Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Team Human

Team Human, by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Readers who love vampire romances will be thrilled to devour Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan. Team Human celebrates and parodies the Twilight books, as well as other classics in the paranormal romance genre.

Mel is horrified when Francis Duvarney, arrogant, gorgeous, and undead, starts at her high school. Mel’s best friend, Cathy, immediately falls for the vampire. Cathy is determined to be with him forever, even if having him turn her could inadvertently make her a zombie.

And Mel is equally determined to prove to her BFF that Francis is no good, braving the city’s vampire district and kissing a cute boy raised by vampires as she searches evidence in this touching and comic novel.

My Reaction:
It was better than my last attempt to read YA lit.  Laugh-out-loud funny?  Not to me.  The strongest humor came from poking fun at vampire cliches and the silliest parts of popular vampire novels, and even that didn't merit more than a chuckle or two.  (And it was much less humor/satire than you  might expect, when the blurb indicates that it "parodies the Twilight books".)  Destined to be a classic?  Um, no.  Still, it was entertaining in spots-- especially if you're familiar with currently-popular vampire/paranormal YA lit.  I'd recommend it for adults and older teens only, though.  Some of the themes explored don't seem appropriate for younger readers.  (IMHO.)

In More Detail... (with SPOILERS!)

-- A nit-pick about the cover.  There are three people on the cover art.  The one in the center is obviously Mel, and I think it's safe to assume that the other dark-haired girl, in the background, must be Cathy (even though she looks less youthful and... helpless?... than I pictured her).  But who's the guy supposed to be?  Can't be Francis, because we are told repeatedly that he's blond, and Cover Dude has brown hair.  Can't be Kit, either, though, because we are told even more repeatedly that he has unruly curls, while Cover Dude's hair is short and straight.  So... Who is he supposed to be?  (Well, I'm sure he's supposed to be Francis, because he's so pale he's almost blue, and he appears to be wearing a silk cravat.  But why make him a brunette?)  Yeah, yeah, I know it's not that important, but it's a pet peeve of mine.  Why can't cover designers be bothered to familiarize themselves with the content of the book?  WHY?

--  The book was better than I'd have expected from "team writing".  However, I'm probably just so prejudiced against things written by two people (because my own experiences of trying to write something-- anything-- with another person have been less than pleasant) that I'm easily impressed by people who can write readable fiction in teams.

--  The inclusion of zombies in the book's universe was interesting and unexpected. 

--  The pacing felt a bit slow.  And as is almost always the case, if characters would have just talked and made a few logical connections, some of the problems that dragged out for chapters could have been solved in pages.  But since that's almost always the case... I guess we should just get used to it.

--  This bit did amuse me:  "He had one eyebrow raised, and he was scowling slightly.  I raised both eyebrows back at him. (I can't raise just one, however much I practice in front of the mirror.)"  I can sympathize!  

--  I was going to comment on how unlikely it was for your typical sporty male teenager to be "into" romance novels... but then the authors tell us in the last few pages that Ty's interested in dating guys as well as girls, so...  And while we're on that issue, why was it necessary to have Ty magically make that decision at the last minute, anyway?  Especially since the authors had already filled their "inclusivity quota" with Mel's sister.  Ty's "plot twist" seemed a little too "ooh, look at us, being all modern and inclusive and stuff".

--  Ok, what was up with the New Whitby sewage system?  Was that a red herring?  If so, I guess it worked, because I felt sure that Anna's father would turn out to be hidden (dead, alive, or undead) in some old (no longer in use) part of it.  Otherwise, why would they keep mentioning it?  And why on earth would a teacher assign high school history students (Honors Program or not) to write an essay about a sewage system???  It's bizarre.  As is the fact that Ty apparently found the sewer maps online.  Yes, you can see why that would be something the city would make available online.  Such an interesting subject-- something that the townsfolk would find useful in their daily lives.

-- Reading about the Chinese food made me hungry, even though I don't think I've ever had the particular dishes mentioned.  Possibly I was already hungry, when I read that bit...

--  A lot of readers (or those who bothered to review, at least) seem to have found Mel annoying and even "racist" against vampires.  I'll admit that the thought occurred to me while I was reading, but... um, vampires aren't real, you guys.  Also, vampires are known for biting and even killing people.  I hardly think any race (as a whole) would thank you for drawing these comparisons.  Calm down and try not to take everything so seriously.  ;o)  Yes, I got a little tired of Mel at times, but it's just a book.  I put it down, did something else for a while, and came back later.

--  One thing that felt odd to me was Mel making a point to talk about the difficulty her family would have to pay for her college.  (Can't remember the exact wording...)  But then a few pages (or less) later, we learn that both of her parents are lawyers.  Maybe the point was that it would be difficult for them to afford to send her to an especially expensive college-- in which case, cry me a river.  It just felt silly (and annoying, honestly) that it would even be an issue that they couldn't afford to send her to college, period. 

--  It occurred to me while reading that at Mel's age, I didn't have a single friend that I would've been that obsessed/upset over, under similar circumstances.  The "best friend" phase of my life had already ended, at least a couple of years before.  I still had friends, but it was much more casual.  Not the intimate, tell-each-other-everything experience that I associate more with elementary school than the teen years.  It wasn't until I met the man who would become my husband that I felt I had a "best friend", again.  I wonder which of the two is the more typical experience...