Thursday, 1 August 2013

Review: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil
Author: Melissa Keil Website|Twitter
Published: 1st August 2013 (Peachtree)
Format: Kindle e-book
Pages: 320
Buy the hardback: Amazon|BookDepository
Buy the e-book: Kindle

Source: Receieved free copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Sam is a geek movie-buff with a ragtag group of loser friends who have been taking abuse from the popular kids for years. But when the super-cool Camilla moves to town, she surprises everyone by choosing to spend time with Sam's group. Suddenly they go from geek to chic, and find that not everything boils down to us and them. With their social lives in flux, Sam and Camilla spend more and more time together. They become the best of friends, and Sam finds that he's happier and more comfortable in his own skin than ever before. But eventually Sam must admit to himself that he's fallen in love. If he confesses his true feelings to Camilla, will everything change again?

My Review:
I grabbed this title when it was available to read now on NetGalley. It looked exactly like my kind of book! Life in Outer Space follows Sam and his friends as they get used to the arrival of new girl Camilla, who has an effect on Sam in particular.

This is one of those reviews where I just don't know where to begin! I'll start with the humour, because I knew within a few pages that me and this book were on the same wave length. Sam's observations of life at Bowen Lakes Secondary were just spot on and his voice throughout made me laugh and grin. It's Aussie YA which is something I'm always on the lookout for (one of my favourite YA series of all time is Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield series) and this really hit the spot. I think because the Australian school system is a bit more relatable than say an American one. Also reading a book set in somewhere like Australia is just cool.

The story is told from Sam's POV and he was such a freaking great character. He's a bit of an outcast as are his friends, and he's a total film geek. I loved how he related so much of his life back to films. I'm not that up on my films but there's enough pop culture in there that I think most people will be able to appreciate and pick up on the references.

Early on we meet Camilla who is the new girl at school and a very interesting character in herself. I loved her impact on Sam and his friends. She's also one of the coolest characters in the book. I loved how she was sort of fawned over by a lot of the students (because her dad is famous) but at the same time she's incredibly down to earth and friendly. It seems like in so many books, the "popular" girl is some bitchy, horrible person who we're all meant to loathe, but in this case Camilla was just genuinely nice to everyone, and most importantly she was nice to Sam. She really sees him for who he is and it gave me hope that there are more people like her in the world and that you can be yourself and still be taken seriously.

Sam's bunch of friends - Adrian, Allison and Mike - are a pretty great bunch, too. I particularly like Mike and how he fitted into the story. He's gay, but when we meet the gang he's already out to his friends and parents. I liked that his sexuality didn't dominate the story but just became part of who he is. I also liked Allison who's this totally dreamy, Luna Lovegood-esque girl who sort of hovers on the edge of school life. I just found myself completely drawn to her, and I think having an extra girl around besides Camilla was a good mix. I think the geekiness of the main characters makes them completely relatable. As well as Sam's obsessions with film you have his and Camilla's love of World of Warcraft and the fact that Sam and his friends help out in the IT office at school. Then you have the school baddies to balance everything out - in this case, Bowen Lakes Secondary's school cliché Justin provides the trouble for Sam and his friends.

As well as providing some laughs, Life in Outer Space also touched on some more poignant moments as well. The insight into teenage/parent relationships as seen through both Sam and Camilla's eyes, because they both have situations at home that aren't perfect. Seeing how they both handled everything gave a real insight into their characters. Camilla has travelled around a lot and moved school numerous times so she's left with a lot of insecurity about that. I loved the balance between her taking things as they come and getting with life, yet still proving she's vulnerable. I was really glad we got to see Sam show a more emotional side as well. It made him feel so real.

The pace in Life in Outer Space is quite gentle. The first half the book focuses on getting to know the characters, but I found that to be an absolute pleasure because they're such an awesome bunch. The second half really picks up the drama but it's all very character driven, and I really enjoyed that. The plot mainly revolves around Sam and Camilla, but there are all these things going on in the background like the build up to the Spring Dance and Mike acting strangely. That mystery unravelling really kept my attention and drove the book forwards. I was never once bored and there was always something round the corner to keep me entertained.

The focus on geeky main characters, a mysterious girl and really great friendships made this feel very reminiscent of a John Green novel, so I think if you love his work then you definitely have to check out Life in Outer Space. It'll appeal to outcasts, movie buffs, geeks and people who want a really strong story with great touches of humour. I finished this book with a huge smile on my face and with the characters still firmly rooted in my brain.

Rating: 5*
Books like this: Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind by Andy Robb, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Paper Towns by John Green

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