McKeene lives in an alternate timeline where the Battle of Gettysburg wasn't decided by soldiers, but instead, it was zombies that turned the tides. The dead walk the streets of Baltimore, where Jane goes to a combat school specifically for black girls, in an attempt to train them to attend to the white women of America. Though this is supposed to be a time where the races are "equal", according to the decisions made after the war, nothing has truly changed; Jane is at the top of her class, a vicious harvester of the undead, but she knows what white people think of her. Katherine, her somewhat grudging friend, is white-passing, and what that means in comparison to Jane's own skin is explored as the girls navigate the treachery and ruthlessness of a white man's America - and kill some zombies along the way.

This was one hell of a ride. I enjoyed literally every second of it, and there were so many reasons for that.

Jane McKeene tops that list. She's such a badass while also having that side of her that, beneath the hardening that she's had to do to survive, is just so lovable. She's so worthy of the word "complex". With such a strong supporting cast, including Katherine and Jackson, she fights for what she believes in just as ruthlessly as the men and women who stand against her, and I absolutely loved her zeal and her spunk. The way she could slip in and out of colloquial language and just completely outfoxed these men who thought they were better than her just made me cackle and appreciate her so much.

Many of the rest of the characters were the kinds that you just love to hate. They think in such a drastic, backwards way, and I think part of why the book as a whole was so successful at what it does is because Justina does not shy away from the derogatory language to make any of it more palatable. Labelling black people as "darkies" is one that stood out for me, and though it makes me uncomfortable, I think that's so good. We need these own voices stories that refuse to shy away from the hard truths. Because let's face it, we have men like these in power right now. And now is not the time to just not include these vicious details because they make people uncomfortable.

In particular, the integration of the Native American schools is one that rings especially important for me. We have a similar legacy in Canada with residential schools, and I feel like we do a decent job of educating our kids about it in the school system. I don't know whether that's the case in America, and including those details and basing the combat schools off of a system that was very real and very brutal lends it all an air of truth that really hit home. There are just so many dimensions of marginalization that so many people don't realize.

Justina's crafting of 19th century America paints such a brutal picture of what it was like that I don't have anything to critique. I felt like I was there; I could taste the dust in Kansas, feel the sweat dripping down Jane's back, hear the sound of the saloon doors creaking open. Baltimore was just as well-written. Somehow, Justina brought me back in time, and I feel like that is a solid combination of research and talent that just came together in the perfect storm for this novel.

I just feel like this is the time for the marginalized voices of the past and the present to be heard. This kind of novel just emanates so much strength and anger and it's so necessary given the world we live in and the things that black women, Native American women, women of all colour still go through. It's worth getting angry over, and I hope that everyone reads the books that these women put out there. This one is absolutely worthy of the hype.

Greene_CaitlinW May 01, 2020

In this alternate history novel, Ireland tackles the question - what would have happened if the Civil War had been interrupted by zombies?

Apr 03, 2020

This book is actually a “classic” to me. It shines a light on all the major issues that we still face today. Racism and the struggles that America faces are the deepest tones that root this story in place.

I don’t know why I didn’t get it in when I first saw it. Maybe because it didn’t have any romance, but I misjudged this book. I actually want to go back to that moment where I was standing at the bookshelf, where the book was resting and grab it off the shelf and swipe my credit card with a feeling of satisfaction.

But then I was lucky to find this miracle at the library and when I saw it,I checked it out and read it. And it was a journey I tell you. I felt like I was lost in my own adventure with zombies and a trio of cool people witnessing the fall of a nation all while growing in different ways.

And I recently decided to read this for the second time, and I did not regret it at all. He action popped out to me, and way Jung the action unfold again was fun. I didn’t really think that I would want to take the time to do this task. But,the magic was still there and it was like visiting an old friend. I also love the book cover. Cool much?

So what’s the book about? Well,it follows seventeen year old Jane Mckeene who attends a combat school to learn to put down the dead. The book is pretty gory with descriptions of dead bodies and fighting, so I say this is probably for thirteen year olds. I loved seeing Jane and her her relationships with other characters develop. Her character was relatable and I rooted her in throughout the whole story.

And so...is it worth reading? Yes, but it also it depends on your taste? Do you want to read young adult novels and historical dramas? Up for fighting and blood? If not, step away. I am hesitant on the second book, because I though they return the magic to the book cover. I am still excited though. So yes, give this a try. Who knows, you might like it. Frankly though, this book deserves credit.

vmccreedy Mar 07, 2020

If you liked The Walking Dead, Dread Nation will bring you joy...so much joy, and a lot more zombies, along with two amazing heroines. The sequel, Deathless Divide, just came out.

STPL_JessH Feb 21, 2020

Chapter 1: In which I tell everyone to read this book.

