Thursday, April 26, 2018

Buddy Read Update No. 1: Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation
(Dread Nation, Book 1)
Justina Ireland
Hardcover, 464 pages
Bilzer + Bray
April 3, 2018
African-American Fiction, Alternative History, American History, Diverse Reads, Fantasy, 
Feminist Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Horror, Humor, Paranormal Fiction, Satire,
Social Justice, Southern Gothic,
Young Adult Fiction

Be sure to visit Barb's blog to read her half of our "chat"! You can access her post HERE!

This post, as well as that of my fellow 
buddy reader, may contain spoilers!
Read at your own risk!

So here I am, actually reading a HORROR novel! Well, actually, I would call this "horror lite", as the darned zombies are not really the "stars" of this novel. So it's surprisingly tolerable for a non-horror lover like me! Lol.

As I stated in last week's buddy read announcement post, I have embarked upon this brave journey right along with Barb, who is Mom to two lovely Boxer pups, and blogs @ Booker T's Farm -- Books and Nails and Puppy Dog Tales.

Barb and I have a running joke about how I'm such a BIG CHICKEN when it comes to reading horror novels. I really can't stand them! However, this one caught my eye when she featured it in one of her "Can't Wait Wednesday" posts, so I left a favorable comment about it. Then Barb suggested we do a buddy read, and I went for it! And here we are!

Here's our latest "chat" about our progress!

Barb: What do you think about the parts of the letters to her mother at the beginning of each chapter? They kind of bother me, but I am getting used to them more and more.

Maria: I think they're an interesting addition to each chapter. And they make me laugh, too, because what Jane tells her mother is happening at school is the exact OPPOSITE of what's REALLY going on. Lol. These letters highlight Jane's snarky humor. Like when she wrote that she was VERY happy at Miss Preston's, and was learning SO much.... I can picture her tongue firmly in her cheek as she wrote these things! 

Barb: What happened to the family down the road? I have no clue and I feel so sorry that Red doesn't know what happened to his sister.

Maria: Yeah, I know.... Red is not exactly a nice character, where Jane is concerned, but the fact that he's so worried about his sister's whereabouts makes me like him more than I would otherwise. It seems that the mystery of that family is the central theme of this novel. And it's precisely the one that Jane is so determined to solve. This is one of the things that has really intrigued me about this novel, and thus, has kept me glued to the pages!

Barb: I NEED to know more about the Native American that keeps showing up!

Maria: Yeah, that's ANOTHER mystery! I don't like him, by the way. I don't like that HE doesn't like Jane. I wonder why that is.... And I wonder what his connection to this whole business is. WHY would he be involved in whatever is going on? What's in it for him? The inquiring minds of Barb and Maria (and their readers) want to know!!

Barb: I love the dynamic between Jane and Kate (Katherine). I love that they aren't friends but are. I mean, they will be the last to admit it, right?

Maria: This is yet another aspect of this novel that I love! And it's even funny, too. I think Kate really likes and even admires Jane, but, of course, she won't admit it. As for Jane, she thinks Kate is silly for actually WANTING to become an Attendant. She also thinks Kate is much too interested in fashion, when there are more important things to worry about -- such as zombies. And yet, Jane is very nice to Kate. But no, she won't admit to being Kate's friend, either. 

Justina Ireland has actually created a nice twist on "the mean girl at school" stereotype so often found in YA novels. So yes, I love this strange "friendship", too!

Barb: I felt so badly for the people in the theater, and that poor guy who had to stick his hand in the cage. I'm so glad the doctor got what he deserved.

Maria: This was a pretty horrible scene, and I'm even AMAZED it didn't send me running off screaming..... Instead, I kept right on reading the book! Can you believe it? I think what saved me from possibly having a nightmare because of this scene was that my mind automatically blocked the images evoked by the author's descriptions. And I kind of just flew right over the words. I concentrated more on Jane's courage during the whole thing, both when she raised an objection to the doctor's "experiment", and afterward, when all HELL broke loose!

