Much as I love short story anthologies, I tend to find them lying around half-finished, simply because it is so easy to put them down at the end of a story and get sidetracked by some other shiny book. So although I bought this book and started reading it back in September when it was first released, it was only recently that I picked it up again and realized I had a couple stories left to go.
The premise of this anthology is an argument started via blog between YA authors Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black about the relative merits of these mythological creatures. The stories alternate between zombies and unicorns, with a few combining the two. The editors provide introductions to each story, arguing the virtues of Team Zombie (Larbalestier) and Team Unicorn (Black). Many big-name YA authors have contributed, including Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, and Scott Westerfeld. The bickering between the editors feels, at times, a bit contrived, but the stories deliver in fun and exciting ways.
Personally, I was firmly on Team Unicorn when I picked this book up. In a revelation that is sure to send shock waves through the book blogosphere, I must admit: I am not a fan of zombie literature. I know it has been very popular of late, with World War Z and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies hitting bestseller lists everywhere. But I just do not see the appeal of shuffling, leaking, previously-dead people trying to eat your brain. Unicorns, on the other hand, have a complex and contradictory mythology. They have healing powers and a sense of purity about them, and yet they can also be deadly. They have an air of mystery about them. They glow. And they don’t leak body fluids.
The unicorn stories were excellent, including some that made me laugh out loud and some that made me shiver. But the real surprise to me was finding out that I do like zombie literature, or at least some of the stories featured in this book. Carrie Ryan’s story, set in the same world as her Forest of Hands and Teeth series, convinced me to add those books to my TBR. I had never read Cassandra Clare’s books, either, because I’m just as uninterested in vampires as I am in zombies. After thoroughly enjoying her zombie tale, however, I find myself reconsidering.
In the end, that’s what I love about these anthologies: they introduce me to authors I’ve been unwilling to try in full-length book form, giving me a bite-sized sample of what they can do. And, more often than not, it’s enough to get me to admit that I may have been wrong about zombies – and possibly vampires, too. Maybe there’s room in this crazy universe for Team Unicorn and Team Zombie to peacefully co-exist, after all.
(A final note: This was one of my best-selling staff picks. It stayed on my display for 5 months, and I lost count of how many times I reordered it.)