Team Human is a new young adult novel from Justine Larbalastier and Sarah Rees Brennan, about an ancient vampire who enrolls at a small town high school, where a beautiful young girl falls in love with him.
No, it's not that novel. Far from it, in fact. Team Human is an incredibly fresh and original -- and absolutely charming -- take on vampire fiction. Larbalestier and Brennan have a wickedly sarcastic turn of phrase (as fans of Larbalestier's earlier books can attest), and their protagonist, Mel -- a high-school senior whose best friend is besotted with the vampire -- is one of those iconic, absolutely likable but flawed YA protagonists that you find in the genre's best books.
Mel's best friend is Cathy, and where Mel is flamboyant and outgoing, Cathy is serious and studious and shy. They live in the small town of New Whitby, the birthplace of America's compact with vampires and the origin of the social contract that sees humans and vampires living side by side in a civilized (if not entirely comfortable) fashion. From the start, Cathy falls hard for Francis, an ancient, charming vampire in the body of a teenager, who is attending high school for mysterious reasons of his own (though Mel has her suspicions).
Mel is afraid that her intense relationship with her best friend is endangered by this, but what she really fears is that Cathy might be contemplating vampirism herself. This is a dangerous process for humans -- accepting an offer of "transition" from a vampire means a small but real risk of death or worse. About ten percent of humans don't make the transition and don't die either, becoming mindless, agonized zombies who are locked away until they rot.
And if you do survive the transition to immortal, super-strong, super-fast, super-keen vampirism, it's still not what Mel wants for Cathy. For one thing, vampires can neither cry nor laugh, thanks to some principle of conservation of emotion that flattens out the affect of immortals -- forever.
The story's on rails from page one, ripping along in a suspenseful, funny blur. This is the vampire-human supernatural romance you want the world to fall in love with: filled with kick-ass girls and boys, complicated vampires, and an internally consistent set of fantasy rules that makes the whole thing that much smarter.
Published 6:38 am Tue, Jul 3, 2012
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