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Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation 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.


Why you should read it: The melding of history, alternate history, and horror elements in this book is sincerely fantastic. I'm a sucker for good world building, and for a compelling POV character, and Justina Ireland delivers both those things and an action-filled story that kicks ass. Bonus for asexual representation that I hope will continue to prove out as the series continues, but I don't want to say too much on that because spoilers. All around excellent, I loved this book.

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Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There's not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley's favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.


So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone's explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.


Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer...before the killer strikes again.


Why you should read it: I went into this book based on powerful recommendations from friends, with very little idea what to expect. I knew it would be good, but reading it blew me away. I adored Mila, I thought the writing and pacing were fantastic, and the horror elements of interacting with LITERAL ZOMBIES were faced head-on. I finished reading this one faster than I've finished anything in a long time.

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Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.


Why you should read it: This is the second book in Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children Series. I loved "Every Heart a Doorway" (the first installment), and while #2 had a very different tone from the first, I loved this one just as much. The sense of place is so vivid even though the place itself is strange and unfamiliar. This story evokes classic horror movies and stories without ever losing sight of the stakes for THESE PARTICULAR CHARACTERS. I enjoyed it enormously.

 
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