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Book of the Month: Dread Nation

By Justina Ireland

Grade Levels: 9+

With Halloween just around the corner, this horror-inspired historical fiction is a great book to get young readers into the season. In this alternate history, the Civil War was interrupted by a zombie uprising. This changed the entire course of history, interrupting the war and forcing an unsteady peace based on mutual self-preservation.

We follow the story of Jane McKeene, who was born just after the zombies rose from the dead. She has grown up in a world of complicated politics, segregation, and the constant threat of zombies. When we meet Jane, she is enrolled in a prestigious combat school in Baltimore to become a bodyguard for the wealthy elite. Her plans are derailed and she finds herself forced to work as border patrol at a settlement in the western frontier. This settlement shows itself as a grand ideal sanctuary, but dark secrets lurk beneath the surface that Jane and her friends must uncover to stay alive.

While this book presents itself as a fun action-adventure, Justina Ireland’s clever writing manages to create a realistic world that confronts many serious themes that are relevant today. Themes of class struggle, racism, identity, family, and friendship are all addressed with masterful skill.

Join Ireland’s cast of delightful characters as they navigate a trying world in the Wild West and learn more about how the true bonds of friendship are the key to survival.

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