Review Blog

Mar 26 2013

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

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Hardie Grant Egmont, 2013. ISBN: 9781742973951.
Highly recommended. Bildungsroman. The deeper we get into Melissa Keil's debut novel, the more like Australia's answer to Rachel Cohn's Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist it becomes - the nerdy boy meets larger than life girl whose dad is big in the international music scene. The blossoming romance between Sam and Camilla is every bit as delightful but so protracted that they themselves are oblivious. The narrator's inner voice and interactions with other characters are both humorous and believable although Life in Outer Space is a slower paced look at the Australian teen's secondary school experience.
When Camilla Carter arrives at Bowen Lakes Secondary, she is an exotic import who is immediately comfortable with the popular girls and jocks. To the harassed nerds and long lanky Sam, our narrator, it comes as a surprise when Camilla adopts them. Camilla's hobbies including song writing, 'World of Warcraft' gaming and computers in general, means that she has more in common with Sam, Mike, Allison and Adrian.
Everybody thinks Camilla is cool and Justin Sigoni, the resident bully, has his sights set on her when he breaks up with his long-term girlfriend. Even Justin is impressed by the respect Camilla affords the Geeks and for the first time in high school the group feel as unthreatened as the next student. But complications arise - Mike is victimized at his Dojo, Allison kisses Sam and Camilla launches her own singing career. Will all their angst be resolved by the much anticipated 'Spring Dance' which signals the end of life in high school?
Being the very first book put out by Hardie Grant Egmont's Ampersand Project, aspiring YA novelists have big shoes to fill. We can look forward to some resonant meaty books for Aussie youth if they are as layered and resonant as Life in Outer Space.
Deborah Robins

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