Highly Inappropriate Tales For Young People

*I received Highly Inappropriate Tales For Young People by Douglas Coupland and Graham Roumieu as a submission for the YABA

The title of the collection is definitely accurate, these are not tales for children! On the other hand I think select teens will find it pretty amusing. It’s hilarious in an absurd, disturbing kind of way. I adored the evil juice box, because the concept and the drawings were pure awesomeness. I was fascinated by the weird exchange student’s story. A couple stories were a bit nauseating, but I’m a wuss and I know others who would find them delightful.

This would make a great gift for the whimsical, dark-humoured person in your life. Take note of the people on the cover of the book, these are not characters in the book but hyperbole of people’s reactions to it.

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Zombies vs. Unicorns

Zombies vs. Unicorns is an anthology I’ve been wanting to read for quite some time. I noticed it because I adore Holly Black’s writing, and some other authors I love are contributors. I’d always been a bit put off by zombies (especially the brain eating part) but the book Generation Dead, got me to look at them very differently.

The introduction of the book and the introductions to each of the stories are hilarious. I like the silly trash talk, what can I say? It reminded me a lot of the blog Forever Young Adult and I think this is actually the best audience for the anthology: adults who read YA with a drink in hand. There’s enough swearing, sexuality and substance abuse that I can see why libraries have been iffy about purchasing it for the teen area, and yet I think older teens and people in their early twenties will love it.

There isn’t really a consistent tone among the stories, which caused a bit of a problem for me. Maybe because I rarely read anthologies, I had trouble going from silly humour to dark and deadly. I enjoyed some stories  drastically more than others.

I will get into my enjoyment of individual stories in a moment, but you will notice that there is a trend where I lean towards one of these beasts

team unicornYep, that’s right, I’m team unicorn. Not really shocking given my distaste for cannibalism, brains and horror movies. However, I strongly prefer unicorns who kick butt to those that are pretty.

So it’s this guy not this one

So the breakdown:

  1. The Highest Justice by Garth Nix: This one amused me because it had both creatures in it. I didn’t think Jess reacted strongly enough to the mayhem but I liked the unicorn. 🙂
  2. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson: I liked that this was written like science fiction, with a logical explanation for the zombie. I found it disgusting as I expect to with a zombie story but I like the end. 🙂
  3. Purity Test by Naomi Novik: Pretty awesome, in that it mocks the need for virginity when it comes to dealing with unicorns. Also it references Harry Potter and the Troll knew about Big Macs. Funny stuff! 🙂
  4. Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan: I couldn’t get into it, I didn’t finish it. 😦
  5. A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan:  Ew… bestiality is not appropriate for YA books. The perspectives shifted too much for a short story, and well just ew. 😯
  6. The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson: This was odd. I can’t decide if I think turning Angelina Joli’s adoption of kids from around the world into a zombie joke is funny or offensive. The kids really creeped me out, and I felt bad for the narrator. It was one that sparked discussion but that made me uncomfortable. After the last two stories I was starting to wonder where this anthology was going. 😕
  7. The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund : I loved this story, it was by far my favourite in the anthology. I had high hopes for it after reading Rampant and I wasn’t disappointed.  Fabulous character development and world building. I want to raise a tiny meat-eating horse that makes me powerful…. 😀
  8. Innoculata by Scott Westerfeld: This is the first zombie story of the anthology that I fully enjoyed.  I want more zombie tales from Westerfeld! 😀
  9. Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot: delightful! I love the lame party, the boy next door, the kick butt unicorn revenge on stupid boys… 😀
  10. Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare: First off, I love the name Lychgate (but I think I’d use it with werewolves /lychans). Also comparing zombies to newborn kittens is golden. Definitely my favourite zombie story in the anthology, this reminded me of Generation Dead with its parallels to interracial couples. Leave it to Clare to have me second guessing my team of choice. 😀
  11. The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey: Disturbing but fascinating.  Interesting insight into addiction and self-harm.  🙂
  12. Prom Night by Libba Bray: Terrifying, depressing but well done.

I have mixed feelings about the book, since I loved some stories and was disturbed by others. Definitely not for just anyone but if you’re into either zombies or unicorns it’s worth a look.

Passing Strange

Passing Strange by Daniel Waters is a Generation Dead novel. While I think the book is most effective read within the series it can stand alone. I’m going to outline some major issues it deals with and then talk about the plot.

“I pretended I wasn’t depressed. I pretended I wasn’t in love–look where that got me. I pretended lots of other thing too, and now I’m pretending I’m alive.”

