Monday, October 22, 2012

Arty -- Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Vampire romance, not really my thing.  Vampire romance parody... that I can handle.

And Team Human was a really good vampire romance parody.

Mel Duan is your average high school girl (albeit one with a spine, maybe too much of one for her own good) with average high school friends (even though she dated Ty and Cathy's sort of an airheaded literary freak and Anna's father supposedly ran away with a vampire).  Life is good for her... until vampire Francis shows up to go to high school.

Mel's first reaction is, Why does a 120-year-old vampire want to go to high school?

Her questions turn rather more serious, however, when her desperately romantic friend Cathy falls for Francis's pale, frigid... er, charm.  Staunchly Team Human, Mel decides she has to fight to free Cathy from herself.

Meanwhile, the questions about Anna's father and his supposed vampire elopement spark a mystery Mel takes it upon herself to solve.  This, along with Cathy's involvement with Francis and his 'shade,' or vampire family, brings her into way more vampire contact than Mel ever wanted.

Even knowing that this was supposed to be a parody, I went into Team Human very skeptically.  I mean, as soon as Francis came on the scene, I had about a million cynical views on how it would go.  Mel would fall in love with Francis, Mel would fall in love with another of Francis's friends, she teaches her vampire beau how to laugh and thus causes a worldwide vamp phenomenon...

Well, no, not really.

Team Human is, despite constant light-hearted fun and gentle genre-poking (Mel really does wonder why a 100+-old vamp would want to go to high school, and that question is answered), pretty realistic for a vamp novel.  No, it's not a scientific treatise on vampire biology, but it does feel more well-thought-out than a lot of such endeavors tend to be.  For example - a percentage of vamp turnings end in death.  Another percentage turn into mindless, slavering zombies (yes, there are also ZOMBIES in this book - it's awesome).  Also, vampires can't laugh.  They rarely smile.  And they're not cold - they're just... lukewarm.

Not exactly romantic.

But what really makes the book - as in most really good books - are the characters.  Mel is a great heroine - she's got a spine, like I said, and she's not afraid to use it... which does get her into a lot of trouble that she regrets and learns from.  She learns.  Cathy is... okay, well, I didn't like her much, but she was a good, developed character.  Anna and Ty were well-drawn, Francis was annoying but not over-the-top... and then the vampires in Francis's shade are awesome.  And then there's Kit.  I don't want to say too much about him (the surprises in the book are the best parts), but there's a line of his backstory that just... gave me shivers.  Showing that vamps, like humans, are not all good and not all evil.

The love story was surprisingly realistic, as well.  It was happy, but it wasn't - I, for one, still didn't agree with the choice made.  But it was realistic.  It showed that sometimes you have to trust your friends to live their own lives, even if you don't think they're right.  One great theme - respect. 

Storywise, I loved it, too.  The mystery was actually good.  I've noticed I'm pretty slow when it comes to mysteries, but the resolve came as a huge surprise.  I admit to shivering a little then, too.  It was just pretty... gut-wrenching.  After all the buildup, I should have seen it coming.  But I didn't.  And the emotional reaction was worth the stupidity.

So if one ever gets tired of sloppy, romance-centered vampire novels, look no further than Team Human, a refreshing parody/commentary of all the unrealistic vamp stuff out there for consumption.  One shall not be disappointed.

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