Thursday, June 21, 2012

Team Fight the Cheese!

Team Human
Imagine a world with humans and vampires living side by side. The vampires aren't allowed to turn people without a consensual license, they aren't allowed to eat people, but they still have the potential to do all the things that made them feared throughout history. In that world, where does one passionate, meddling teen find herself? Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan tell you in Team Human.

The city of New Whitby was created as a haven for vampires who may have been persecuted elsewhere, but that doesn't mean everyone is happy to have the vampires nearby. For the most part they stick to the Shade, the vampire part of town, but when a vampire comes to Mel's high school, he brings mixed opinions. Some kids are obsessed with Francis, others hate him with a passion, but the scariest reaction is Mel's best friend Cathy who falls madly in love with him.

Mel takes it upon herself to blackmail Francis into leaving Cathy alone, but there was a misunderstanding about her source of blackmail. When Cathy runs away to the Shade to find Francis, Mel figures it out and tracks her down, but not before she breaks into a vampires lair (properly called a shade in such politically correct vampire times!). While there, they meet Francis's "nephew", a human named Kit who was raised by a group of vampires. Kit's "mother" is a vampire cop who isn't too thrilled about their entry into her house, but once Mel takes a minute to get to know them all, she may realize the vampires in the equation aren't always the bad guys.

So, let's get this out in the open. This looks like a ChhEEEsy book, right?! Well, yeah, sort of. But it is also surprisingly good with some strong allusions to racism and Civil Rights in our own not-alternate history. Mel's emphatic dislike for vampires is said to be based on her friend Anna's father's abandonment of his family for a vampire patient, but that kind of hatred and prejudice doesn't happen easily. It was something that was clearly societal and ran much deeper than just one or two instances. And Mel wasn't afraid to show it. When Francis arrived, despite being totally polite (albeit a bit of a stuffy pants), Mel made comments that were considered highly insulting in the vampire world. Her friends even called her on it on more than one occasion. The other interesting thing about Mel is how darn much that girl meddles into other people's business. At first you think she is being protective, but there are points where you want to tell her to just back off and let people make their own decisions. In fact, a couple of characters flat out tell her to lay off. In the end, of course, she ended up helping some of her friends and learning valuable lessons from the others. It was a nice transition and it made me like her more even though she had moments of supreme grating and annoying-ness.

So, my advice is don't let the Cheese factor keep you from reading this one of many vampire books- it was actually a pretty good one. If for no other reason than the fact that when a person undergoes a "turning" into a vampire, they have a 1/10 chance of dying, and worse, a 1/10 chance of becoming a zombie! And the Zombie Disposal Units can tell you the horrors of those transformations gone wrong! Oh, I almost forgot. Another reason to really like this story was Kit. Oh, laughing, fun, adorable, sometimes snarky Kit. FINALLY! A main character and/or love interest with a little bit of fight in him! I love it! I am going to vote here and now that we shall no longer have lead men who always wear the "broody face". I hate broody face. I want snarky guys with some saucy retorts that keep me laughing!

This is a very clean book for a variety of ages. It might look too young for older students, but the cover doesn't do the story justice. If you have read it and can speak from experience to recommend it to otherwise skeptical teens, you might find they will really enjoy it. I know I enjoyed it once I got past the cheese-tastic title and cover!

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