Wednesday, October 7, 2009

REVIEW: Rampant

Peterfreund, D.  (2009).  Rampant.  New York:  HarperTeen.


PLOT SUMMARY:  Astrid is babysitting the Myerson girls, reading inane unicorn stories that go against all that her possibly-crazy mother has taught her about the dangers of those violent, poisonous (but luckily extinct) beasts.  A little later that night, while outside the Myerson house with her kinda-boyfriend, Astrid and Brandt are attacked by a unicorn.  Not so extinct afterall, huh?  

Soon, Aster finds herself shipped off to Rome to be trained to become a Unicorn hunter, one of the few who can protect humans from the malevolent mythic monsters (Say that 10 times, fast!).  As more girls arrive to be trained, they struggle to determine their roles and goals (but surprisingly have no real language difficulties despite the fact that they're from a number of different countries).

With similarities to the seventh season of Buffy when new slayers must share space and train together, Rampant is a wonderful YA fantasy read for students who love strong female protagonists.

I luuuuuuuurve this book.  I want to have its unicorn babies.  Peterfreund's writing is humorous, descriptive and thought provoking.

The concept of ill-intentioned unicorns is wonderful fun.  I mean, really, that horn doesn't spread love and peaceful feelings.

But what I especially love is the way that Peterfreund addresses the understanding that a girl's virginity was especially prized by the creatures.  This serves as an way to discuss modern and historical understandings of virginity, gender roles and female empowerment.  Not a topic that's easy to breach just willy-nilly in a fun way with many young adults.

Other themes in Rampant include tension between science and magic (Astrid aspires to be a medical doctor, but is thrust in a world of magic.  Something she didn't even believe existed until her boyfriend is attacked by a unicorn).

In conclusion, is there any way that I could become a unicorn hunter?  I'm a little old, but I'm willing to do paperwork.  Maybe Peterfreund could just write me into the next book?  I'm guessing there will be one since a few questions remained unanswered.


This is a great fantasy recommendation for students who love, hate or "meh" unicorns.

While I wouldn't suggest a high school teacher stand up and ask "how many of you girls are virgins, anyone?  Congrats!  Those of you who still are can still be in the presence and potentially kill unicorns!  This is the book for you!  Yays!"  But this could be a good mother-daughter read.  Together, mom and daughter can look at Astrid's relationship with her mom.  They can discuss pressure to have sex, reasons to choose to have sex, reasons to choose not to have sex.  The topic of what qualifies as rape can also be broached.

Rampant can also be used to discuss the experience of being hated, solely for you can't help being, a good metaphor for some religious, cultural, and national conflicts or to discuss the experience of being an outsider.


"I will never really leave," said the unicorn.  Diamond sparkles floated from the tip of its glittering silver horn. 'I will always live in your heart.'"
I swallowed the bile rising in my throat and forced myself to continue reading.
"Then the unicorn turned and galloped away, its fluffy pink tail swinging merrily as it spread its iridescent wings to the morning sunshine."
Oh, no.  Not wings, too" (p. 1).

"Unicorns are man-eating monsters.  They don't have wings, they aren't lavender or sparkly, and you could never catch one to ride without its goring you through the sternum.  and even if it somehow managed to miss your major arteries--and it never misses--you;d still die from the deadly poison in its horn.  But don't worry.  My great-great-great-great-great-aunt Clothilde killed the last one a hundred and fifty years ago" (pp. 2-3).

"Six generations ago, our ancestor Clothilde gave her life to protect people from the karkadann [a type of unicorn].  Now you hae a chance to--"
"Do the same?"  I crossed my arms.  "Forgive me if enforced lifelong celibacy and possible death by dismemberment and poisoning don't exactly get me excited" (pp. 30-31).

"So, you want to be a unicorn hunter," I mumbled, and opened the brochure.  The businessman seated beside me gave me an odd look, and I ducked my head as far behind the pages as it could go" (p. 32).

"Is that what the nuns here were called?  The Order of the Lioness?  That's a kick-ass name."
"They were kick-ass nuns."  Nuns who stopped plagues.  Nuns who killed monsters.  Nuns who had the power to save the world.  Or so Lilith would have me believe.
"Are there any left?"
I swallowed.  He was talking to one.  Or one who was about to be" (p. 86).


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