Review of Zombies vs. Unicorns
Let me first say that I don’t have a dog (or a zombie or a unicorn) in this fight. I bought this book for the sole reason that my two favorite authors, Libba Bray and Maureen Johnson, contributed to it. The book is an anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier, and the twelve authors involved battle it out to decide which mythical creature is best. As I mentioned, I didn’t choose a side before or after I read this anthology; I was in it purely for the writing.
Speaking of, the writing in this anthology is, overall, really awesome. There’s an author or two included in the count whose books I didn’t completely enjoy, but I found their short stories very enjoyable. There were other authors who I’d never heard of whose stories, I didn’t like so much. However, for the most part, Zombies vs. Unicorns is a study in good [YA] writing:
Carrie Ryan explores storytelling in a way I’ve never seen, dividing main character Iza’s storytelling into “Before” and “Now,” each time represented by past and present tense, respectively. The story is perfectly balanced between the tellings, and the ending is thrilling: Iza gets what she’s always dreamed of, and allows herself to savor it for a single second before deserting the dream for supreme power.
Scott Westerfeld’s zombie tale tackles both sexuality, desire, and the need to escape adults’ good intentions, no matter how inadvisable it seems.
In The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn, Diana Peterfreund writes beautifully from the viewpoint of Wendy, a girl who questions whether her ability to communicate with killer unicorns (one of whom ended the lives of her cousins) is the work of the devil and if her inability to kill a baby unicorn is her good Christian morals at work or giving into temptation.
My favorite story in the collection is Maureen Johnson’s Children of the Revolution. While I picked up this anthology because of her contribution, I am always amazed at Johnson’s ability to be screamingly funny at all times, but weave into that humor drama and tragedy in a way that keeps you mulling over what she’s done for long after you’ve finished. Sofie’s foul-mouthed voice is incredibly truthful, and her degeneration is artfully done and bugs me with its finality.
As I said, there were a few stories in the anthology that I didn’t enjoy. The first contribution, Garth Nix’s unicorn tale, failed to hold my attention, as nothing seemed to actually happen. Likewise, I couldn’t even finish Margo Lanagan’s A Thousand Flowers because I kept reading the same part over and over, unable to comprehend what was happening (then again, I was reading it during a mind-numbing graduation rehearsal, so perhaps I should give it another go.)
Whether you care or not about zombies and/or unicorns, this is an anthology you should pick up. It’s hard to review an anthology, I’ve discovered, so I’ll just leave you with a ton of awesometastic quotes:
From Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson:
So, he smells like the best meal you’ve ever eaten, but you kind of want to bone him, too. Can’t have it both ways. You aren’t a necro. But a boy’s got to eat- maybe you could just nibble a bit at the edges? A part he won’t miss, and then fuck the rest of him. Eat an arm or something. He can still fuck with one arm. Not that well, though. Probably wouldn’t like it. Okay, a hand. Who ever needed a left hand?… A pinky? Damn, you might as well starve yourself.
I had a sister. She was younger than me and dumb in that dumb little sister way, which means that she’ll probably grow up to be a neurochemist and invent the cure for spongiform encephalopathy.
Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan
Iza smiles just a little. Her father has barely spoken to her in a month; she hears his words only through others. Iza wonders if she should make it a game: How long can she go without speaking to him?
Iza nods her head, deciding it’s not lying if she doesn’t say the words.
He swallows, his throat pushing against the blade. Iza can hear the desperation in his voice, but that’s nothing new. The entire world is desperate.
The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson
When trolls cut classes, you think they are losers. When the beautiful and/or reasonably erudite do the same things to sit on the library steps and read poetry, you think they are on to something deep…You never stop to think that it shouldn’t take half a semester to read one book of poems… that maybe he’s not so much reading as getting really high every morning.
We met when I basically fell over him on my way out of the library, which led to three weeks of I-fell-for-you jokes that he laughed at every time. (This is because he was very, very high and had no memory of my telling them before, and also he laughed at everything, including sneezes and radiators and doorknobs and long silences.)
Justine’s preface to The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn:
Of course, the unicorn obsession with virginity remains a concern. Some of us nonvirgins are quite lovely, you know.
The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Dana Peterfreund:
[Yves] on the stoop, and there’s a space the size of [his crush] Summer between us.
Justine’s preface to Inoculata:
The job of every generation is to discover the flaws of the one that came before. That’s part of growing up, figuring out all the ways your parents and their friends are broken.
Inoculata by Scott Westerfeld:
Dr. Bill claims it was all about safety and sustenance. But he also says that the wire will last forever that chocolate can grow in Mississippi, and that one day we’ll learn to inoculate for zee bites, or maybe even cure the six billion.
Dr. Bill is generally full of shit. Just like the rest of them.
I lie to the grown-ups and say I haven’t been anywhere near the wire, and they decide it’s food poisoning. With no airplanes to bring us new flues, it’s all food poisoning these days… Someone’s always with me, forcing me to drink water that I’ll only puke up. They keep me in the isolation hut where Mrs. Zimmer died, even though food poisoning isn’t contagious, and they try not to make a big deal about the pistol on the bedside table.