That Mel Duan lives in New Whitby i.e. Vampire City, USA doesn’t mean she’s a fan of the blood-sucking, pale creatures. On the contrary, she dislikes vampires and avoids the shades they live in on the other side of town. So when she spots a hazmat-suited vampire walking into her school, she couldn’t be less subtle in her sarcastic enthusiasm of his arrival. For her best friend Cathy, however, it’s love at first sight for hundred-something vampire Francis, and bold, brazen Mel isn’t afraid to voice her dissent. But Mel realizes quickly that won’t be enough, and in the hope that the strange behavior of the principal, whose husband mysteriously left her and their daughter Anna last summer, will connect suspiciously to Francis, Mel begins investigating his disappearance, meeting a vampire cop, a vampire-raised human, and her own vampire prejudices along the way.
I’m not usually one to clamor over so-called vampire parodies or Twilight spoofs, but Team Human had the made-of-awesome Sarah Rees Brennan’s name on it, so I marked it to-read without a second thought. I didn’t realize the idea started out as joke, nor have I read anything by Justine Larabalestier (recommendations anyone?). I thought the book would be light, funny, and clever, and it was. The title was certainly a conversation-starter on my vacation. I almost felt embarrassed over the puzzled reactions (Team Human, eh?) and my minimizing responses (It’s just a spoof.). How could I find an entire book based on a spoof interesting? But as the back cover blurb says, Team Human (thankfully) has substance to boot.
Much more than it appears, Team Human surprised me in the best way. While it very directly and obviously parodies Twilight and its many knockoffs, it’s also its own work. Larabalestier and Brennan’s graceful, cold, sunlight-killed vampires are fairly traditional but the connection between vampires and zombies, the vampire cop division, and vampire-raised humans are the thoughtful, original ideas which make this fresh. Kit, raised by the vampire cop Camille, is one of my favorite characters. Homeschooled and with limited exposure to other humans, Kit’s introductions to dating, high school, and human sports are comical. His unlikely friendship with unapologetic Mel is very sweet. Though I could see where she was incorrect in her thinking Mel’s biting quips and internal dialogue induced laughter in all its varieties. One of my favorite early passages is when she enters the school at night with her friend Anna, the daughter of the principal (from my uncorrected ARC):
Think of it this way,” I said. “We walk through the school every day. Multiple times a day! This is practically routine. Pretty boring, if you ask me.
“Not in the dark,” Anna whispered. “Not when we’ve broken in!”
“We used your mom’s keys. That’s not breaking in.
“We took her keys without her knowledge. And we’re still walking around in the dark.”
“Pretend it’s an eclipse,” I whispered back. “Just your average, every day, really boring. . . eclipse.”
“I’m here in the dark with a crazy person,” Anna muttered.
In some ways, I felt like Anna was the weak link in our awesome investigating team.
On the other hand, she’d been the one who got her hands on her mother’s keys. Without those, I would’ve had to commit the breaking part of breaking and entering.
Just entering couldn’t possibly be a crime.
As expected, beyond the witty dialogue the writing is sharp and meaningful in both what is said and what is unsaid. Unexpectedly moving and hilarious, Team Human is ultimately about assumptions, accepting the choices of others, and being okay with your choices. I was certainly more than okay with my choice, and I think you will be too.
Team Human is out today.