The war sort of came to an end, when both the Confederates and the Union decided it was more important to fight the UNdead (or shamblers they are popularly called) than each other. Of course, the country is still in a state of chaos and disorder, which means it is just right for new groups of politicians to rise. No longer are the Democrats or Republicans in power, but rather the Survivalists and the Egalitarians.
All this seems to be too lofty for Jane – she just wants to get back to her home, Rose Hill, where her mother and all her Aunties live. But Jane, along with all the other able bodied young Negros, have been sent to combat schools. It is believed that by training young black children in the art of fighting the shamblers, the whites will then be protected. Jane is a black child born to a white southern woman, a plantation owner no less. Jane was born just days before the shamblers began walking and killing in the United States, and while the Major – her mother’s husband – was off fighting for the Confederates. After the war, even though the enslaved were technically freed, not much seems to have changed.
Jane has been at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Maryland for three years now, and is learning all she needs to be an Attendant – someone trained to be a personal bodyguard for young white society girls. While she doesn’t really plan to become an Attendant, the skills she is learning she knows will help her back home at Rose Hill. However, as she gets closer to graduation, strange things begin happening. First, she hasn’t heard from her mother in year and she’s terribly worried something awful has happened at Rose Hill. Also, supposedly, most of the shamblers have been killed or driven away from the large cities, but Jane isn’t so sure this is actually true. One night when she and some other girls go to see a lecture, Jane sees something the makes her blood run cold. And it also brings her to the attention of the mayor of Baltimore, which in turn completely changes the trajectory of her life.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland is a fabulous book, and I’m not into zombies! This book had me not wanting to put it down because of the originality of the premise as well as the awesome character of Jane. While some of the events and things are based in history, Ireland’s reimagined possible past makes this a stand out read. While the book is set in Reconstruction, many of the same issues are still relevant today.
Highly recommended read for 8th grade and up.