Tag Archives: young adult

Review of Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland

I borrowed an audio copy of Justina Ireland‘s Dread Nation through the library.

Description from Goodreads:

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. 

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.


It took me a while to get into this one, but once I did I really enjoyed it. It can be uncomfortable at times, but it’s also a worthy reminder of the overt evils of our recent past and the myriad ways it’s still evident in society today. While the Survivalist in the story speak openly about their supremacist beliefs, I whole heartedly believe it realistic of the sorts of arguments slave owners used in their time and modern day racists mimic today. It would be hard to read this book and not relate to Jane’s rage and indignation. 

I also simply really liked Jane. I liked that she’s self-reflective and honest with herself (even about the fact that she sometimes lies to herself). I liked that she’s smart, resilient and loyal. She made a superb heroine. 

On a side note, I have reached an age where I actively avoid books likely to contain rape scenes. I’ve just gotten truly intolerant of it in my entertainment. There are times it’s instrumental to plot, but FAR too often authors toss it out lightly and I just can’t with it anymore. So, when it became apparent that Jane and Kate were going to be placed at the mercy of a group of men, I prepared myself to grit my teeth through the obligatory ‘woman is victimized’ scene. I am happy to report it never happened. So, if you’re like me and try to avoid such things, know Ireland go there. A plus in my mind. 

All in all, I happily recommend this book. I know the fact that it has zombies in it will put a lot of people off, but I hope people do give it a chance. And if you’re interested in audio books, Bahni Turpin did a great job.

Review of A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park

If you’ve not noticed from my recent reviews, I’m trying to read a number of my YA physical books. It’s a tricky way to clear some shelf space. You see, my oldest has now reached the age that she can read some of the younger YA books (those not overtly sexual or overly violent), which means if I get them read I can move them from MY shelf to HER shelf. Ta-da!!

A Long Walk to Water (by Linda Sue Park) is one such book. I’m not sure where it came from though. I like to say in my review posts where I got the book. But this one is a mystery. Probably I bought it, but maybe someone left it in the Little Free Library. I’m fairly sure I didn’t win it.

Description from Goodreads:

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.


Written for a young audience, this story of one of the Lost Boys of the Second Sudanese Civil War is quite accessible. Though, lets be honest, covering 20 years in 115 pages, what you get is an overview more than an engaging story. But it’s enough to introduce a student to the travesties of war, as well as the hopefulness and generosity of humanity. I consider it worth the read.

Review of Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson

Last year, Chronicle Books sent me a box of books for my Little Free Library. Gena/Finn (by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson) was one of those books. It’s come and gone and come again from the LFL, so I borrowed it back for a read.

Description from Goodreads:

Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.


When I opened this book and saw what format it is in (all emails and text exchanges and journal entries, etc) I almost shut it again. I did not expect to like it. And I admit that it took a little while to get into the rhythm of things. But eventually I did and I largely enjoyed it. I thought the book started out really strongly. I liked the characters and the conflict created by Finn’s conflicting feelings. However, I also thought there was a large leap from BFFs to maybe something more that wasn’t truly shown and felt jarring. 

Additionally, after the big drama I felt like the story telling became very thin. The reader completely loses one character’s perspective and I felt the lack. I love that Charlie accepted the changes in their lives and the tentative happy ending (or happy-to-be), but I feel like it was all just sketched out rather than told. 

All in all, For a quick read I found it more satisfying than not.