Rampant by Diana Peterfreund. Unicorns have come back from extinction! And rather than being the peaceful herbivores of legend, they are vicious, man-hunting beasts with deadly poisonous horns. The only people who have any chance of defeating them are virgin girls from certain family lines. Sixteen-year-old Astrid has never really believed her mother about this, until her tryst with a popular boy on the edge of the woods ends disastrously, with him being gored by a unicorn. Now he’s spreading vicious rumors about her at school, and even her best friend won’t talk to her. Worse yet, her mother has been talking with someone on the Internet who is re-opening a convent in Rome, the Order of the Lioness, devoted to training unicorn slayers, and paying the way there. Astrid is not enthused about giving up a normal teen life and the prospect of becoming a doctor or a medical researcher for killing endangered animals, but her mother isn’t about to give her a choice. And once she’s there, her life will never be the same. Dun dun DUNN!!!
Fans of Buffy should eat this up, and I’d recommend it for teens and adults. For those wanting to put it in the hands of kids or teens, here’s the run-down: There is violence, of course, and sexual situations, though no actual first-hand sex, as Astrid is telling the story and she more or less wants to retain the ability to hunt unicorns. There is also frank discussion among the mostly teen-aged girls at the convent about why they are still virgins in a time when most girls their age aren’t, which I found honest and interesting. I would, however, probably not give it to younger kids. I’m not sure how many teen boys would be interested in picking up a book with a wide-eyed girl staring at them from the cover, but if they could get past that, I think the action is steady enough to keep them interested. Astrid is very serious about all of this, but – well, I’m back to the Buffy again. There’s action, romance, adventure, humor, and a few serious underlying issues all together. It’s good modern fantasy with a low level of world-learning required. For those who care, it’s a planned trilogy with the first two books out and no word on the third.