Thursday 24 January 2013

Life in Outer Space

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil (Hardie Grant Egmont)
PB RRP $18.95
ISBN 9781742973951
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is the first published novel from the Ampersand Project of Hardie Grant Egmont. It’s a delicious read; humorous, well written, with strong and interesting characters and a fantastic storyline set in Melbourne.

Sam is a nerdy geek; a self-deprecating loner that hates his life. His friend Mike, who is struggling with his sexuality, describes him as being ‘dead inside’.  Sam uses all life outside his own as ‘fodder for future screenplays’, and as practice for his chosen career as screenwriter which he works towards with consuming passion. His favourite pastime is repeatedly watching his stash of Star Wars and horror movies with his mum or small group of downtrodden friends. Each can quote almost every line word-for-word.

When Camilla Carter walks into Sam’s English class his world shifts. Her blue tattoo, 1950s-look yellow dress and English accent appear too much. Sam’s first impression is that Camilla is ‘another minion for the army of suck’ led by Justin Zigoni that has made his and his friends’ lives a misery during school hours.

But Camilla’s encompassing smile and ability to remain unfazed by the politics of another new school environment, impresses Sam. That Camilla prefers his group’s company to that of the A-group is a mystery to him.  But Camilla sees all the good things in Sam and slowly helps him to see them too. Their friendship grows and strengthens and Sam’s life changes drastically. But his home life still sucks. His father finally leaves and it happens when Camilla sets off to visit to her mother overseas.

To keep Sam’s mind off the tragedy, Camilla sets him a series of challenges that take him out of his comfort zone and enable him to expand his interests away from Star Wars and horror movies. His self-esteem increases and he evolves further during her short absence.

But life is never easy for Sam. He is plagued by confusion, doubt, and misunderstanding. He must clear these clouds before he can step into the truth.

This is an outstanding and highly entertaining debut novel about love. Melissa Keil has grasped the angst, confusion and doubt of teenagers perfectly and presented it with insight, intelligence and humour.

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