Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Book of the Year 2010 (see all)
I’m sure you’re familiar with this typical family dinner scenario: everyone is seated around the table and Grampa- like Grampa always does- turns a perfectly pleasant conversation into a tirade about how under-appreciated unicorns are in modern society because of these gosh-darn kids and their obsession with brain-eating schmucks. Then your mother, a staunch zombie supporter since Night of the Living Dead, slams the meatloaf down on the table and storms out of the room, while everyone else wearily returns to their peas and carrots.
Oh wait, your family never does that? And you’ve never heard of the Zombies vs. Unicorns debate?
Well, here’s your chance…
Zombies vs. Unicorns is a short-story anthology compiled by Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles) and Justine Larbalestier (Magic or Madness Trilogy) to settle the debate they’ve been having on Justine’s website since February 2007. Which is better: zombies or unicorns? In order to finally put an end to the argument, which has been raging across web forums and Youtube, the two decided to gather up the troops and have one final showdown.
The result is an imaginative anthology, a crazy mix of YA Fantasy and Horror that never fails to delight. While Holly (leading Team Unicorn) and Justine (leading Team Zombie) don’t have stories of their own to contribute, their joint introductions and reoccurring commentary are light-hearted and hilarious to read. Team Zombie and Team Unicorn each have a great line-up of popular YA authors, who are listed below with a few sentences about each of their stories.
The Highest Justice (Garth Nix): This story centers on the relationship between unicorns and royalty that is so often referred to in folklore. Ultimately, it is a very solid story that has a more traditional, high fantasy feel than some of the other stories in the anthology.
Purity Test (Naomi Novik): While The Highest Justice is a very traditional story, Purity Test is purposefully as untraditional as possible. With protagonists like a sarcastic unicorn and a supposed “virgin”, Purity Test hilariously lampshades fairy tale tropes and clichés.
A Thousand Flowers (Margo Lanagan): The first “dark” unicorn story in the anthology. Though there is a very confusing jump between first person narrators, this is a wonderful story that is as mysterious as it is haunting.
The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn (Diana Peterfreund): Though the premise sounds a bit ridiculous, the story pulls it off spectacularly. Beware of the abrupt ending, though; I would love to see this one continued as a novella!
Princess Prettypants (Meg Cabot): Take a bunch of teens dealing with typical teen problems and throw in a rainbow farting unicorn. The results are awesome. This is another one I wouldn’t mind seeing as a novella.
The Third Virgin (Kathleen Duey): This is probably my favorite of the unicorn stories. The Third Virgin is reminiscent of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, but takes the premise in a more dark and philosophical direction. Personally, I feel this is the championing story of Team Unicorn.
Love Will Tear Us Apart (Alaya Dawn Johnson): This one is more of a cannibal story than a zombie story, as Holly gleefully points out, but it’s great nonetheless. The relationship between the main character and his love interest is so well rendered and fascinating. It’s a blossoming romance (with only a little brain-eating).
Bougainvillea (Carrie Ryan): This is the most serious of the zombie stories, and is wonderfully infused with Spanish culture. Bougainvillea is a great story, with arguably the strongest heroine in the anthology.
Children of the Revolution (Maureen Johnson): What’s creepier than zombie? Children zombies. Without spoiling too much, this story has an interesting take on zombies that is not likely to be forgotten any time soon.
Inoculata (Scott Westerfeld): It’s bad enough living in a world filled with zombies, but even worse living in a fenced survivor camp. This story explores the theme of what freedom really means, and what happens when previously denied possibilities become possible again. Great story for any zombie fan.
Cold Hands (Cassandra Clare): In traditional folklore zombies did not necessarily shuffle around and moan for brains. Claire takes the original concept of the zombie, and spins it into an interesting love story to great effect. This was probably my favorite story for Team Zombie.
Prom Night (Libba Bray): Like Westerfeld’s story, Prom Night explores the difference between living and surviving. With some unforgettable characters, particularly the stoic protagonist and her wise-cracking partner, and a stunning conclusion, the final story for Team Zombie ends with a bang.
Despite the light-hearted tone of the debate, Zombie vs. Unicorns is a great anthology that contains both humorous and powerful stories. While you may love all the stories, remember: this is war. Which side are you on?
Genre: YA Short Story Anthology/Fantasy/Dark Fantasy/Horror
This Zombies vs. Unicorns book review was written by Alison Mirabella
Have you read Zombies vs. Unicorns?
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Zombies vs. Unicorns reader reviews
Emmaline from US
I only read it because of Cassandra Clare, but it was really good. And i ended up reading all of the sections.
Rosie from US
Best book of my life so far. And I'm a book worm. Read this now.
Carley from United States
One of the best books I have ever read.
9.8/10 from 4 reviews
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