Vague spoilers in some, but nothing too detailed.
I’m going into this book team unicorn, we’ll see how I feel by the end.
“The Highest Justice” by Garth Nix
Team Unicorn starts off kind of weak with this story by Garth Nix. I’ve read some of his other short stories and I think I’ve come to the realization that his writing just isn’t for me. I read this story several years ago when I first got the book and I didn’t like it then but I decided to give it a second chance and I still don’t like it. It’s not a horrible story, but I couldn’t get into the writing and it wasn’t as interesting as the others. I’m not a huge fan of stories about a princess and her unicorn and, even though there was more to it than just that, I didn’t think it was enough to make me really like it.
One and a half out of five stars.
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Alaya Dawn Johnson
This part is probably going to be pretty long because I’m obsessed with this short story and I have a lot of emotions. I don’t know why I think it’s as beautiful as I do. Probably because I spent most of my early teenage years listening to exclusively My Chemical Romance and it’s made me see some kind of sick beauty in death?
Team Zombie starts with one of the most beautiful short stories I’ve ever read. I love this more than words can express. I’ve read this countless times over the past few years, and every time it’s still just as beautiful as it was the first time I read it-possibly even more so. I didn’t expect something so beautiful, but also so sad from a story that started with an Arctic Monkeys reference and then goes on to talk about eating people.
I didn’t notice until this time reading it, but it’s full of references to songs, it’s constantly mentioning bands, and it’s amazing. I actually started listening to several new bands just because they were mentioned in this. I don’t know how to properly express how much I loved the music references in this without just screaming. Even if you don’t like zombies but you do like alternative music, you should read this.
The way it’s narrated is so interesting. For most of the story he’s very casual with whatever he talks about. He discusses not being able to remember whether or not he ate his sister as if he is simply discussing the weather. And then he says that he doesn’t feel that bad about killing people. It has this bit: “It only bothers me sometimes. Like when they love Joy Division. Like when they laugh.” Earlier in the paragraph, and in the paragraphs before, he had been talking very casually about killing and eating people, and then it just gets very suddenly sad. But right after that it drops you right back into the casual narration. Maybe he’s trying to cover his pain by swearing a lot and being snarky. Whatever the reason for it, I really liked it.
There’s also a part later in the story where you get this line: “When you decide to check yourself out, the difference between a gun and a rope is how long it takes to tie the knot.” In any other story I would have found this line irritating and I would have said it was trying to be overly profound and dramatic, but in this it works. That entire section is very beautiful and dark, and it’s very different than the rest of the story, but it works so well and I love it.
Five out of five stars for the most amazing zombie story I’ve ever read.
“Purity Test” by Naomi Novik
Even though this one wasn’t as sad or beautiful as the last one, it was still one of my favorites. It’s funny and there’s a snarky unicorn, what isn’t there to love?
Five out of five stars.
“Bougainvillea” by Carrie Ryan
I read this story a few years ago and wasn’t particularly fond of it, so going into it this time I didn’t have super high hopes. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it this time. I think part of the reason I didn’t like it as much years ago might be because it was the longest in the book so far and I was lazy. Even though it is longer than the ones before it, it doesn’t feel like it’s a really long story, and I like the way it’s told in sections with the things that happened before and the things happening now. I can’t remember reading anything else that was told like that and I liked it.
Four out of five stars.
“A Thousand Flowers” by Margo Lanagan
This story was weird. When I tried to read it before, I literally got three or four pages in and then I stopped. This was actually the story that made me put down the anthology.
This story switched narrators without warning and without saying that they had switched. Which was confusing the first time they did it because it switched from being the guy’s personal narrative to being a girl’s personal narrative, and then after that an old woman took over. I’m fine with narrators switching throughout a story, but this was weird and the first time they did it I didn’t realize that it happened.
Before the story, there was something about how this was about “the contradiction of the unicorn” or something like that, so I expected the unicorn to be a villain in some way or another. And I guess it was but it was weird and the unicorn was barely in the story. Also, a girl has the unicorn’s baby and… Yeah. There isn’t a better way to describe it, really. I don’t know what to say.
One out of five stars.
“The Children of the Revolution” by Maureen Johnson
Some vague spoilers in this one.
This one was kind of weird and seemed almost a little rushed in places. That didn’t make it bad. Weird things are cool, and it wasn’t too rushed, but I feel like there could have been more. Maybe she could have spent more time with the children before going into their room and getting bitten? I don’t know. Most of the story was at the farm and then her infected. I feel like the weird dead kids should have taken up more of the story. I expected there to be more of a middle, where she spent more time with the weird dead kids. Not that there wasn’t a middle, I just didn’t realize that the middle was the middle and then it was the end. That said, it was still good and I still liked it.
