Book Review: Dread Nation

Dread Nation starts out like historical fiction but then come the shamblers (zombies). The library classifies this book as a thriller, but it can also be classified as alternative history. Jane McKeen is the daughter of the richest white woman in Kentucky and her father was one of the “help.”  Since the day she was born someone was trying to kill her, but she’s a strong female protagonist. She’s smarter than most of the people around her. She even makes references to Shakespeare that no one gets.
Jane was born during The Civil War and two days after her birth the dead started rising from the battlefield. The states ended the war quickly because they saw that they had a much larger problem to deal with.  Jane goes to Miss Preston’s Combat School in Baltimore where African American girls are trained in both fighting and etiquette to protect rich white women who are now known as survivalists. Despite the end of slavery, for people like Jane there’s a new form of servitude.
The book is an allegory for life in the 1800’s. We see racism, classicism, feminism, sexism and bigotry. Although the book is primarily about African Americans and their struggles in a post-Civil War, zombie-filled world, we also see a glimpse into what the life of a Native American was like back then too. The Natives were also sent to combat schools but it sounds more like they were beaten and forced to forget their culture.
Despite some historical flaws (she goes back and forth between Native and Indian when only one would be used at the time) I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to grades 9-12. I think that teens who enjoy historical fiction or teens that enjoy thrillers would like Dread Nation.

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