DRUNK REVIEW: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Reviewed by GGGinny

Linz also wrote a review! Check it out here.

What I drank: Hard Seltzers. What can I say, I’m on a kick where they’re concerned. Also I ended up wtih all of the leftovers after a party and it would be rude to not drink them…? Also, before I get into it, I wanted to mention that I found Justina Ireland in the “a Phoenix First Must Burn” anthology… her short story was great and I wanted more of her writing.

Goodreads Overview:

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.

Drunk Overview: Zombie apocalypse started during the Civil War. While slavery technically ended, the black population (and pretty much anyone who wasn’t white) got rounded up to go to zombie fighting school. Jane McKeene, a black girl, was the daughter of a fancy Southern woman. She ended up going to “Ms. Prestons,” the most prestigious school for teaching the “Attendants” or basically bodyguards for fancy women.

Drunk Thoughts: Man, this book was a lot of fun. Although fun doesn’t quite seem like quite the right description for this. Anyone following my reviews knows that I’ve been reading a weird amount of Zombie stuff recently (what with my re-read of the newsflesh series), but I really liked the take this book had.

  • First off, the setting. Setting a zombie apocalypse during Civil War times is really interesting. You don’t have the technology (or sudden lack thereof) getting in the way, and taking in the “of the era” technology is really interesting
  • It also led to one of the interesting plotlines that I don’t want to spoil about how zombies would affect the introduction of new technologies.
  • The world really was fascinating though. Much like ending slavery in the US didn’t actually end slavery (let’s look at all of the people who still love the Confederacy, or the fact that for-profit prisons are basically using slave labor), this book has a really interesting take on how that kind of structure would have adapted.
  • Ms. Preston’s school is really interesting. As the “best” school of it’s kind, I feel like it probably had additional benefits that only became stark as Jane ended up leaving (this shouldn’t be a surprise).
  • But it was also set in an area that had diverse mindsets.
  • Once the book moved to Summerhale (I know I have the name wrong. I just don’t care right now), the book went straight into the “survivalist” mindset which are basically the KKK.
  • But moving on. I loved getting Jane’s perspective because at times she is highly unlikable, but in a way where you still root for her.
  • She (in her inner monologue) brags about being a great liar and breaking the rules. And while I was constantly thinking “Why are you doing that, this is such a bad idea,” I think that about most book heroines and every decision she made fit so perfectly in with the plot.
  • Then you have Kate, her white-passing frenemy. While at school, they were constantly on each other’s case, but the book does a great job of creating a reluctant partnership.
  • I especially enjoyed the way the two of them grew to understand each other toward the end, even if that didn’t change the mutual vague-mistrust.
  • One of the characters that I thought was really interesting who didn’t show up as much as I had wanted was “Red Hawk,” a Native American man who had gone through a zombie fighting school and worked for the shitty shitty mayor of Summerville.
  • He was portrayed in such an interesting light to the point that I was surprised he didn’t really show up at different points in this book.
  • There was really only one white person in this book who wasn’t straight up evil (which I’m only mentioning because I definitely thought there was going to be some kind of red herring there), and frankly, I don’t think he’s worth discussing anymore.
  • But the villains were so realistic in their thinking, which has only become more obvious as our fraught political situation has shown everyone who may have thought otherwise that our system is still antiquated and works against the very people it should (ideally) serve.
  • Hahahaha, anyone want to take a guess as to my political leanings?
  • But really this book was captivating.
  • It was a great mixture of characters, location, and plot.
  • Which I haven’t even discussed. Basically, hinky stuff is going on.
  • It’s clear that the zombie apocalypse is still an issue, but people are pretending it isn’t (not at all like the current climate… 😡
  • Jane, who is a risk taker, gets caught up in everything and is shipped away from where she can make problems.
  • The new town, Summerland, is picturesque for someone who is white, and kind of a nightmare for literally anyone else.
  • Seeing Jane struggle to come to terms with her new life was difficult.
  • Because she, at her heart, was someone I was desperately rooting for.
  • The wild thing was, past a certain point, there weren’t any plot twists. Things moved in the way that made sense,, even as they continued to grow in seriousness.

What I’d Pair it With: Mint Julep. Something old timey and southern.

Rating: 4.5. I can’t say this book is perfect, but boy did it hit all the right buttons for me. I’m really looking forward to getting the next book.

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