Review: Life in Outer Space – Melissa Keil

Life in Outer SpaceSynopsis from Goodreads.

Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, he doesn’t have to worry about girls.

Then Sam meets Camilla. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his life. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a life of her own – and she’s decided that he’s going to be part of it.

Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies … but now it looks like he’s been watching the wrong ones.

First up, I’ve got to say a huge thank you to the brilliant Mandee at Vegan YA Nerds for letting me be a part of her blog tour of this book. Seriously, if it wasn’t for wonderful Aussies like her, there’s no way I’d be able to get my grubby mitts on a lot of great books. So yeah, cheers love!

OK, I have to admit, I kind of have mixed feelings about this book. Don’t worry, most of the feelings are good but there was still something that made me feel a bit… I don’t know.

 

Let’s talk about the good things.

I really liked Sam, both as a character and his voice. Sometimes narrators can get a bit gender-neutrally but Ms Keil managed to make Sam genuinely sound like a boy with minimal mentions of boobs and testicles.

And, actually, as much as I wanted to hate Camilla, I couldn’t . I feel like I should because she’s kind of everything I avoid in a YA heroine. She’s quirky, she’s cool, she’s the new girl, she’s got a rockstar boyfriend, her dad’s a music journalist, she’s popular but she’s also a geek and can vomit up film references on demand. She also wears yellow dresses and headbands and also she has tattoos which is weird because surely she’s only about seventeen. How old do you have to be to get tattooed in Australia?

Anyway, that’s beside the point.

I actually didn’t mind Camilla because she fitted into the slightly-kooky-and-just-on-the-right-side-of-annoying world that Ms Keil created. Now I’m not saying that she’s the kind of girl I’m going to sit with in the cafeteria but I’d probably nod at her in the corridor and maybe lend her my pen if she needed it.

My favourite part of this book was the friendship between Sam and the rest of his rag-tag comrades. I’m a sucker for friendships in book, especially when they’re done well and not used as a plot device for the heroine/hero to get the later bus because they’re so mad at their bff and they find a gorgeous, mysterious heroine/hero to watch for a bit then snog while the earth shifts.

I actually loved all the characters in this book, especially Mike and Adrian because they were little cuties. I kind of wished we got more of an insight on Allison but you know, you can’t have everything, can you?

But yeah, it’s obvious that Ms Keil really worked on the connections between her characters and it really came across in the book. And it was a pleasure to read.

OK, the things that didn’t work for me.

Holy Film References in Italics, Batman!

This book kind of reminded me of being sat with someone at a party and they’re dropping in all these cultural references to make you think that they’re cool and awesome and with it. And I.. urgh, do you know what I mean?

Now I’m a film fan. A huge fan. I like to slip random film quotes into my speech just to see if anyone gets them… and/or listening to me. (“Clever girl” is my favourite and, weirdly, one that no one ever picks up on. This upsets me.) But even I got lost on some of these ones.
And whereas it did kind of work in the whole context of Sam being a film fan, it just got too much and often felt unnecessary. I feel all the references will make the book feel really dated in a couple of years, which is a shame.

Also, I’ve never seen Stars Wars so when the whole lovely ending/private jokes between the lovers are based on a Star Wars reference, you’ve completely lost me.

Also, and this is a pet peeve… speeches? Do people actually make speeches like that? The only speech I’ve ever made was in front of two lecturers and no I was not declaring my undying love for them while standing in the middle of the cafeteria with my skirt tucked in my knickers or whatever’s supposed to happen… I was standing in front of two of my lecturers explaining my rationale for my dissertation.

I got a 2:1 for my efforts but somehow I don’t think that will be transferable if I ever have to tell a guy I’m in love with him and have been since the first time I spilled coffee down his new shirt.

Mate, I don’t even like coffee.

What was I even talking about?

Oh that’s right: speeches. I have to admit I skimmed them to gather the gist of it and, unfortunately, that was the whole ending.They were long winded and, for Sam especially, seemed really out of character. It just seemed quite an easy way to end the book without much faff but sometimes faff is good. Sometimes we readers want more than just easy. And I definitely did with this one.

So yeah… this book was kind of a mixed bag, actually. It wasn’t bad at all and I know a lot of people will love it. It’s contemporary and it’s funny and it’s cool; three things which are very ‘in’ at the moment.

But it just really didn’t work for me, I’m afraid.

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13 thoughts on “Review: Life in Outer Space – Melissa Keil

  1. I think Mike and Adrian were maybe my favourite part, I really liked the whole friendship between the boys (although you’re right that it would have been nice to hear a little more about Allison). I think I was prepared to not like Camilla, but something about her just worked for me I guess! :)

  2. I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head, Jo. I felt much the same way as you – some things I liked and some not so much. I love a good film reference every now and then, but I felt that this book was a bit saturated with them.. This review is perf.

    By any chance… are you quoting Jurassic Park with your “clever girl”-ing?? O.o

  3. how have you never seen star wars, my man?

    even my WIP has a star wars reference (well, the dog is called Yoda… and that;s pretty much it)

    i like the review and i agree with so much of it. i did think it was cool and funny. if we’re listing beefs we have with it: well, as an aussie, this book felt very non-Aussie. the schooling system felt so US. bizarre.

    i liked the characters the most, they grew on me a lot

    • Ha, I think I could deal with a dog called Yoda. For you, anyway. ;)

      You know, you’re completely right, it didn’t feel very Aussie at all. And yeah, the schooling was a bit strange.

  4. I’m glad you did enjoy this a little bit, Jo!

    I loved the friendship between the boys, they were so much fun to read about :)

    I’ve never seen Star Wars either, and don’t plan on ever watching it!

    You have to be 18 to get a tattoo, but I think you can get them a bit younger with permission, and there are probs places that won’t ask for I.D ;)

  5. I really enjoyed this book. I think the references were meant to allude to lots of 80s films, as the book itself has a really 80s feel. Sometimes I felt these references worked and sometimes not. But I felt the central character was really strong. Over at my blog I interview Melissa Keil (and the editor Marisa Pintado): http://wildcolonialgirl.wordpress.com/tag/melissa-keil/ – I think for a debut novel it is pretty strong, and stood out against some of the other YA fiction I have read recently.

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