Zombies vs. Unicorns
ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS apparently started on the editors, Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier, respective blogs. Ms. Black proclaiming that Unicorns were better. Ms. Larbalestier taking the Zombies side. Each proceded to gather six amazing YA writers to prove their point. The result is the twelve short stories in this anthology. Six stories about unicorns. Six about&you guessed it&zombies.
At first glance, I figured the unicorn stories would be more of the high fantasy, sort of castle and queen stuff. Most, if not all, would have happy endings. This was not the case. Most were even more violent than the zombie stories. Each and every one of the twelve stories, zombie ones included, was enjoyable and highly readable.
I think I can best handle this review by going to go down through the twelve so you will know the titles, author, and a little bit about each one.
The Highest Justice by Garth Nix. Without giving too much away, it is about a unicorn who commits a sort of murder for hire. Really starts the book off with a bang.
Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Probably my favorite story in the bunch. Zombie story told in alternating points of view, first person and the unique second person. It centers around a homosexual, zombie/human love story were the father of the zombie may or may not end up eaten in a hotel room. The author begins the story by comparing warm macaroni cheese to brains. And with references to The Beatles and The Who, who couldnt love this story?
Purity Test by Naomi Novik. The story is set in an alternative NYC where trolls and unicorns roam and two young people get tricked into adopting a litter of baby unicorns. Not sure if Novik was a great choice for the Unicorn side since she has difficulty hiding her apparent disdain for the magical breed&at least according to Justine Larbalestier. ?
Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan. Im a huge Carrie Ryan fan. Anyone who has read FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH will most likely enjoy this short story that seems to take place in the same universe as her novels. Only the main character, Iza, lives on an island, which of course is surrounded by water unlike Mary in Ryans first book.
A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan. This was another great one, but I could say that about all of them, I guess. First-person narrative where the main character is a unicorn. Begins with a scene in which the unicorn is very drunk and trying to find a place to piss in the woods. By the end of the story, the unicorn will have to change her partying ways to reluctantly help with a birth.
The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson. Freaky story about a girl living in England who takes a weekend babysitting job. Little does she know, shell be babysitting a bunch of zombie babies.
The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund. I actually read this entire story aloud to my class, and most seemed to really enjoy. A lot of great themes in this one about a girl who has a curse when it comes to unicorns. She is one of the few who can communicate with these killers.
Inoculata by Scott Westerfeld. Loved this zombie story as well. Takes place in the very near future where most of the adults have been infected with this zombie disease and the teenagers are in control. Similar to the Libba Bray universe in this book. Maybe for a slightly younger audience than Prom Night. Little bit of everything. Little romance. Little violence. Good stuff here by one of the best writing in YA. Very LGBT-friendly, which is still somewhat a rarity.
Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot Not as innocent as the title would imply. About a teenager named Liz who has to keep her new-found unicorn a secret.
Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare. About a girl who was going to marry about boy, but the boy became a zombie. I dont want to ruin the ending, so I wont say what I wish I could say. I will, however, say that James, the almost groom, may not have changed all that much going from man to zombie. The bride may almost prefer the qualities of a zombie to a man. Kind of a stab a men in general, but hard to argue. ?
The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey. I loved this one about basically a serial killer unicorn trying to reform themselves.
Prom Night Libba Bray. Great way to end the anthology. In a similar setting to Inoculata. The two main characters are teenage police officers trying to maintain order in a world full of nearby zombies. The story takes place over the course of a few hours in which in a different world the two officers would be celebrating their senior prom night. Also a freaky story.
I excited to see more YA anthologies featuring short stories. Not sure why they arent more. I cant wait to see GIRL MEETS BOY edited by Kelly Milner Halls, which comes out in 2012. It appears it might follow a similar format as ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS only trading off stories from a male vs. female point of view.
Let me start out by saying that I don't generally read many anthologies. As a reader, I'm big on being able to connect with my characters and their lives. I want to feel invested in them as I follow them throughout the story. Anthologies make that a bit difficult to do, since the authors are limited to a short story and therefore limited in the amount of character building that they can do. Make sense? Okay, now take everything that I just said and throw it out the window. Yup, I'll wait. Toss it right out. This book made me 100% love anthologies and I only hope that there are more out there like this!
Each story in Zombies vs. Unicorns opens with banter between Holly and Justine, and that in itself is pure fun! I enjoyed all the stories in this anthology so very much, that it's impossible for me to declare a favorite. However I will say that Maureen Johnson's zombie children gave me some crazy dreams! Some of the stories are slightly disturbing. Some of them will have you giggling maniacally and then wondering why on Earth everyone is staring at you. You might think I'm kidding but I warn you, don't read this book on the bus. (Unless of course you're on a bus full of crazy people, in which case you'll blend right in.) The swap between zombie and unicorn themed stories keeps the book light and moving, and I read straight on through until the end!
In an effort not to ramble on about my love for this book, I'll wrap it up here. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy zombies or unicorns, or "zombicorns" (zombie/unicorn hybrids that a friend and I fully support) then you will enjoy this anthology immensely! The sheer talent on the contributing writers makes it hard to choose what side you are truly on. I've debated this deep question and I think I've come up with an answer. Yes friends, overall I'm Team Zombie. Celebrate or throw tomatoes as you wish, then get down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of Zombies vs. Unicorns!
For those wanting to know what's included, here are a few comments on some of my favorite stories in the book:
The Highest Justice by Garth Nix: Eh. Okay, this was so-so for me. It had a little unicorn and zombie action in it. I don't think I would have picked this as the first story in the book. I had already read some of the other stories, so I knew the contents got better than what this story represented.
Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan: I had hoped to find out what caused the Return in this story (I heard someone say this story would explain it), but that didn't happen. Instead, I got a good stand alone zombie story told in the same fashion as the novels. Except, this one did flashback to the main character's childhood some. As a stand alone story, this was great.
The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Dana Peterfreund: Isn't the title great? Guess what the story is about? Did you say killer unicorn? If so, you deserve a cookie.
Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot: Funny stuff. What would happen if a fluffy "fart rainbow" of a unicorn entered the life of a girl who was completely disinterested? You can only imagine...
The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey: I'm noticing a trend with emo books... A little unexpected is the idea of an emo unicorn. (Is that even possible?) This poor creature is seriously conflicted. Reminds me of Hamlet...to kill or not to kill? That is the question.
Prom Night by Libba Bray: Love her. Great story to end with. Super creepy, spine tingling surprise ending.
So, if it's not obvious yet, you should run out to the store and buy this book RIGHT NOW. Right. Now. It's a great short story anthology AND it's all about zombies and unicorns. What could be better?