Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Friday, May 17, 2013

Plot Summary:
 In this collection of short stories, one must ask: Zombies or Unicorns. Featuring stories from award-winning and popular YA authors, the question that has been nagging fantasy fans for decades is explored. For example, what if there really was an epic battle waged between both zombies and unicorns? Would the human race survive? Or what if one is already a zombie and having a tough time reconciling with the fact that we are not really human and, guess what, in love with human. How about the fact that is unicorns needed help from pure young maidens and they chose one of us because there was no one else left who met their demands? What about the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse? Is it possible for us to start all over again and pretend nothing every happened? Lastly, what if we wanted to check out the local "freak" show just to be near the hot guy we are crushing, only to find out that unicorns actually exist, but are not the pretty ponies we dreamed of. All of these questions are asked and no matter the result, there is always a chance that things could end perfectly or horrifically.  Despite the end result, the best part about it all, is that everyone will have an experience they will never, ever forget.

Critical Evaluation:
This is seriously one of the best collection of short stories I have ever read. Everything single one of these stories have their own flavor that keeps it alive and appealing to all readers. Unlike most anthologies, the editors provide a beautiful introduction to each story where readers not only get to learn about the author, but what he or she thinks about zombies and/or unicorns. I absolutely loved the one by Naomi Novik, entitled Purity Test, because the premise is so tongue-in-cheek and just plain creative. Although I am not an expert on unicorn folklore, I am pretty sure they never have had contact with human; they are the purest of the species and humans can ruin that innocence. Granted, the only way I know that is because I have watched the film, Legend, a million times, it makes sense why humans are not allowed near Unicorns. However, this belief is debunked because a unicorn needs the help of a female virgin to save the unicorn species. The question that is asked is: why? Furthermore, why did the unicorn approach a girl who, unfortunately, makes poor decisions, which is evident in the very first ten sentences of the story. The question that I had in my mind is what is the real definition of purity? Although popular culture states that being a virgin means one is not sexually active, but what about purity of the mind and soul? With all of the witty dialogue, is a serious discussion of what it means to be pure and how a little faith can go a long way. This is just an example of the brilliance that is in this collection and I am so going to use this collection when I begin my teen story time program!

Information about the Author:
According to their personal websites:
Holly has also been a frequent contributor to anthologies, and has co-edited three of them: Geektastic (with Cecil Castellucci, 2009), Zombies vs. Unicorns (with Justine Larbalestier, 2010), and Bordertown (with Ellen Kushner, 2011). Her first collection of short fiction, Poison Eaters and Other Stories, came out in 2010 from Small Beer Press. She has just finished the third book in her Eisner-nominated graphic novel series, The Good Neighbors, and is working on Red Glove, the second novel in The Curse Workers series. White Cat, the first in the series, is out as of May 2010, and is about capers, curse magic, and memory.
Holly lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret library.
Justine Larbalestier FAQ:
Q: Where were you born?
A: Sydney, Australia. In Paddington Women’s Hospital, which is now a block of flats.
Q: How do you pronounce your surname?
A: Lar-bal-est-ee-air. It can also be pronounced Lar-bal-est-ee-ay or Lar-bal-est-ee-er. Those are all fine by me. Friends at school used to pronounce it: Lavaworm. I have to really like you to let you get away with that one, but.
Q: What’s it like living with another writer?
A: Wonderful. I’m very lucky because even if I wasn’t married to him I’d be a Scott Westerfeld fan. This way I get to read and comment on everything he writes first. He’s also a fabulous editor and reads and comments on all my work.
Q: Do you both write in the same room? Or do you have separate studies? Isn’t it annoying having someone else working so close by?
A: Mostly we write in the same room, sometimes not, though we’re always within shouting distance of one another. Scott and me travel a lot and write in many different places on our trusty and very transportable laptops. Magic or Madness was written in three different houses in Sydney, one in New York City and two in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. Magic Lessons was written in two different houses in Sydney, one in New York City and one in Buenos Aires. Magic’s Child was written in San Miguel de Allende, Sydney and New York City. Liar was written in two different flats: one in NYC (the East Village) and the other in Sydney (Surry Hills).
It’s not even slightly annoying writing in the same room as Scott. We get to ask each other for synonyms, how to spell things, and whether Agnetha is an okay name for a character? (Apparently not.) It makes writing even more fun.
Q: What’s it like living in two countries?
A: (For those who don’t know, me and Scott spend half the year in Sydney, where I’m from, and half in NYC, where Scott has lived the majority of his life.)
Living in two places is most excellent. I have two sets of friends. Two sets of favourite restaurants. Two sets of everything really. When it’s six months at home and then six months in New York City I rarely get homesick and nor does Scott. Works out pefectly. Also lots of summer. I love me some summer.

Teen Short Stories

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Zombies vs. Unicorns:
  • 21 Proms edited by David Levithan and Daniel Ehrenhaft
  • Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Catelluci

Awards & Recognition:


"Forget vampires vs. werewolves; the hottest feud is between fans of the fiercely magical horses and the shambling, brain-eating undead. . . . Who is the victor in this epic smackdown? Readers, of course!" - Kirkus Reviews

* "In this offbeat anthology, editors Black and Larbalestier embark upon a literary throw-down to determine which is superior: zombies or unicorns. . . . Without a clunker in the bunch, this anthology more than lives up to the potential its concept suggests. Zombies or unicorns? There's no clear winner, unless it's readers." - Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Who ultimately wins? To reuse an old joke: everyone." - Booklist

* "This is a must-have for fantasy collections.” - School Library Journal, starred review

{ 1 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Interesting book over here and I love the way you caught my attention about this collection. It's definitely something that I'll read ASAP.


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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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