- Author: Justina Ireland
- Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Horror, Alternative History
- Publication Date: February 4, 2020
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Series: Dread Nation #2
If you’d like to check out my review of Dread Nation (book 1), you can find it here.
TRIGGER WARNING: Gore, murder, forced medical experimentation
After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother. But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America. What’s more, Nicodemus is not what it appears. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.
But she won’t be in it alone.
Katherine Devereaux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by — and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not. Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive — even as she begins to fear that there is no happily ever after for girls like her.
This story picks up immediately where Dread Nation left off. And I was really pleased to find that in addition to hearing the story from Jane’s perspective, I got to see things through Katherine’s eyes as well.
The first thing I noticed was that while Jane’s chapters all start with Shakespeare quotes, Katherine’s start with Bible quotes, and I honestly wasn’t surprised by either.
So Jane is heartbroken and homesick for a place that no longer exists. After the fall of Summerland, Jane and company head out on the road to Nicodemus. But they aren’t hopeful that it’s going to be a safe haven. Naturally, they’re right. Shamblers have taken over the frontier and the situation feels hopeless. But they’re Miss Preston’s girls. But between what happens between Summerland and Nicodemus, and after they arrive in Nicodemus changes Jane at a deep level, and leaves her with some serious demons.
Katherine isn’t a new character, but seeing her point of view really gave me new insight into who she is as a person. Her obsession with wearing corsets is explained, and it makes so much sense — she isn’t just a petty girl obsessed with fashion, but rather someone who struggles with anxiety and has found that wearing a corset helps her:
“My heart begins to pound, and I take a deep breath and let it out. I can feel the edge of one of my panicky moods trying to settle over me. When I was younger, Maman used to call them my “worrying fits.” I would find myself frozen with indecision for fear that any choice I made would be the wrong one, earning the wrath of Maman or one of the other ladies of the house.”
Even with the world falling apart around them, these two girls find their strength and a path of their own. Each girl sticks to their own beliefs and relies on the lessons they’ve learned along the way, from their mothers, their experiences, and from each other. I loved how Katherine, when given the choice to pass as white or stay true to who she really is, thinks about it in these terms:
“I think about the months I spent back in Summerland, laughing to hide my discomfort, pretending that I shared the same ideas about the world as all those fine white families, and the way I felt as though a very important part of me was slowly dying, a brilliant rose robbed of light and sustenance.”
Another thing I really liked about the story was the casual way it approaches sexuality. Jane is openly bisexual, Katherine is asexual, and there are other characters who are openly gay. And just like it should be, it’s not a big deal.
Overall, the story is a good one, and it is interesting, funny, amusing, and heartbreaking. The plot twists kept me on my toes and surprised me, and I definitely didn’t see it coming. I loved how it ended, as if it left the door open for more adventures, which I hope are forthcoming, even if this is a duology.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 11
Categories: Book Review