November 12, 2012 by Heidi
Title: Team Human [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Justine Larbalestier [Website|Twitter] and Sarah Rees Brennan [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Published: July 3rd, 2012 by HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover; 352 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
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.
Coming off of my Unspoken high, I was ready to take on anything established YA author Sarah Rees Brennan could throw at me. If that was a co-written humorous teen vampire novel promising to address the eye-roll inducing nature of the countless ‘Team ____’ scenarios in YA today with some surprising depth–a book that just happened to have made my most anticipated list for 2012–bring it on.
It would have been so easy for Team Human to have read like a joke. In fact, I know many fellow readers thought it was a joke when they first encountered the title. The authors kept the book a secret while writing, so there wasn’t a lot of build up before there it was in the catalogs, available for pre-order. The pleasantly surprising reality about Team Human was that it was no joke whatsoever. It was an incredibly fun, satirical, and touching story about friendship and acceptance, with just a dash of foreboding mystery and some zombies thrown in to keep things on edge.
That said, Team Human did get a little overly heavy handed for me when it stumbled into big message territory, and my inability to connect with our narrator and main protagonist, Mel, made it a bit of a disappointment. Mel is a very well developed and real teen character, but as with all character-driven stories, if I don’t connect, I never fall in love. She’s a good sister and daughter, protective and caring for her friends–but the later is pushed to the extreme.
In Team Human, Mel will go to great lengths to stop her best friend, Cathy, from dating a vampire and making very serious life decisions regarding him. She refuses to give her friend the credit she probably deserves as a free-thinking and intelligent individual, or to give anyone she deems as ‘not a person’ a chance. That’s right–Mel’s racist! She’s constantly saying things like “I’m not prejudice, I just think vampires and humans shouldn’t mix” in the same way that a white girl in 1950s Mississippi might say “I’m not prejudice, I just think Jim Crow laws are there to protect and benefit everyone”. I guess this is part of the humor of Team Human, but I must admit I found it more grating than funny, and Mel’s transformation into someone who has an increasingly open mind towards vampires was a bit ‘let’s hold hands and skip in the
sunshine dead of night’ for me. On top of which, we all know I hate characters who poke their nose in where they don’t belong, and what could do that more extremely than constantly telling your friends what to think and feel?
Despite my issues with Mel, the rest of the cast of Team Human was excellent and fun. Francis, the old-fashioned and pompous vampire, Cathy the girl who can’t help but fall for him, Kit, the kid raised by vampires, and a number of other friends, vampires, and family members of all those involved. Team Human looked at multiculturalism from various angles featuring an American born Chinese main character who finds it difficult to understand another culture until she is able to see it from the inside. Indeed, without Kit–our cultural guide to vampirism–to lighten the mood and bring some perspective to Mel, I wouldn’t have enjoyed Team Human half so much. Kit brings the humor, a lot of which is based on the reality that he knows so little about being human. How can you not love a 17 year old boy whose reaction to his first (human) kiss is to say “Hey, I don’t want to have sex with you”?
On top of this, I love any authors who will unabashedly point out repeatedly the complete inappropriateness of a 100+ year immortal creature dating a teen. As John Green would say, “It’s not because you look old. It’s because you are old.” I will stress that most readers will likely not be as bothered by Mel as I. She is a loyal and good friend, who though mistaken in her convictions is not unwilling to learn and grow. In short, she’s a normal teen, convinced she knows everything until she realizes on her own that she does not.
If you’d asked me before reading Team Human, I would have said, yes, I am Team Human 100%. But after having read it, I’m not so sure. Maybe that was the whole point in the authors creating this book–to make vampire lovers and vampire haters come together and say “I guess you’re not so bad.” Or maybe it was just to have some fun. Either way, I’m happy with the end result.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:
When I picked up Team Human, I also grabbed a copy of The Demon’s Lexicon. Now, however, my enthusiasm has been dulled a bit and I’m no longer chomping at the bit to dive into this series. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it, and I do plan to read it, but probably not as soon as originally planned.
I’ll admit to not having been familiar with Justine Larbalestier prior to reading Team Human, but looking at her backlog I’d really like to check out her Magic or Madness series.
Recommended for: Pretty much anyone who has at some point read and rolled their eyes at a YA vampire story. Yes, Twilight readers, I’m looking at you.
Get a second opinion:
Book Harbinger – “As expected, beyond the witty dialogue the writing is sharp and meaningful in both what is said and what is unsaid.”
The Book Smugglers – “In the end, I laughed. A lot. What I didn’t expect was that I would also cry – a lot (good tears).”
Late Nights With Good Books – “Although I did not find it super thought-provoking or award-winning, Team Human is an entertaining, somewhat clever satire that contains some good messages about the importance of friendships.”
Literary Exploration – “The story is fast-paced, exciting, and laugh out loud funny, you won’t want to put it down!”
Good Books and Good Wine – “In all, this is a refreshing, fun and touching satire with a world I had fun checking out.”
I’ve also reviewed:
The Spring Before I Met You by Sarah Rees Brennan (The Lynburn Legacy .25)
The Summer Before I Met You by Sarah Rees Brennan (The Lynburn Legacy .5)
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (The Lynburn Legacy 1)