Team Human, Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

I’ve been back from vacation/visiting my family for a few days now, but I can’t quite accept my real life for what it is just yet. As I was flying home I thought to myself, “aren’t you lucky to have a life you love so much that coming back to it is less of a let down and more of a continuing stroke of luck?” And that is 110 percent true. I am a fortunate person indeed.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to get back to work after spending a long weekend at a friend’s lake house – a magical place where we wore the same clothes every day and didn’t bother to shower because a jump in the water was so much more refreshing. We gorged ourselves on blueberries and grilled meat and I don’t think I even knew where my shoes were until we were getting ready to leave. I read two books while I was there, and the only thing I had to do was how to play cribbage. It was about as perfect a summer weekend as I can imagine, and I have an excellent imagination.

Basically, I let myself go completely, and unlike when I went to Germany a few months back and was drawn to experience-expanding travel memoirs, this was an opportunity for a little guilty pleasure reading. Okay, so it was actually a lot of guilty pleasure reading, and if you’re not a fan of fantasy novels, well, I’m sorry, I really am, but my go-to genre for the ultimate relaxation is as far removed from reality as possible.

Team Human was the first book on my queue for this trip. It had been described (on Twitter, I think, although I can’t remember who mentioned it) as the anti-Twilight novel. Let me tell you upfront that’s a bit of an overstatement. In my opinion, Anne Rice’s books are what you should look into if you need relief from the vampires in Forks. I only made it through about a third of Interview with a Vampire in the seventh grade and am still having nightmares about how unsparkly those vampires were.

This book takes a more YA friendly approach to the idea of vampires and humans coexisting. The co-authors did an interesting job of taking a situation similar to the one presented in the Twilight books and tackling it from the perspective of the best friend of the girl who falls in love with a vampire. I actually felt myself getting choked up as Mel tries to keep her childhood friend Cathy from losing herself to a world the protagonist neither likes nor understands. I think the issues of prejudice, obsession, and guilt are well addressed, and although the style is a little rough (possibly the result of paired authoring – I’ve experienced a similar problem when working together on novels with other writers), the characters are deftly drawn and story is compelling.

I read a lot of novels, especially in this genre, that have female protagonists, and when I finish a book, I can’t help but wonder how a story like this one would affect a young female reader. Although I love tough as nails women, I tend to appreciate even more those who are written flaws and all. I just don’t relate well to women who seem to be above vulnerability, although that obviously reflects who I am as a reader more than it does a weakness on the writer’s part. I certainly know plenty of people who are less emotionally driven than I am who hate getting bogged down with too much sentimentality, regardless of the gender of the protagonist.

I believe this is one of the reasons I often find myself drawn to books about younger women in this genre. Fantasy novels written for a YA audience often strive to blend adventure with a well-shaded personality, and the heightened emotional range of teens (thank you hormones!) is often easier to capture than the mature, better-hidden motives of older characters. Teenagers often have a tougher time avoiding the  projection of some subconscious signal (the bigger the issue, the harder it is for them to completely hide) – whether it be through aggressive secretiveness, maudlin depression, or a calculated nonchalance – and that makes for cathartic reading.

In the car on the way to meet our ride to the lake, I asked my best friend’s father if it was entertaining to have his giggly girls back in the car, and he said, “You know, even now that you’re grown, I try to remember that if I keep my mouth shut, I learn a lot more about both of your lives than if I were trying to ask questions.” In my opinion, that attitude is what every YA and MG author should be striving for when writing a book; as much as possible, sit back and allow each character to speak without judgement or interference. Who they are as children, and who they want to become as adults – not to mention the behaviors exhibited during that critical in-between stage – are the most instructive and fascinating part of the reading (and living) experience.

To find out more about the team behind Team Human, go here (Sarah Rees Brennan also has a site here, but it’s currently under construction).

4 thoughts on “Team Human, Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

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