This specific scene was a brilliant description of human obtuseness, as well as the deliberate denial of what one doesn't want to accept. The doctor, being a racist, was firmly convinced that his theory would work. He refused to admit that it might not, either, even when an unexpected person pointed out the common sense result that would inevitably ensue. Yes, he got what he deserved, but it was a tragic thing, nonetheless. I feel even more sorry for the poor "guinea pig"..... He sure did NOT deserve such a fate! I wonder why he didn't turn tail and run out of there! As for the people in the theater, they were innocent bystanders, so to speak, but SOMEBODY in that audience should have noticed and mentioned the HUGE risk involved in the doctor's "experiment"!

This scene even reminds me of the famous Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Emperor's New Clothes". People are just scared to "rock the boat" by stating the obvious. Unfortunately, in this case, it resulted in a tragedy that could easily have been avoided. I consider this scene to be great satirical writing by Justina Ireland!

Barb has just informed me that this book will have a sequel, so I've already "signed up" for the buddy read! I'm just crossing my fingers, though, that "Dread Nation" will continue to be the smart, well-handled satire, racist critique, and feminist-conscious powerhouse that it's been so far, and that the blood and gore will continue to be sort of in the background....

So stay tuned for another update next week, folks! By the way, Barb has also told me that her pups are expert zombie hunters, so I'll use their help if I need to!  :) 

What do you all think?
Have we piqued your curiosity
about this book?
Be sure to let us know!
Don't forget to visit Barb's blog
to get her side of the "chat"!



  1. You make a very valid point about the letters at the beginning. I never realized how sarcastic they are. They do take a turn later on that makes me happy. You had to know the scene with the doctor and the experiment made my horror heart happy. But poor Othello, nothing made what they did to him fair or worth it.

    I'm so glad you are enjoying this read. I really do find it hard to put down sometimes. I managed to finish my other book last night so I read further in this one. Trying to reach our magical 27.

    Booker T says "Get back you zombies!"

    1. Hi, Barb!

      Yeah, those letters are VERY sarcastic! They sure made me laugh! Jane's snarky humor really shone through!

      OMG, that scene made your "horror heart" happy? Lol. What I took from it was the satire. To me, it was evidence that people WILL believe whatever they WANT to believe, no matter the facts staring them right in the face. The doctor discounted Jane's objection BECAUSE she was "a darkie", and OF COURSE no darkie could be as smart, or even SMARTER, than a white person. And Jane was proved right. Her courage and resourcefulness were what saved the day, as much as was possible, given the circumstances. And yes, I feel SO sorry for poor Othello....what a GREAT allusion to Shakespeare's tragedy, too, btw!

      Yes, I'm GREATLY enjoying this read, but not because of the horror aspect! Lol. I'm enjoying it because of the reasons I've stated -- it's GREAT satire, with powerful messages regarding racism and feminism. so I am able to "overlook" the horror aspect to some degree. Lol.

      The book is DEFINITELY hard to put down! And I have to say it: I'm GLAD the other aspects overshadow the blood and gore! And it's not all that scary, either, mostly because Jane is SO adept at handling the zombie hordes!! LOVE THAT!!!! :)

      Tell Booker T we can go zombie-hunting this weekend, if he's available. I'll put in a Time Machine call to Jane, too! :) :)

      Thanks for the lovely comment!! HUGS TO YOU AND THE BOYS, AND WOOF, WOOF TO THEM!!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

    2. Booker T says sure thing but we'll have to pack food. I do think this book is so much deeper than a horror book and honestly, I think the author was pretty brilliant capitalizing on America's current fascination with zombies to make such a political statement. I haven't even finished and I want book 2!

  2. I’m reviewing this book today on my blog. I really liked it. I wish it was scarier, though. I love horror. The scene in the theater is my favorite in the whole book.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Hi, AJ!

      Well, I'm only reading this book BECAUSE there are other aspects of it that interest me. Lol. I'm GLAD it's not scarier!

