Review of Deathless Divide

Deathless Divide
by Justina Ireland
Middle School, High School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    554 pp.
2/20    978-0-06-257063-5    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-257065-9    $10.99

Irascible Jane McKeene and posh Katherine Deveraux, zombie-dispatching graduates of Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls, are back in this suspenseful, satisfying sequel to Dread Nation (rev. 5/18). After surviving the fall of false utopia Summerland to the undead, Jane and Katherine flee to the neighboring settlement of Nicodemus, where they hope to find temporary safety. But no sooner are they within its gates than Jane is imprisoned for past crimes, and Katherine must find a way to break her out before the horde breaks in. Multiple betrayals, back (and front) stabbings, and an arduous trek to California test Jane and Katherine’s bond, along with an abrupt separation and the tragic death of one of their closest allies. Ireland threads her thrilling plot with incisive commentary about race, gender, and power that will appeal to today’s activist teen readers. Her alternate Old West (a mirror of current societal woes) is full of warring ethnic and cultural factions, each more suspicious of the other, until the undead are the least of their worries. Katherine laments, “How can we make the world a better place if we are always at odds with one another for every single kind of reason under the sun?” The answer may lie in future adventures, as the novel’s open ending hints at possible exploits to come. An author’s note contains further reading about the role of Black Americans in the Old West.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Jennifer Hubert Swan
Jennifer Hubert Swan is director of library services and middle school librarian at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City. She is also a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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