Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Zombies vs. Unicorns, ed. by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier

I've realized my TBR spreadsheet has a failing - I almost never remember to add titles that I pick up spontaneously. Like I mentioned in my recap of the Zombies vs. Unicorns event, I was aware of this title for awhile but never put it on my list because unicorns are meh. And since it wasn't on my list, when I was browsing for titles to review, it wasn't there to remind me to review it!

But I'll delay no further!

Zombies vs. UnicornsThe collection is divided into Team Zombie and Team Unicorn, each represented by one of our illustrious editors who introduce each story (Holly is for the unicorns, Justine for the zombies). Six authors tackle each side, and the authors represented are a virtual who's who of YA publishing today - Scott Westerfeld, Carrie Ryan, Maureen Johnson and Libba Bray to name the ones I'd read before picking up this collection. On both sides, the stories range from somewhat traditional representations of their genres (horrific zombie stories, high fantasy-style unicorns) to slapstick comedy, with subversions of the standard tropes happening all over the place. Murderous unicorns and zombies who can love both make appearances.

On Team Zombie, my two favorite stories are Scott Westerfeld's, set on an abandoned pot farm where the adults are losing it while the kids long for some adventure beyond the fences, and Maureen Johnson's, where a celebrity adherent to a strange religion has turned her adopted children into zombies as part of a religious rite. Carrie Ryan's story is set in the same universe as The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves and is a great addition to that world. I wasn't a fan of the first book, but the subsequent stories have really grown on me.

Over on Team Unicorn, I loved Naomi Novik's unicorn who plays fast and lose with the rules of virginity, and Meg Cabot's avenging unicorn. Diana Peterfreund's story is set in her already existing killer unicorns universe, and has almost convinced me that I need to hunt down those other books. The story works well on its own, but I was constantly wondering if these characters had a bigger life in the other novels or if, like in Carrie Ryan's story, these were all-new characters set in a familiar world.

I really loved that these are authors who seem truly committed to diversity, as there are multiple stories with non-white protagonists and there are two stories with queer protagonists. Whether you're Team Zombie or Team Unicorn, there really is something for everyone here.

If you have even a passing interest in zombies or unicorns, I highly recommend you check this out. With such a high caliber group of authors, you're sure to find something to love, and might even be persuaded to some of the other side's arguments. And you'll probably come away with a few new authors whose non-zombie/unicorn work you want to go check out.
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