Laura Martinelli's Reviews > Team Human

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier
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Jul 10, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: ebook, young-adult
Read from July 03 to 06, 2012

Between 2008 and 2009, I stopped reading vampire books for a while. Thanks to a certain series, I couldn’t go to the YA or sci-fi/fantasy sections without seeing three-fourths of the shelves covered with pale, Byronic immortals. Nowadays, I’ve found some books that don’t make me have a knee-jerk reaction when I see fangs pop out, and while I still have sadistic glee in ripping Twilight to bits (or when my favorite podcast does), let’s be honest: the horse isn’t just beaten, it’s dried glue at this point.

This brings us to Team Human.

The Twilight references could be considered a drinking game. There’s lengthy Wuthering Heights riffing, as one would expect when the Bella Swan stand-in is named Cathy. There’s endless declarations of love and shmoopiness between the vampire and the human. Francis, the vampire, even writes long ballads of his lady love. (I swear, there’s more than a few nudges to Growing Up Cullen in this.) There’s even a mention to the problematic tendency for YA to be overwhelmingly white.

Yet it’s not completely the Twilight-bashing that I was expecting it to be. Yes, the vampires can be insufferable dicks, but they also display some good qualities. Although she’s standing in for the best friend character, Mel is just as obsessive and ignorant of her friends as a normal heroine of these books would. And there’s even a genuine underlying mystery and reasons for vampires showing up in a high school.

I liked Mel, she’s a solid character. Even though she does care about her friends, her tendency to obsess over Cathy’s decisions is called out as being fairly selfish. Mel has her reasons for not liking vampires, and while she comes to understand that having a knee-jerk reaction to them is bad, she’s still very uncomfortable around vamps. I liked that she really didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life in college, it made Mel feel like a genuine teen girl. (Also, she fences. There was not enough fencing in this book.)

I also did like Cathy. Again, she wasn’t as annoying as I was expecting her to, and even though her decision to become a vampire feels stupid and rushed, she does do a lot of research and knows the consequences and dangers that come with that decision. She’s also willing to accept her friends into her new lifestyle by the end. Her ‘soulmate,’ Francis, comes off as an insufferable asshole who uses certain racial ephitets to get a rise out of Mel and her friend Ty at first, but he’s actually shown to be a decent guy halfway through the book. Again, I was expecting a sparkling stalker, so he was a nice surprise. I loved Anna—I do think that she would have made a better main character for the book, as her reasons for disliking vampires had more weight than Mel’s did, but I did like that Anna wasn’t knee-jerk “Fuck you, Francis” the whole time. There could have been more of Ty—he feels like the token guy friend waaaay too much. (And more on his and Mel’s relationship. Interracial relationships = yay.) I do also really like Kit. He’s just a complete dork who means well, but given his upbringing in a vampire ‘shade’ with very little contact with the human world. (And side note OMG CAMILLE I LOVE YOU YOU ARE AWESOME.)

Kit and Cathy are the reasons why I did have an overall problem with the book’s theme. It feels like Brennan and Larbalestier were aiming for “Don’t rush into major life decisions without thinking through them first.” What the theme reads as is “Vampirism: It’s not for everyone.” Kit comes close to embodying the first theme, but it pales in comparison in how Cathy goes about coming to her decision. I wished that maybe there had been more hesitation on her part, maybe having her transformation take place a few months down the road from the climax. It’s mentioned that there’s waiting periods for minors to be eligible to change into vampires, but they’re never really fully explored or explained away.

Despite the beating of a dead horse, it’s not a bad book. There’s a lot to laugh at with the vampire parodies, and I generally liked the book overall. It manages to be funny and scary, and also comments on the heroine’s own shortfallings without making her into it an insufferable character. It’s worth checking out.
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Reading Progress

07/03/2012
22.0%
07/03/2012
42.0% "I'm having Growing Up Cullen flashbacks..."

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