Parents' Guide to

Dread Nation

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Riveting alt-history post-Civil War zombie thriller.

Dread Nation Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 12+

Loved it! Zombie Apocalypse in Reconstruction South

I loved this book and immediately got it for my fantasy-loving 12 year old and she loved it too. It is well written with complex themes regarding slavery, self-determination, and good and evil. Zombies, of course, are never just zombies, but metaphors for the ills of society. It straddles the lines of historical fiction and fantasy well. Jane and Catherine are great, strong, complex characters. I love a story where the heros are teen girls of color. Zombie fighting is a major plot point so there is a fair amount of violence. Some references to kissing (same sex and hetero).

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
age 13+

Civil War Zombie Apocalypse

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2):
Kids say (1):

The action is so compelling in this fantastic alt-history zombie thriller that re-imagines post-Civil War America, it's the kind of novel that's difficult to stop reading once you start. Dread Nation's main character, Jane, is everything you want in a protagonist: courageous, clever, funny, willful, and impulsive, but also vulnerable, generous, and selfless. She doesn't bother with humility -- she knows the damage she can do with her sickles and that table manners and upper-crust etiquette are trifling considerations. And although there's a tiny love triangle with two viable suitors, the romance is way on the back burner while Jane (who's biracial but not fair enough to pass) and her perfectly put-together classmate Katherine (who is described as having a passing-for-white complexion, blue eyes, and golden hair) work together to defeat the nefarious plans of Summerland's vile father-and-son preacher and sheriff. Katherine enjoys the finer things but also resents how her beauty is also a burden and that she's underestimated (even by Jane, once in a while) because of her face.

Jane and Katherine lead the charge, while the men in the story are all supporting characters, whether they're good, evil, or roguish. Red Jack, Jane's former beau, is desperate to find his little sister (who, like Katherine, can "pass"); Gideon is the genius forced to keep Summerland's electricity flowing; and Summerland's reigning father and son believe in the despicable white supremacy that keeps the frontier town's black Attendants in place. In flashbacks, readers will also get to know Jane's white, plantation-running Momma, as well as the various black aunties, particularly Aggie, who raised Jane at Rose Hill. There's also a layered quality to the story: Readers can enjoy it for the surface layer of zombie slaying or dig in further to uncover the sociopolitical and historical commentary. Readers of color may especially connect to the themes of oppression and systemic racism.

Book Details

  • Author: Justina Ireland
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Topics: Friendship, History
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • Publication date: April 3, 2018
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
  • Number of pages: 464
  • Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: April 20, 2018

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