"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Zombies vs. Unicorns

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

This title is on the 10th-12th grade list for Camp Read-A-Lot, but I couldn't resist it.

Black and Larbalestier have put together a young adult collection with outstanding authors such as Garth Nix, Libba Bray and Scott Westerfield, contributing short stories about either, you guessed it, zombies or unicorns. But don’t be fooled into believing that the unicorn tales are all sparkle and innocence and that these zombies are nothing but shuffle, drool and teeth. Many of the stories are unsettling in various ways, some will make you laugh and there is occasionally unexpected romance.

Although I’ve been a solid unicorn fan since my teen years and was traumatized by a college viewing of George A. Romero’s film Dawn of the Dead, I have to admire several of the zombie stories here. Maureen Johnson’s “Children of the Revolution” combines college freshmen working on an organic berry farm in England for a summer and a famous actress with an unusual religion and even odder children. These ingredients cook up a tale that is both funny and creepy. In “Bougainvillea,” Carrie Ryan gives us a new heroine who is gutsier and even more interesting than her protagonist in The Forest of Hands and Teeth. My favorite of the collection, Libba Bray’s “Prom Night” takes us to the eve of that most important teen event but the photo snapping parents are gone and teens from the high school’s student government police against the walking dead.

After the zombie flirtation, I return to my fascination with unicorns. I prefer my unicorns wild and mysterious, like any magical creature. Margo Lanagan delivers this in spades in “A Thousand Flowers,” a story regarding the complete (ahem) union of a maiden princess and a unicorn, and the consequences that follow. Garth Nix, while including a zombie queen in the plot of “The Highest Justice”, provides a solemn, unflinching Unicorn that meets out just rewards to a king and his witchy mistress. And because everyone likes to think that they can tame the unmanageable, readers can live vicariously through Diana Peterfreund’s “The Care and Feeding of Your Killer Baby Unicorn.”

All together, this is a pretty cool collection.

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