      As for the scene in the theater, what I loved about it was Jane's behavior -- she was VERY assertive in pointing out the most likely result of this "experiment", and then, when the inevitable happened, she took charge. Jane saved the day!!

      I will NEVER become "a horror lover", though. This despite the fact that I DO love PNR and UF!! Lol.

      I'll go check out your review. Thanks for the comment!! <3 :)

  3. It sounds as if you are having a good read. I think that it is good that you found a horror book that, because it stays within certain boundaries you can read. I am now very curious about the theatre passage.

    1. Hi, Brian!

      Yes, indeed! This book is what I would call "Horror lite". Lol. Although there are zombies in it, it's not that scary, as the passages dealing with these creatures are over before you know it! The zombies are "taken care of" as quickly as possible, without a lot of graphic, gory detail. The author thus dwells more on the social justice angle, as well as the feminist angle. Jane McKeene is TRULY a force to be reckoned with! And that's the main reason I felt attracted to this book. As you know, I don't like the horror genre AT ALL. It's ironic, I know, because I DO like paranormal romance and urban fantasy, and these two genres can overlap with the horror genre. But, as long as a novel is not creepy, graphically gory, or scary -- and PNR and UF usually aren't -- I can read and enjoy it. Btw, "Beautiful Creatures" was an exception to this. As you know, I didn't like that novel at all, and it was precisely because of how very dark it was.

      The theater passage is indeed horrible, but I decided to dwell more on Jane's courage throughout. Thank God, the details were not all that graphic, either!

      I want to do another buddy read with Barb when the sequel comes out. I am NOT touching any other horror novel, though! Lol.

      Thanks for the comment!! <3 :)

  4. Just a suggestion - could you please, another time, tell us what the book is about? It might make your discussion easier to follow! 😁

    Recommended zombie fiction is Charlie Higson’s YA series beginning with The Enemy, in which everyone - or nearly everyone - over fifteen gets this disease that turns them into flesh-eating fiends who will happily chomp on their own children, siblings, etc. so bands of children start living all ver London in department stores or supermarkets or wherever they can find refuge and search for food in groups. In one case a boy is killed because he hesitated to kill the creature that was once his mother. She kills him instead. CH is a very good writer.

    I also find horror fiction hard to read, mainly because, if it’s well written, you have to see characters you care about killed. I prefer SF and fantasy.

    1. Hi, Sue,

      I included a synopsis of this novel in my buddy read announcement post. If you missed it, the link is below. I don't see the point of including the synopsis of this novel in EVERY single update post. However, I have included the Goodreads add button in the current post. By clicking on it, you can access the book's GR page, which, of course, includes a synopsis of the book.

      Also, Barb and I are trying not to give out too many spoilers, for those who might be planning to read the book.

      Here's the link to my buddy read announcement post:

      I prefer SF and fantasy, too, for the very same reasons you mention. I don't like the horror genre. However, I decided to read this book because I could tell it wouldn't be all that scary or gory. And that has indeed been the case. The author concentrates more on satirizing racism, as well as giving the reader a VERY strong, feminist female protagonist. I also love how she satirizes all of the political and religious hypocrisy of the time.

      I am not planning to read any other horror novels, with or without zombies, but ESPECIALLY those with zombies in them! I WILL buddy read the sequel to "Dread Nation" with Barb, though. But that will be the extent of my "adventuring" into the horror genre!

      Thanks for the comment!! <3 :)

    2. And the new Stephen King, right ;)

    3. Stephen King?! Yeah, right..... Not in a million years!! LOL.

    4. Honestly, some of the books of his I've read are no more horrific than Dread Nation. In particularly Joyland and Gwendy's Button Box.

  5. I've really enjoyed this discussion:)). Thank you so much, folks!

  6. Hi, Sarah!

    You're very welcome!! Stay tuned, because there are more discussion posts coming!! And you have GOT to read this book!!

    Thanks for commenting!! HUGS!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)


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