Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

THIS IS THE LAST DAY TO ENTER MY HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY.  You can win thirteen books, including UNSPOKEN by Sarah Rees Brennan. HURRY!

Review: Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Rating: A hilarious, strangely poignant vampire book for those who are sick of vampires.


 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

I was a huge fan of Sarah Rees Brennan’s UNSPOKEN, so buying TEAM HUMAN for me was a no brainer. I’ve never had the pleasure of reading any of Larbalestier’s books, but after the great fun that TEAM HUMAN was, I will be sure to in the future. This book had it all: a fierce, fiery lead who may actually be me in book form, a really cool “what if?” world, romantical entanglements, and friendship. Beautiful, painful female friendship. It begins almost as a satire of vampire-human relationships (it almost goes out of it way to poke harmless fun at one Bella Swan, though never by name). I love that the book developed into something deeper though, while still being funny.

The fierce, fiery lead: Mel is ten different kinds of awesome. I seriously love her. She is laugh out-loud hilarious, and best of all, she knows it. She’s an Elizabeth Bennet “dearly loves to laugh” kind of girl, with a huge heart and a fearsome temper. Plus she’s got a bit of the amateur sleuth in her, and I love that. She thinks becoming one of the undead would suck because you couldn’t have chocolate. Her greatest joys in life include taking care of her friends and making fun of the absurdly pompous Francis, an a hundred and fifty year old vamp who is easily scandalized by her unladylike ways.

A really cool “what if?” world: In TEAM HUMAN, vampires and humans coexist pretty peacefully. It comes after centuries of bloodshed and disaster and zombies, of course, but society has developed in such a way that things work out pretty well. Vampires and vampire transitions are regulated and every public building must have UV proof windows. Obviously, things go awry. Crazy things. CREEPY things. Things I do not dare spoil. Although there is the mystery of Mel’s friend Anna’s dad, who has run off with a vampire lady and has not been heard from since

Romantical entanglements: Oh, Francis. What a delightfully absurd creature. I adore him. He is old-fashioned, priggish, and utterly, hilariously unsexy. He is a member of the undead, and yet he shows up one day to attend high school. And Mel speaks for the ages when she says: “A vampire who wants to go to high school? That is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard.” But of course, Mel’s romantic and serious best friend Cathy is instantly smitten. And so begins the part where I cheer Mel’s every word and want to shake Cathy very hard.

See, Mel’s a staunch member of Team Human, meaning she’s so not okay with the whole trading-in-your-mortality-just-to-be-beautiful-and-live-forever thing. She is everything most vampire novel heroines are not. Not even when she develops a (admittedly hurried) relationship with jokester Kit, a human raised by vampires who’s never really hung out with humans in his life. He has all the social graces of Nell, and it is so endearing.

Beautiful, painful female friendship: It was lovely to read a book where the main focus was on a relationship between three best friends. This book was all about how to love and respect your friends and what it truly means to be human. What you’re willing to give up, and what you’re not willing. Mel, Cathy, and Anna made a sweet trio. They cared very deeply for one another. It was clear Mel was prepared to go above and beyond for either one of them.

Obviously, I loved this book. I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning till I finished, alternately cackling and getting a little misty. If I had to levy any criticism, it would be that at one or two moments, the dialogue revealed itself to be written by two non-Americans, as in the slang would veer into inauthentic (we don’t say loads much, do we? As in “having loads of fun”? Well, I do, but I’m strange like that). But the dialogue was so funny and witty and quippy that I really just did not care. Another slight critique might be that Kit and Mel’s relationship developed awfully fast. I adored them together– the chemistry was definitely there– but I thought maybe there was a step or two missing.

I suppose I could see why some wouldn't enjoy this book (no I can't). If you want something swoonily romantic, this book won't supply that. (I would argue it's more romantic, in a way, that some characters value life more than anything but I won't get into that lest I Spoil Things). Apparently some people don't find this book funny, and humor is a very subjective thing. I hotted (sic- leaving this typo in because it makes me giggle) and hollered but you may not.

But I highly recommend this book. I knew going into this that Rees Brennan’s humor is precisely my cup of tea (I DEFY you not to laugh when Mel starts explaining keggers to Francis) and I’m delighted to have discovered a new author in Larbalestier. If you’re sick of teenage heroines mooning after vampires, read this book. If you’ve ever wanted to smack Edward Cullen in the face, read this book. If you ever wanted to kiss Edward Cullen on his face, read this book. Basically, read it, you idiots. GO NOW.


  1. Thanks for the excellent review. (And bonus thanks for carefully avoiding spoilers.) I've enjoyed all Sarah Rees Brennan's books and Justine Larbalestier's books, so their combination was delightful. I'd recommend Larbalestier's "How to Ditch Your Fairy" and "Liar" and if you like those, her "Magic or Madness" trilogy.

    Also, Rees Brennan recently announced a book for 2014 inspired by "Tale of Two Cities" with magic: "Tell the Wind and Fire".

    1. Thanks for the excellent book recommendations! I'll definitely check those out. And I was aware of the "Tale of Two Cities" update (doppelgangers!!!). I am exceptionally excited.

  2. I've never been interested in reading vampire books and I dread when people say "TEAM SO-AND-SO!" probably because of hyped up girls with Twilight trying to make Hunger Games that way...ANYWAYS, your review actually makes me want to read this. So I promptly put it on my TBR list. You should be proud. Besides, I really need to read anything by Sarah Rees Brennan.

  3. And this is why I should stop immediately writing off everything about vampires. On to my want-to-read list this goes (oh god, that list is getting out of control >_<)

    1. I feel your pain. My TBR list is completely insane.


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