I don’t know how my mom found this book by Justina Ireland before I did, since she doesn’t even like YA novels. Somehow she found the audiobook, listened to it, and raved about it, so of course I had to try it out for myself.
It’s so much fun! First of all, the narrator, Bahni Turpin, is one of the best narrators I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. The main character, Jane McKeene, has one goal and she won’t tolerate anyone getting in her way or failing to pull their weight.
Jane McKeene was born on a southern plantation during the Civil War. Her mother was the wife of the plantation owner. Her father was a slave on the plantation, and no, he didn’t rape her. Apparently there had already been rumors about her mother’s “proclivities” and how much time she spent around the slaves.
So Jane doesn’t know who her father is. Her mother’s husband fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War and wasn’t happy to find a black child being raised in his house, but he didn’t last long, so that’s fine (spoiler alert, Jane actually killed him).
In the world Ireland created, the Civil War ended with the battle of Gettysburg, when the dead got up and started attacking their own men. At that point, everyone decided it was best to call of the Civil War and devote their combined resources to fighting the zombies (“shamblers” as they’re referred to in the book).
Slavery as it existed prior to that point has ended. Instead, all African American and Native-American children are required to attend special schools where they are trained to fight and kill shamblers. When they graduate, they are selected by ladies to work as their escorts to take them about town and make sure they don’t get killed by and/or turned into shamblers.
But things have been changing. Jane’s school, which is right outside Boston, has been seeing fewer patrons lately. The politicians have built fortifications around the city to protect against shamblers and they insist they’ve eradicated all shamblers from within the city walls – turns out not so much.
But no one will believe Jane, who is kidnapped and sent to a town out west where she’s forced to protect the town against shambler attack under impossible conditions (shitty weapons and not enough rations). It turns out the whole thing is a conspiracy. The politicians want to downplay the shambler crisis, claiming they have a serum that can prevent infection (they don’t) and that there are fewer shamblers than ever (there are more, and they’re getting faster and stronger). But the politicians downplay or eliminate reports of shambler attacks in order to present the illusion that things are better under their management and most people believe them because they want to.
Throughout the book, Jane just wants to make it home to her mama. By the end, when she finally manages to fight her way out of the doomed town, she’s had a letter from her mom saying that she’s remarried and headed to California, so that’s where Jane heads and that’s where book 1 of this series ends. There’s more on the way and I cannot wait to listen to that audiobook, especially if Turpin narrates it.
What did you guys read/listen to this week? Anything else you couldn’t get enough of?