Friday, April 22, 2011

Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black

Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010. 415 pp. ISBN 9781416989530 

Which makes for better fiction: zombies or unicorns?  Read through these twelve inventive tales and decide for yourself!

Fantasy, Horror

This is an anthology of twelve short stories by YA authors, half about zombies and half about unicorns.  The premise by which the editors unite the tales is that they wish readers to read them all and then decide whether zombies or unicorns make for better subject matter for fiction. Each story is preceded by a page of banter between editors Larbalestier and Black about the merits of zombies and unicorns.  Stories vary widely in theme and setting, all the way from Margo Lanagans’ seemingly Middle Ages tale, A Thousand Flowers, which concerns a royal lady who will make the ultimate sacrifice to be with her true love, to Carrie Ryan’s futuristic Bouganvillea, in which a young girl’s mettle is tested .
I really loved the great majority of these stories.  Although it is hard to narrow it down, my favorite is Naomi Novik's Purity Test just because it's so zany, centering around a teenage girl conscripted to help rescue a group of baby unicorns in New York City.  I especially love the unicorn Belcazar's sarcasm, and his lines about Fairyland and chocolate milk really tickle my funnybone for some reason.  I also loved Bouganvillea by Carrie Ryan.  She manages to convey such a heavy expectant mood, and I like the growth and ultimate strength shown by Iza, the main character.  The black humor and thought-provoking nature of  Alayna Dawn Johnson's Love Will Tear Us Apart are also just great.

I think that one uniting factor of several of the stories is that protagonists are called upon to act decisively in the interest of self-preservation or in order to be true to themselves.  This could inspire teens in any situation in which courage is called for.

Some of the stories sounded really funny and/or thought-provoking.

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