Dread Nation: Rise Up by Justina Ireland is the first of a series about an alternate version of Civil War America where zombies roam the earth. Race and slavery are major themes of the story as well as feminism. In fact, it's black females that are sent to special schools to train to fight the undead ("shamblers") and protect their white employers. The reader follows Jane, a student at one of the more prestigious combat schools. While Jane is a talented fighter she is not gifted in the art of gentility (which is really just bowing down to societal pressures). In a lot of ways, this is a typical zombie apocalypse story with the requisite gore, guts, and guns. However, the setting, time period, and atypical female protagonist make for an exciting change of pace. I really enjoyed Dread Nation but some loose ends could have been tied off (and if they're not addressed in subsequent volumes I'm gonna be peeved). Fast paced, a good twist on a classic genre, and quality writing make this an A+ young adult novel for the zombie lover in your life. (Question: Witch, vampire, werewolf, or zombie? True fans will understand the importance of this question.) Bonus content at the back of the book: Indian American boarding schools were used as inspiration for the Negro and Indian combat schools described in this book. 8/10 with a few points deducted because the ending could have been tighter.
What's Up Next: The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
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