Dear Everyone,
Read this book.

P.S. If you need more details, keep reading. If you're already convinced, stop reading this and read the book 🙂 Or listen, actually, yes. Listen to the audiobook because Bahni Turpin is my FAVOURITE! You know, in case you haven't noticed from my other reviews.

Normally, I am not a fan of anything zombie related. I made an exception for this outstanding alternative history novel which I recently read for the second time. It was just as good!

Justina Ireland has created a world where the dead rise up after the civil war and schools are created according to the fictional "Native and Negro Education Act." At one of these schools, we meet Jane and Katherine who can best be described as "frenemies." Both are fierce and forceful in their own ways with interesting secrets and stories that keep them motivated. Although Dread Nation seems like it is set more than one hundred years ago, many of the issues still plague us today. This young adult novel offers striking social commentary that is as relevant as it is disturbing. It also contains some laugh out loud moments. Now is a particularly good time to read it because book two was just released. I mean, how can you not love a book that begins with the phrase "In which I am born and someone tries to murder me." Talk about a good hook!!!

Chapter 2: In which I assume you are now putting this book on hold.

Chapel_Hill_SharonD Jan 14, 2020

Interesting re-imagining of a US Civil War brought to a close not by the laying down of arms but by the rising up of the undead! But as the North and the South came together to fight against this plague, less savory impulses also rise to push the country back. Thankfully, Jane McKeene and her compatriots have just the tools to deal with this evil. Now all she needs is a good whetstone.

Dec 05, 2019

As someone who’s always been “meh” about zombie stories, this book absolutely made me want to read or watch ALL OF THEM. Ideally they’d all be written by Ireland, but her thoughtfulness and precision about the precise fears and politics that go into those fears that zombies bring up finally got me to understand why culturally we’re obsessed with them. She also incorporates race and gender in a way that’s palpable in the plot and the dialogue and choices of the characters. This is a fairly thick book, but it’s a quick read; I read almost all of it in one day.

ArapahoeTiegan Nov 08, 2019

There was quite a lot of hype for this book. I finally picked it up, and feel kind of meh. I was expecting quite a bit more from a book set post-Civil War that only ended because zombies started rising. I *may* try book 2, or just find spoilers somewhere, to see if this world develops better, but I also may not actively search it out or wait with bated breath. One very large annoyance for me: "bobbed wire." My dude.. it's BARBED wire..

Nov 04, 2019

I cannot for the life of me remember how this book came to be on my to-read list, but after reading it, I am so, so glad that it did. There is so much to like about this fantastic blending of genres, and I had such a blast reading it.

When I first started reading this, I was reminded of 'Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies', but Justina Ireland wrote an even better story than that twist on the classic Jane Austen novel. She takes the world of 19th century, post-Civil War America with all of its many prejudices, racism, and general imperfections, adds zombies on top of that, and then lets the ripples go where they may. And it was amazing.

Jane and Katherine are a pair of absolutely amazing leads. I loved learning about their lives and just who they are as people. I particularly love how nuanced they both are, with Jane being bisexual and Katherine closer to the asexual part of the spectrum. It really gives them a unique flair, particularly in a setting such as this one. It adds some really great flavor to both characters, and allows them to stand out from the many heroines of such stories.

An absolute delight to read for any fan of horror, historical fiction, or both.

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Add Age Suitability
Nov 04, 2019

kwylie04 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

OPL_KrisC Jun 28, 2018

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

May 10, 2018

ElenaLikesBooks thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

CMLibrary_lvallejo May 02, 2018

CMLibrary_lvallejo thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


Add a Quote
Greene_CaitlinW May 01, 2020

It’s a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part.

jpainter Nov 30, 2018

"It's a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part."

JCLChrisK Aug 29, 2018

See, 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.

JCLChrisK Aug 29, 2018

It’s a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part.


Add a Summary
CMLibrary_lvallejo May 02, 2018

Parents need to know that Dread Nation is alternative-history zombie thriller that takes place after the U.S. Civil War ends not with the South's surrender but when the dead begin to rise up on the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. Author Justina Ireland explores what would've happened had zombies (or shamblers, as they're called in the book) stopped the war in order for Americans to come together to battle the undead (or force black and indigenous folks to fight them). Like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the book features a good deal of violence, as is appropriate to a story about zombie slayers (lots of deaths either from the undead eating live humans, or from humans shooting, stabbing, decapitating the undead, or people beating, stabbing, and shooting one another). There are also some racial slurs of the era ("darkie," "colored," "pickaninny," "coon," etc.) in the story. Parents and teens who read the book together can discuss a host of socio-political and historical issues, from institutional racism and white supremacy to shadism, passing, educational segregation, well-intentioned but ineffective white benevolence, and more.


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