Three out of five stars.
“The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Unicorn” by Diana Peterfreund
This unicorn story was really nice to read after having to force myself to finish “A Thousand Flowers.” Overall, it was good and I liked it. No matter if you’re team unicorn or team zombie, you’ll probably like it ‘cause it was cool.
I do, however, have one kind of stupid complaint, and one more reasonable complaint.
First, the stupid complaint. There was a lot of religion in it. It wasn’t, like, hitting you over the head with religion. There was no killer unicorn Jesus or something (I laughed so hard writing that), but it was there. I personally don’t see why a significant part of the plot had to be about Wen wondering if God was testing her. Unicorns existed and they killed people and it was awesome, there doesn’t need to be random stuff about religion. To be fair, though, I’m not a religious person, so maybe if you were you wouldn’t be bothered by this.
Now for the more reasonable complaint. I didn’t like the amount of detail put into the descriptions of Flower eating animals. Especially the rabbit. I don’t care if the killer unicorn is eating animals. That makes sense. It’s a killer unicorn. What I don’t like is that the author felt the need to describe how mangled the rabbit’s corpse was and exactly what made it recognizable as a rabbit. I also didn’t like the thing about that bat’s bones crunching and their one last scream before they died. There is a place where gore is necessary, but this was not it.
Three and a half out of five stars.
“Inoculata” by Scott Westerfeld
Spoilers here, too.
This story is thirty-two pages long and almost nothing happens. It wasn’t a bad story, there just wasn’t much there. They figure out that they can kind of infect themselves with the zombie virus but not die and then be immune to the zombies (kind of like cow pox), they infect themselves with the thing, they steal a car, and then they leave. And that’s it. There was a kind of fight scene at the end and people died (?), but I wasn’t really connected to any of the characters. In the end, I was left wanting more.
Two out of five stars.
“Princess Prettypants” by Meg Cabot
I haven’t read a Meg Cabot book since I was thirteen. I honestly didn’t think I would like this.
I so wrong.
This was the unicorn short story I was waiting for! The other stories seemed to be trying to make unicorns edgy, or make them be, for lack of a better word, shocking. The only one, other than this, that didn’t seem to try to make unicorns hardcore was “Purity Test”. This story had a completely stereotypical unicorn and it was great. This unicorn literally farted rainbows and I loved it. This story, the unicorn, and its gas were a breath of fresh air from the “edgy” unicorn stories in this book. There you have it, the fart joke. There was a little bit of cheesy romance at the end but the unicorn totally makes up for it.
Four and a half out of five stars.
“Cold Hands” by Cassandra Clare
These zombies didn’t even feel like zombies. They didn’t hunger for brains, they weren’t scary. They just seemed kind of sulky and boring.
Also, there wasn’t much description of the world, so I found it hard to kind of imagine where they were and what it looked like. You don’t notice good world building until you don’t have it. There literally weren’t even any descriptions of the rooms any of the characters were in. Like, take one minute and write about how the wallpaper was yellowed with age, or how a certain stair always creaked when anyone stepped on it. There was nothing and it made the story feel empty.
Two out of five stars.
“The Third Virgin” by Kathleen Duey
Remember that thing I said about edgy unicorns? Yeah. This was about an edgy, suicidal unicorn who killed people. I don’t even know what to say. I didn’t really like it.
One out of five stars.
“Prom Night” by Libba Bray
Similar to “Inoculata,” this is one where not a lot of stuff happens. But in this one even less happens. They kill one zombie and then to go to prom. There’s a lot more backstory in this one and I felt closer to the characters, I just wished that a little more happened. I might have liked this one just a bit more than “Inoculata”? Or maybe I liked them about the same and I just think that I liked this one more because I read it more recently so it’s fresh in my mind where the other one wasn’t. It wasn’t the best zombie story in the book, but it was better than the edgy unicorn stories.
Two out of five stars.
So I averaged the ratings for the unicorn stories and got 2.584. For the zombie stories I got 3. So apparently I’m team zombie now. Younger, dress-wearing, pink loving me is horrified.
For my final rating rating, I’m giving it four out of five stars. I know that if you average all of the ratings you don’t get four stars (you actually get 2.792), but I loved some of these stories. I think they made up for the ones I didn’t like.