Title: Zombies vs. Unicorns
Compiled by: Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black
Authors: Team Unicorn: Kathleen Duey, Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan, Naomi Novik, and Diana Peterfreund
Team Zombie: Libba Bray, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld, and Carrie Ryan
ISBN: 9781416989530
Pages: 418 pages
Publisher/Date: Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2010.

Since the dawn of time on question has dominated all others: Zombies or Unicorns?
Well, okay, maybe not since the dawn of time, but definitely since February 2007. That was the day Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier began a heated exchange about the creatures’ relative merits on Justine’s blog. Since then the question has become an unstoppable Internet meme, crowding comment threads and even making it to YouTube.
Here in the real world Holly and Justine are often called upon to defend, respectively, unicorns and zombies. The whole thing has gotten so out of hand that the only remedy is . . .
Zombies vs. Unicorns. The anthology. (Introduction)

In this compilation of twelve short stories featuring either zombies or unicorns (and in one instance, both), Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black have searched the globe (okay, primarily Australia and the United States) for contributions to their cause. Before each story Justine and Holly provide commentary that lasts about a page or two, debating the pros or cons of each group and focusing on an aspect presented in the story. These include the slow, shambling walk of zombies, the virgin fascination of unicorns, and the dangers of these creatures respective weapons, whether it’s a unicorn’s horn or the zombie’s teeth. I’ll be honest, I think Justine’s impassioned arguments gain a little more ground then Holly’s cold and calculating rationale, but that’s up for debate just as which one is best is up for debate. I think they really thought over this compilation, providing readers with icons to designate zombie stories from unicorn stories to ensure that “No unwary zombie fan will accidentally start reading a unicorn story or vice versa.”

Each of these stories are so unique that it wouldn’t be fair to summarize just one. I will comment on my favorites however. Garth Nix opens things up, and although it’s billed as a unicorn story it is the only contribution that contains both a unicorn AND a zombie, although Justine writes in the introduction that he was “supposed to write a zombie-unicorn story. But he messed it up, didn’t he?” Zombie fans might appreciate knowing about this one, even if it is marked as a unicorn story. Meg Cabot’s Princess Prettypants stands out as one of the most humorous, filled with a farting unicorn given as a birthday present who proves to her skeptical owner that there are benefits to owning a unicorn. Naomi Novik’s snarky and smart-mouthed unicorn comes in a close second, who doesn’t seem to care if he actually gets a virgin or not (“Are you a lesbian? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count toward virginity.” “I’m pretty sure it does,” Alison said, “and sorry, but no.” (54))

On the zombie side of things, Alaya Dawn Johnson writes a love story that reminds me slightly of Romeo and Juliet, where homosexual star-crossed lovers must come to terms with the parent’s qualms about the relationship. (Hey, I said slightly). Maureen Johnson tells a spooky story of babysitting gone bad in The Children of the Revolution and provides a reminder that maybe the weird people who live at the top of the hill live there for a reason. Cassandra Clare contributes a story of political intrigue and corruption as a prince seeks justice for his murder.

I can see these stories having a lot of teen appeal, and it might encourage other such compilations in the future. I’m seriously considering having this be one of my teen book discussion books next year because of the wide variety of stories, voices, and contributions. Readers of this series will be scrambling to find more novels by the authors they enjoined the most, so you’d better prepare your fiction areas with an appropriate number of novels. And if you’re interested in finding the blog post that started it all, which really had almost nothing to do with zombies initially, click here — really, scroll down to the comments section. (okay, it continues in the comments here and here). Actually, it would probably be easier just to click on the “Zombie” tag, and you can see how many times the creatures really do get mentioned on her blog.

On a personal note, one of the reasons I would love to be a young adult author is because I could be friends with all these great authors and have debates like whether zombies or unicorns are better. Oh, I dream of that day…

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