Shannon's Reviews > Team Human

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier
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I feel bad about giving this two stars, but about halfway through it really lost some steam. Larablestier and Brennan wrote this story as a satirical take on young adult vampire romance and it was funny and biting (haha) in the beginning, but many of the elements that I enjoyed when I first started reading became increasingly annoying.

I liked the main character, Mel, throughout most of the book, though at times she was unnecessarily violent, prejudiced, and rude. There was one scene where she punched her guy friend so hard he reared back to retaliate (though thankfully he controlled himself) and she thinks nothing of it. She's angry and lashes out and nobody calls her on it. She does the same thing when returning a volleyball to some random people playing nearby; she throws the ball so hard that it knocks the breath out of the guy she launches it at. Then they ask her to play with them. If a guy pulled these stunts he'd get his ass kicked.

Mel also hates vampires, though she claims she has no problem with them, and I can't help but think that if her friend's new boyfriend was African American instead of a vampire everyone would think she was incredibly racist. She calls vampires "them" and pretty much says to everyone that they should be segregated and kept away from humans. Obviously, vampires drink human blood so it's a different type of fear and prejudice, but I couldn't help think that if this wasn't a paranormal story the reactions to this book would be very different.
Let me make something clear: I don't agree with the nutters who want to kill all vampires. My parents voted yes on Proposition Four, and if I had the vote I would have too: Unlawfully killing vampires should be punished as harshly as killing people. Murder is murder. I don't want vampires dead. I just wanted Francis to go to a different school.
Swap out "vampire" for any race and that sounds pretty awful, right? It's definitely an interesting observation when you consider that Mel is Chinese-American too. What if someone said, "I don't want to kill Chinese people, I just don't want to go to school with them." Perhaps this was the authors point though, because the bulk of the story is spent trying to convince Mel that vampires are people too and they're not all murderous villains. I think her hatred of vampires was laid on super thick though, so much that it makes it difficult to believe that she could ever turn over a new leaf. I thought this conversation that Mel and her sister had was telling:
"I know how you feel about vampires."
"What?" I asked. "Why does everyone keep acting as if I have a problem with vampires? I don't have a problem with vampires. You said Cathy shouldn't be dating a vampire. You agreed with me!"
"Well, sure," said Kristin. "I think vampire groupies are dumb. And I know Cathy gets way too intense and serious about things, and getting intense and serious about a vampire seems like a terrible idea. But I'm not saying I'd never date a vampire. You, though, Mel. You love to laugh. Not to mention you're always fierce about your friends, and the way you saw it, a vampire hurt Anna. None of those things are bad! It just means you are less likely than anyone I know to be Team Vampire."
Racists will be more upset about being called a racist than the possibility that they might be racist. Mel definitely shows those signs here.

Mel's sister brings up laughter in that quote I pulled, and that's one of the reasons I dropped this book to two stars; the words "laugh" and "smile" or some derivative thereof were used over 150 times, and most of them were in the last half of the book.
What if they said it was an honor, a privilege, and a blessing for Cathy to get all her blood sucked out and to never laugh again?
She'd never laugh again if she became a vampire. And she'd never laugh, or smile, or speak if the transition didn't work.
So many of Mel's thoughts and her conversations with her friends are about laughter, jokes, and making people smile. Or trying to make people laugh with a joke, or one of her friends smiling at her and Mel thinking that she couldn't bear the thought of never laughing again if she was a vampire who didn't smile at jokes and laugh ... It gets old, quickly.

Random praise: I like that neither Mel nor any of her close circle of friends has a car. She walks and rides her bike for the majority of the book. She also has two parents who take an interest in her life and she does her homework and goes to a public school. She and her friends hang out at a coffee shop and share a brownie because they only have enough money for one. These little realistic touches were nice and unexpected when you think about all of the other YA books with rich kids whose parents have no idea what they're doing (if they're even in the country) and go to boarding schools in the woods. I liked the fact that these teens felt like real people and that I could identify with them more than normal.

I enjoyed most of the humor in this book, though the prose is nothing to write home about, and for the most part I liked the story even though the mystery and romance got a bit frustrating as they both went around in circles at times. Two stars is "just ok" and that's how I feel about this one; I don't regret reading it but I'm glad it's not a series. I have a feeling this isn't these authors' greatest work since the ratings and reviews aren't overwhelmingly positive, so I'll probably check out another book they've written (by themselves) sometime in the future, (I'm excited for Unspoken in particular.) Parody and satire can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately this book doesn't outshine any of the original material, though I'm sure it's still a better love story than Twilight.
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Reading Progress

