Parents need to know that Dread Nation is alternative-history zombie thriller that takes place after the U.S. Civil War ends not with the South's surrender but when the dead begin to rise up on the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. Author Justina Ireland explores what would've happened had zombies (or shamblers, as they're called in the book) stopped the war in order for Americans to come together to battle the undead (or force black and indigenous folks to fight them). Like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the book features a good deal of violence, as is appropriate to a story about zombie slayers (lots of deaths either from the undead eating live humans, or from humans shooting, stabbing, decapitating the undead, or people beating, stabbing, and shooting one another). There are also some racial slurs of the era ("darkie," "colored," "pickaninny," "coon," etc.) in the story. Parents and teens who read the book together can discuss a host of socio-political and historical issues, from institutional racism and white supremacy to shadism, passing, educational segregation, well-intentioned but ineffective white benevolence, and more.

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