Sarah Rees Brennan
Paranormal Young Adult
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)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.
MY THOUGHTSLight and laugh out loud funny, Team Human entertains with a snarky protagonist who finds it nearly impossible to keep from insinuating herself into the personal business of her closest friends. To her credit, some friends ask her to wade into the middle of their joys and troubles, needing Mel’s special brand of problem solving to get them back on track, but other times she jumps right in sans express invitation and makes a concentrated effort to ensure her opinion is heard. While we spend a great deal of time snorting at Mel’s quick wit and snappy retorts, we also quickly find ourselves embroiled in a supernatural mystery, one that nicely offsets the some of Mel’s humorous moments of ridiculousness to give us a tale that has more layers than we might have expected.
Mel will most likely not be a heroine for everyone, her sarcasm laid on thick and extremely prominent throughout, but for those who appreciate a dry sense of humor she will be a joy to spend three hundred and fifty pages with. She’s positively appalled at her best friend Cathy’s reaction to the new vampire in school, and we can’t help but appreciate that this is not a falling-in-love-with-the-hot-new-student type of story, but rather the type of story that pokes a little fun at that common trope and gives us a main character who unabashedly and bluntly says all the things that run through our minds when we stumble across a character who behaves as Cathy does. Mel is often horrified by Cathy and Francis’s relationship, their instant love connection something, much to our delight, she vehemently denounces and mocks whenever possible.
While Team Human could have easily been a campy spoof of a story, Ms. Larbalestier and Ms. Brennan rein Mel in just enough to keep her from being a caricature, and add several subtle nuances to the plot and secondary characters to elicit from us unexpected emotion. As things get more complicated for Mel and her friends, the more serious nature of the overall mystery as well as Cathy’s plans for the future slowly start to push to the forefront to remind us there’s much to anticipate beyond the next quip. The humor never completely fades however, staying strong throughout as Mel finds someone to match her sly remark for sly remark in Kit, a young man raised by vampires who knows absolutely nothing about human beings.
Beneath the humor, Team Human does a beautiful job of outlining all the pros and cons of being human and being vampire, keeping us laughing even as we’re forced to acknowledge monsters can exist in both forms. Mel’s attitude can be a bit much at times, but she often recognizes this flaw in herself–even at one point wishing she could punch herself in the face–and the pages fly by as we’re caught up in paranormal happenings and human emotion. For those interested in a slightly different vampire tale, Team Human is quick and satisfying, leaving us with a smile and a laugh as we flip back through the pages and take note of all the snarky retorts we’ve highlighted.