Issues It Deals With

Passing Strange (Generation Dead, #3)Depression:

“sometime almost feeling alive is worse than not feeling alive at all. When I was depressed, that’s what I felt like, like I was almost alive. And knowing I’d never quite make it the rest of the way” (Waters 144)

Karen became a zombie because she killed herself, and in this book she explores why she did it,  “the blue fog took me away” (145). Throughout the book Karen brings up a “fog” of sadness that prevented her from enjoying or even fully participating in life. She was held back by her depression, and it seemed to define her.

Waters uses Karen to argue that “there aren’t any reasons for most young suicides beyond depression, just triggers” (145). He also offers some ways of dealing with depression; “Friend who can listen are a good antidote to the fog” (177).  In fact love and friendship seem to be what bring zombies back, the ones who have supportive families or relationships have better dexterity and speech. Love gets you through the zombish fog of depression.

I like that Waters doesn’t brush over Karen’s family’s reactions to her suicide. Her mother doesn’t want to deal with her at all, her father seems hurt and distant, and her sister doesn’t realize it ever happened. Her father’s private way of dealing with her death is explored in some detail later in the book (149), I won’t spoil it but it made me relate to him a lot better.

Homosexuality 

It takes a long time in the novel for her to come out and say it, but a factor in her suicide was her inability to come out of the closet. She talks about her confusion about her feelings, her denial to herself about being in love.

“I didn’t want to be gay. I was too scared to be gay.”(203)

She discusses how her fear of showing her true feelings in public or being seen with the girl she loved hurt that girl she was ashamed of. Karen had an extremely painful coming out to her mother, and partly because of this she continued to date boys even as a zombie. She has trouble reconciling her faith and her sexuality, and finds it easier to tell the priest she killed herself than telling him she is a lesbian. I’m definitely not an expert on the difficulties of having a minority sexual orientation but I think Waters did a good job at exploring the difficulty LGBQ teens face.

The Insightfulness of Young Children

Karen’s little sister Katy sees that there is prejudice going on and she doesn’t like it. Waters uses a scene of playing with Barbies to show that kids pick up on things. Katy makes her prettiest Barbie a zombie like her sister. She explains to Karen that no one likes this Barbie because she is dead, but that the Barbie shouldn’t be sad, because she still thinks she’s nice and pretty. This is Katy’s way of telling Karen she sees that she is being mistreated but she still loves her.

When Karen gets depressed again and spends all day in her room her very young sister comes to the conclusion that “the bad mans got you!” because she knows from overhearing adults that zombies are being slaughtered.

Prejudice in General

The zombies in Waters world have no civil rights; “We can’t get insurance. We can’t vote, we can’t get married. There isn’t much we can do” (92). This reminds me of in X-Men when Gene Gray goes to Washington to fight for mutant rights, even though in Passing Strange we only hear snippets from Tommy who has done just that.

Ok so now that I’ve talked about what issues Waters explores are you intrigued?

Plot

Karen is badly wounded in the attack that takes place at the end of Kiss Of Life but discovers that unlike any recorded zombie she has the ability to heal!  In no time she is her beautiful self again and looks and moves more human than any of her undead friends. She dyes her hair, uses colour contacts, makeup and voila she can pass as human. She works at the mall pretending to be alive, partly to prove she can, partly to lay the way for future zombies and also because she likes being treated like a human. When Pete, the guy who killed Adam in Generation Dead, flirts with her and doesn’t recognize her from the time he threatened to kill her she sees an opportunity. Now she must tolerate dating Pete to get close and prove that he framed zombies for violence and prevent him from murdering her best friend.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed the book a lot but maybe not as much as Generation Dead. It dealt more directly with the issues that were touched on briefly in the other books, this was great but slowed down the action. There were a few really suspenseful chapters that kept me up late because I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what happened. I will read pretty much anything Waters writes because he’s been consistently awesome.

Kiss of Life

LOVED the book. Who knew zombie stories could be so awesome. Just like Generation Dead, Kiss of Life has powerful messages about race, acceptance, allowing yourself to be attracted to unconventional partners and standing up for your rights. I like that there are zombie extremists (like the gang Tommy writes about) in the book, because I think if Waters made every zombie lovable it would be unrealistic. In addition to all the larger societal issues the book deals with it is classic YA in that

  • It has characters like Margi trying to figure out what to do as a career
  • It talks about the various degrees of love, has Phoebe wondering what it is to love
  • It has a character get jealous when the man she dumped is able to move on before she has
  • It has rebels, bullies, punks, freaks and jocks that break up the highschool but those who cross the boundaries and are friends among multiple groups
  • It’s about figuring out what you believe in and how you can stand up for those beliefs, it’s about figuring out who you are

Really looking forward to reading more by Daniel Waters!