By Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Available now from HarperTeen (HarperCollins)
I was pumped for this release long before I got my hands on it. A book by Justine Larbalestier and the divinely hilarious Sarah Rees Brennan? And in a world where taglines exist mostly to be made fun of, "Friends don't let friends date vampires" is a winner.
At first I was totally on board with Mel Kuan. She thinks the vampires are boring. Most of them don't have jobs, aside from modeling perhaps. They just sort of go about being vampires. And that means never enjoying a sunny day . . . or laughing. Larbalestier and Brennan's twist on the vampire is an inventive and fitting one. Their emotions are dulled in order to help them survive the centuries. That means never ever experiencing the extreme of laughter. It drives some vamps to suicide. It certainly wouldn't suit Mel, a jokester who thrives on laughter.
Their other twist comes in the transformation to a vampire. Prospective vamps have an eight in ten chance of it going right. One in ten flat out dies; another one in ten turns into a zombie. It's definitely something to consider before crossing over. If you're average, you get eternity. If you're unlucky, it's death or worse. Even more than in other novels, becoming a vampire is not a move one should undertake lightly. Because TEAM HUMAN has good worldbuilding, there's an entire system devoted to transitioning. Prospective vamps have to undergo counseling and tour a zombie facility.
Mel's world is shaken when vampiric Francis enrolls in her high school. Pretty soon he's dating her best friend Cathy, a dreamer who loves poetry and history. Francis knows quite a bit about both. After all, he's had plenty of time to study poetry and he's lived history. Mel's objections to Francis work best when she focuses on how old he is and that vampires still drink human blood even if they don't swan about murdering people. It's weird and kind of gross. Not to mention Cathy has her whole life ahead of her. As many people say in YA romance reviews, you don't want to be stuck with your first boyfriend for eternity.
But Mel goes too far in expressing her dislike of vamps. She uses loaded language in order to make Francis uncomfortable. When she meets Kit, who was raised by vampires, she talks about his family in an uncomplimentary way to his face. Eventually, Kit does call her out on her behavior. It was a moment that made me cheer. And I would wholeheartedly embrace that moment, but the book is TEAM HUMAN. Why am I cheering for Team Vampire? Surely Team Human can mount a better defense than this.
But TEAM HUMAN isn't entirely about Mel and Cathy's romantic woes. Their friend Anna's father ran away with a vampire over summer and her mother is acting extra strange. She asks Mel to look into the situation. Cue Mel snooping whenever she isn't trying to drive Francis off.
TEAM HUMAN had me in stitches. I enjoyed both of the central relationships. I loved how firm the characters were about who they were and how resistant they were to peer pressure. I feared for Mel as her investigation took a turn for the sinister. But Team Vampire still seems pretty darn spiffy.