August 17, 2012

Review: Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Published: 2012, HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Paranormal
Source: Library book

That’s part of what I think makes vampires so boring. Once you’re a vampire, you don’t ever need to be anything else.  

Team Human is so outside my normal book choices that I'm not quite sure what initially drew me to it. First of all, it's written by co-authors. I don't necessarily have anything against co-authors, but I'm just uncertain how something can be written seamlessly with equal participation from two different people. I also ended up hating the one other co-authored book I've read (Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens). This can be classified as a paranormal romance, and I have found myself incredibly jaded by these in the past few months. And this is a parody! I am not a huge fan of humor. I like my stories drama-filled and believe that humor should only be used as a last-effort attempt at comic relief. But despite knowing that Team Human contained all of these potential turn-offs, it was an enjoyable book and I am glad that I took the time to read it.

New Whitby is a New England town that was created by vampires seeking to escape persecution. And while vampires still live there, the town is also home to many humans. The two races coexist mainly by avoiding the others' section of town. And just because Mel has lived there her entire life does not mean that she likes vampires – in her ideal world she'd never have to come in contact with any. But after her friend Anna's father uncharacteristically leaves town with a female vampire, Mel agrees to help Anna uncover the truth. And then Mel's best friend Cathy begins to date teenage vampire Francis. It turns out that Francis' vampire family has raised a human boy that Mel just may like. Mel must struggle with her preconceptions (and misconceptions) as vampires start to have a bigger role in her life that she'd prefer.

It was refreshing to read some new takes on vampires and vampirism. I think that if a human gives up his/her humanity to become a vampire, there does need to be a series of checks. Being beautiful and strong and perfect with the slight problem of sparkling in the sunlight does not do it for me. The vampires imagined by Larbalestier and Rees Brennan just make a lot more sense. Their immortality comes at a cost: they cannot be in direct contact with the sunlight and therefore must wear protective suits whenever they're outside during the day. Every turn into a vampire comes with the chance of immediate death or turning into a zombie and many still deal with issues related to giving up their humanity. Team Human stresses that vampirism isn't perfect, which needed to be said.

Mel is such a fun protagonist. What's not to love about her? She's sarcastic, humorous, determined, and genuinely cares about her friends. And can I just say that I love her true first name? Mel has such strong convictions and morals, but (after a little prodding) she is willing to reconsider and redefine her values. What I loved the most about her is her complete dedication to her friends. For the most part Mel is able to justify the evils of vampires because they seem to be opposed to everything that's good for her friends. And when that's no longer the case, Mel's main concern is still for the well-being of her friends. Mel's investment in her friendships was definitely the most powerful aspect of Team Human.

I did enjoy aspects of the relationship that Mel forms with Kit, a human boy raised by a vampire family. The authors were able to use this relationship as another thing that forces Mel and Kit to reevaluate all of their preconceived notions about vampirism and humanity. Kit is sweet and I loved how he and Mel share their senses of humor. This is a cute relationship, but one that I could not imagine lasting for very long. Besides their differing views of vampires, I just felt that there are too many other issues that stand between the two to make a long-term relationship extremely unlikely.

My feelings about the other supporting characters are mixed. I found myself both annoyed and amused by how completely archetypal Cathy and Francis are. I'm not sure if we as readers are supposed to see Cathy's situations and decisions as anything other than a parody of typical vampire stories, because I certainly could not. For me, Cathy and those who support her decisions are not realistic characters, but that doesn't mean that I didn't like them. I liked Anna and Ty, but both of them definitely assumed the role of supporting characters.

I love the fact that Mel is a fencer. I fenced competitively throughout high school (although I used an épée, as opposed to Mel's sabre). Fencing is such an awesome sport – its history traces back to real sword fights and duels to the death. Plus it is a sport where the strategy is just as important as physical prowess. I just wish that Larbalestier and Rees Brennan actually did more with Mel's fencing and a little more research. Mel fences sabre, yet at one point in the novel she wishes she could go fence and jab someone. Sabre is a slashing weapon - if you do end up jabbing anyone, then that's a sign that you're not very good.

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.
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. I do enjoy humor in my books and I knew that Sarah Rees Brennan is hilarious. I still wasn't sure what I would think about this book though and was pleasantly surprised that I really liked it! It wasn't mind blowing, but it was a lot of fun and I surprisingly didn't really have many issues with it. I'm glad that you mostly enjoyed it though!

    1. haha this is a mostly positive review. It's not my particular style, but I thought it contained many good elements. I think I'm missing the hilarious gene as well...Thanks for commenting and now I'll definitely check out your review!

  2. I never knew you fenced! I learn something new everyday. I like the whole vampires might not turn element and the protective suits. Very unique. Great review btw!

    1. Really? How is it possible you've known me this long and didn't know that I used to fence? lol. Yeah, there were definitely some inventive aspects of this book, which I did appreciate. Thanks, Cort!


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