Thursday, 5 September 2013

Review: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space is an adorable Aussie contemporary YA novel. It’s told from the perspective of Sam, a film nerd who gets bullied on a daily basis. His world is rocked when the quirky, cool Camilla shows up at school – and surprisingly takes an interest in him. She provides a welcome distraction from his best friend’s strange behaviour and the fact that his family is slowly falling apart. Maybe too much of a distraction…

I really liked that this book was told from a guy’s perspective - it’s not something you get very much in YA these days, and Keil does it really well. I loved all the film references, the relationships Sam has with his mum and his mates, and the many cute moments in the budding relationship between Camilla and Sam. The secondary characters all had substance and played an important part in the story. I am torn on how I feel about Camilla. She annoyed me a bit at first because she just seemed like the perfect Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but as the plot unfolded and she acted on her own dreams and dealt with her own issues I warmed to her a lot more.

I enjoyed the subplots a lot, even more than the main romance plotline at times. The reason Sam’s best friend, Mike, quits his much-loved karate is an intriguing mystery, and the effect of the disintegration of Sam’s parents’ marriage on both him and his mother is heartbreaking and touching. Keil beautifully combines this drama with a snarky, pop culture-laced humour to create a very fun read.

What stopped this book from being perfect for me were the few things that were hard for me to believe. Like the fact that Camilla managed to make friends with everybody, and Sam's bullying mysteriously stops when she appears. Sam acknowledges this “magic” in the story, which helped a little, but it still didn’t feel realistic to me. There was also the fact that from the descriptions, Sam and Mike don’t sound like the kind of guys who really get bullied or even ignored. But the thing that really bugged me was the fact the high school had more of an American vibe with the lack of school uniforms and the spring dance and so on. I wanted to recognise Australia and what it's like to grow up here more than I did.

But these were only minor niggles in what was overall a really enjoyable book. It’s a quick, easy read, with just the right mix of humour and heart. And, of course, plenty of my favourite thing - pop cultural references!

Rating: 4/5

So I'm pretty sure he looks nothing like how Sam is actually described, but I think because I've been watching way too much Dance Academy lately, I couldn't help but picture Sam as Thom Green, who plays Sammy on DA.


And in a sign that I watch a ridiculous amount of teen TV, I pictured Kaya Scodelario, a.k.a. Effy on Skins, as Camilla.

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Peachtree Publishers (this edition)
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Book Depository


  1. Contemporary fiction usually isn't my thing but I can appreciate a book with a good pop culture reference! I'm sorry to hear the book lacked in Aussie-specific details, but at least it ended up being an enjoyable read.

    1. I am really into contemporary these days. Paranormal fatigue!

  2. Sigh, I hate when Aus YA fiction caters to a potential American audience instead of the country it's actually set in, it always pulls me straight out of the narrative.

    But a YA book with pop culture references AND a decent male narrator/protagonist? I'm. In.

    1. Yeah it bugs me too. It is still set in Melbourne but I didn't get a very strong Aussie vibe, if that makes sense. But it's definitely worth a read.

  3. Sounds interesting! Although the lack of an Aussie-vibe is disappointing, because I would actually enjoy that. But I could use a good, nerdy YA read sometime in the near future.

    1. Maybe for a non-Aussie it would have more of an Aussie vibe :)

  4. Damn those Manic Pixie Dream Girls ;)

    It's interesting you mentioned the lack of Aussiness, because I've always thought the Aussieness of Aussie YA is one of its strengths, if that makes sense, and to downplay seems a bit foolish.

    Heard so many good things about this book. One for the next Fishpond order methinks...

    1. Me too! I also hate when it seems to cater to the US in particular because it makes it seem like that's the priority over just telling a good Aussie story, if that makes sense.
      Yes, so many people love this book, it's worth a read for sure. This is the international edition I read, so not sure how widely it will be available overseas but it seems promising.