July 8, 2012 – Shelved
August 5, 2012 – Started Reading
August 5, 2012 –
0.0% "Another read-along with Lucy, because this author publicly supported us."
August 5, 2012 –
4.0% ""A vampire who wants to go to high school?" I said. "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.""
August 6, 2012 –
6.0% ""Does anyone else think it's a bit ridiculous that he came to lunch when he doesn't eat?" I asked.
"To be fair, neither does half the cheerleading team," Ty said."
August 6, 2012 –
6.0% "I couldn't see where the head cheerleader Robyn Johnson's hands were, but she was leaning pretty close to Francis, and for a brief moment his facade of beautiful indifference cracked.
I'd never seen anyone look scandalized before. It was kind of hilarious.
Robyn's boyfriend was at another table surrounded by the rest of the football team. All of them wore identical scowls. That was hilarious too."
August 6, 2012 –
8.0% ""So you vampires living forever," I said."You must need a lot of hobbies to keep from going completely mad. My grandma swears by knitting. Do you knit, Francis?"
"I do not," said Francis.
"Ah," I said. "Do you crochet?""
August 8, 2012 –
17.0% ""Have you ever felt kind of ..." She paused. "Detached from the world? As if you didn't fit in, and you weren't interested in what everyone else was interested in? As if you belonged in a whole different world?"
"Everyone feels that way sometimes," I said. "But you eat chocolate until the endorphins kick in, and the crazy thoughts go away.""
August 8, 2012 –
17.0% ""Underwater Acoustics Handbook? Songs of Poverty and Death? Weird, Anna, very weird. Not seeing a common thread in all these books."
"I am a woman of many interests."
"Or a woman who grabbed whatever books were around to build a fort.""
September 7, 2012 –
48.0% ""When a guy assumes a girl wants to have sex with him on the second occasion they meet, we humans generally regard him as an enormous jerk! In fact, that goes for any guy assuming a girl wants to have sex with him anytime before she says, 'Yes, sex sounds terrific!'"
My mood was not improved by the realization that I'd just yelled "Sex sounds terrific" loud enough for everyone within shouting range to hear."
September 8, 2012 –
72.0% ""When a guy says 'I'll call you,' it means they're not going to call you. It means they're dumping you."
"What?" Kit said. "I said I was going to call because I was going to call. Why would anyone say that if they weren't going to? That's completely insane! How do humans even function as a society?""
September 8, 2012 –
73.0% ""No more crazy wenches!" Kristin said, as she always did. Yet somehow the next girl was usually even more insane. "So," she added. "How's your love life? I have reports from a very reliable source that you now have one."
"You mean Lottie," I said.
Our brother is not a reliable source of anything except amazingly terrible farts. And ridiculous gossip, apparently."
September 8, 2012 –
September 8, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Elena I think the analogy to racism was 100% intentional, so that didn't bother me. However, Mel's unmoving prejudice and hatred made me really dislike her as a character. After the first few, her anti-vampire tirades just made me roll my eyes. I guess I can sort of understand why her friends didn't kick her to the curb, but I can't understand why Kit (who I thought was awesome!) was so into her.

Definitely check out Unspoken--I liked it a lot better than this one.

Lexxie (un)Conventional Bookworms I forgot to give praise to the parents in my review! You are right - it was a nice change to have parents who were present, took an interest in their child, and who actually acted like parents.

Leslie Part of the point the book was that Mel was bigoted and needed to work through it. This book was fundamentally about how people deal with the "other", so someone has the be the "bad guy", it just happened to be the main protagonist.

message 4: by Kate (new)

Kate McMurry Thanks for your well-written, informative review. :) If you don't mind my asking (and you might want to post "SPOILER ALERT" in your answer if you choose to give it): Would you refer to this book as a "buddy" story in the chick-lit vein of comedy (which is all about dating disasters and girl power), or more of a romantic comedy, which I tend to define as at least 50% of the story consisting of the main character involved in a romantic relationship which has a happy ending? Thanks!

Christina Fong I found your reviw very helpful before I read the book; which I really loved, so our opinions differ there. Thank you though for taking the time to give a well thought out review. This was my take on Mel's prejudice: like Leslie said in her comment, the issue was more how people deal with the "other." Based on my own personal experience, I can laugh bitterly when you commented that it would be pretty racist. Not that your point is invalid, it's just that being a minority (Chinese specifically, like Mel) I've stories and experiences from family that didn't even make me bat an eye at some of the things Mel said. It's not hate so much as fear and ignorance of the "other."
Though what really made Mel dislike vampires so much was that one hurt her best friend. Not directly, but the fallout from its actions wrecked Anna's family and hurt her immensely. And when Mel's friends hurt, she hurts with them. I can understand, but not approve of her attitude toward vampires because of this, because I'm a lot like her in this regard. She cares about her friends so much, that when they're wounded by someone, she is unforgiving and vindictive. If they're in danger, she'll throw herself in front of them to save them, at her own risk. That fierce love for people close to you can make you vicious toward those you associate with causing the pain to a loved one. When you put it into that perspective, then you can see that once she realizes her biases she's more able to change.

Nenia ☠️ Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Protector of Out of Print Gems, Mother of Smut, and Actual Garbage Can ☠️ Campbell You're so right- it's really interesting how Mel's hatred for vampires could serve as an allegory for racism.

Mel's hypocrisy was hard to swallow. Especially how she was like, HUMAN = BETTER, even if it was at the cost of someone else's way of life. :/ Props to the authors, though, for writing an unlikable MC. That's pretty gutsy!

message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim Wow, this chick turned this review into every possible angle of getting her far left idealogical opinions in. Take a breath sweet heart.

Shannon Jim wrote: "Wow, this chick turned this review into every possible angle of getting her far left idealogical opinions in. Take a breath sweet heart."

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