Review: ‘Life in Outer Space’ by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space

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

This book, you guys. I wish it had been around when I was at school, because I really could’ve used a story about Australian nerds suffering through high school and falling in love. It was so ADORABLE, and it spoke to me.

The first thing to mention about Life in Outer Space is the voice. It’s told from Sam’s perspective, and he has a distinctive narrative style. He’s always making “objective” observations about his world, and doing things like noticing exactly how many seconds it takes for something to happen. But at the same time he was so awkward and oblivious to social cues. (Seriously, I knew people exactly like this when I was at school.) I’m not a movie buff, so some of his references were lost on me, but he definitely could’ve been a young version of some of my nerdy, adult male friends.

The other characters are just memorable. The dearest to my heart is Camilla. She’s moved around a lot (and has the benefit of having a famous dad), so she’s a veteran at making friends and fitting in. But she’s not a sheep — her philosophy on high school can be summed up by this quote: “You can rock the boat, but you better make sure you have a very safe seat first.” Despite being instantly popular, she’s a music nerd and likes World of Warcraft. She’s the sort of girl every geeky female wants to be: quirky without being weird, and able to tame the bullies — not just for herself but for the other nerdy kids too. (Or maybe it’s just me who wished I was like that?)

I also loved Sam’s other friends. There’s Allison; I would devour a book about her if one were to become available (hint hint!). I couldn’t shake the mental image of her looking like a young Willow from Buffy, only in anime t-shirts rather than daggy clothes picked out by her mother. She had that same awkward earnestness. Mike, Sam’s best friend, is a taciturn and increasingly aloof black belt in karate who is partially out-of-the-closet. And Adrian is a scruffy nerd who is utterly tactless and enthusiastic about life.

I won’t talk too much about the plot, except to say that it was so wonderful to see a relationship built on friendship, hardship and mutual understanding rather than the typical “love at first sight” fare. The pacing was quick enough to keep me interested, and though there weren’t any surprising plot twists or anything, the story had a lot of heart and kept me entranced to the last page.

Five stars

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