Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Team Human
Author: Justina Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Pages: 344 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC received through a swap with a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn't mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It's up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity!

On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Acclaimed authors Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan team up to create a witty and poignant story of cool vampires, warm friendships, and the changes that test the bonds of love.


You know how you sometimes think, when reading a vampire book "Man, this girl has no brains/has a terrible best friend. She needs someone to talk some sense into her/be a better friend!"? Mel wants to be that sensible best friend advising her lovestruck friend to take it slow with the vampire. How successful she is at being the sensible best friend and main character in Team Human is up in the air. For multiple reasons, this is one of the toughest reviews I've ever had to write.

As you might expect, the characters sometimes feel like improved versions of more famous characters in vampire lit. Cathy is our typical mature, bookish girl who rushes into a relationship with a vampire, but she knows exactly what she is getting into. She weighs the pros and cons of becoming a vampire, buries herself in books about transitioning, and isn't letting anyone, including her vampire boyfriend or her best friend, tell her what to think or do. Mel is the best friend we've been begging girls like Cathy to get, though she gets pushy and prejudiced sometimes. (But I love her name--Mellifluous. Heehee!)

I've read novels from both Larbalestier and Brennan before this and while they blended their individual styles well, there were a few moments where I felt like I knew who had written that specific line or scene. A line about Francis having a stake where the sun don't shine is one I'm almost certain is Brennan's. While it was a funny novel and a solid parody of the "girl meets vampire" trope, it didn't quite make the leap to hilarious. I would call it more of a dramedy than a parody, though. Book gets seriously serious toward the end.

One of my problems with the novel is that things from it tended to resemble a few things in real life that I'm unsettled by. Some of Mel's statements about human-vampire relations and how the two groups should be kept apart strongly reminded me of how segregationists in the U.S. during the '50s and '60s spoke. How thorough the process of informing a human about the risks and consequences of transitioning (showing them zombies, three required sessions with a counselor, parental permission required if underage) very slightly reminded me of the million hurdles women have to go through to get an abortion in certain places. But--I can't stress this strongly enough--the resemblance to abortion hurdles is very slight because aborting a fetus and changing species are two entirely different things.

I see bits and pieces of why I love both authors in this book. Humor I can see Brennan coming up with, Larbalestier's own brand of quips, and the gifts they both have in writing relationships between characters are all there. All the central characters are well-rounded too, so why, for some reason I can't figure out, couldn't I get fully immersed with the novel? Maybe it was the mystery element that took over the story halfway through. The only thing that impressed me about it was the aftermath of it. I tried so hard to love it, but you can't force bookish love.

After having so much trouble investing myself in the novel and finding things to love about it, I'm not sure I'll be back for its sequel. Vampire fans will almost certainly love it, and others who want to see the "girl meets vampire" scenario poked fun at by two talented YA authors will want to check Team Human out. I'm sad to say this is a bit of a disappointment for me.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Forgotten by Cat Patrick