Life in Outer Space is a romantic comedy about a movie geek & the dream girl he refuses to fall in love with. 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, worry about girls he won’t. Then Camilla Carter arrives on the scene. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his plan. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a plan
of her own – and he seems to be a part of it! Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies. But perhaps he’s been watching the wrong ones.
This book was made for me. As people who are friends of me know, I am a bit of a geek – particularly a bit of a movie geek. So, when I spotted this book as part of a haul post and had a look at the synopsis on Goodreads and Amazon, there was a sense of the book singing that siren song of “Buy meeeeeeeee, buy meeeeeeeee”.
Melissa Keil’s book follows one of the standards of YA romantic comedies, geek who is a bit of a joke at school and who hangs around with other people who have been marginalised meets new girl in the school who manages not only to be a bit of a geek, but who can also appeal to the popular brigade. However, that is only a part of the storyline as the author manages to keep a few plates spinning with plots that weave in and out of each other.
The book is written from the point of view of lead character, Sam Kinnison. Sam is unashamedly a geek and Ms Keil defintely taps into the whole movie geek, and all things geekery in general. His life is lived around being a film geek – he writes scripts, compiles Top 5 lists of things like types of film, best lines and movie death scenes, and going to the movies with his friends.
Following the convention of books with “geek” leads, Sam is also bullied by the popular types… in fact, he gets bullied right from the off, but this fades out as time goes on for reasons that become clear during the course of the book. However, one thing that is a residue of this is that he has a low opinion of himself when it comes to the opposite sex – an issue which he seeks to avoid, but he has problems with as the novel takes its course.
Sam has a couple of “B” plots going on throughout the course of the book which are picked up and put down at appropriate moments to give the reader a rest from this being a full-on romantic comedy, most significantly, his parents’ marital problems, his relationships with his friends and his problems with writing a good film script.
The female lead, Camilla, is one of those characters who any geek would love to date. From her physical description of her beauty mixed in with her ability to wear apparently unfashionable clothing and still maintain a sense of good fashion, to her bright and breezy personality, to her love of film and, as she and Sam are first introduced, World of Warcraft, she is written as a character who could stride across the varying social structures of school.
In fact, apart from her relationship with Sam during the course of the book, this is her most fascinating trait. As the new girl in school, she would more likely be written as a person who is as much as an outsider as Sam. However, the author writes her as an almost schoolyard Mary Poppins type of character, magically bringing together the geek and popular factions of the school – something that particularly comes into play in the obligatory “School Dance” sub plot.
Like Sam, Camilla does have a couple of subplots, particularly her relationship with her feckless parents, especially her father for reasons that become clear as the book progresses, and a second sub plot which I don’t want to ruin because it gives an insight to Camilla’s true sense of character.
There is a main core of supporting characters in Sam’s traditional geeky friends, Mike, Adrian and Allison, who are featured to a greater or lesser extent throughout the book. The most prominent of the friends is Mike who gets a mystery tied around his subplot which keeps the reader’s curiosity throughout. However, all three main supporting characters are well written as the reader does get a sense of identification with not only the troubled yet stalwart Mike, the slightly annoying Adrian, and Allison – the girl who doesn’t see beauty in herself, but blossoms as the story progresses.
I loved the way that Sam’s relationship with Camilla is written. It combines a “will they, won’t they” aspect of romantic comedy, with a realistic aspect of how relationships – youthful and mature – sometimes progress as the author conveys a sense that Sam doesn’t want a relationship of any kind with Camilla, which becomes a warm friendship with Camilla, to a sense that Camilla is a constant presence in Sam’s life, and eventually, to love – albeit reluctantly. This relationship is written comedically as Sam comes to an understanding within himself that he isn’t worthy of Camilla, but it’s also written with a sense of painful honesty as any who is a geek can understand – particularly in a chapter where Sam tries to get his feelings for Camilla out of his system.
The book can come over as not really going anywhere in the first half, as plot is laid down and various strands are introduced, picked up, and put down. I recommend that interested readers persevere as you will be rewarded with a great second half where the storylines intermingle and the pace picks up, particularly in the last third which was read within a few hours of reading time.
This is a nice, light novel which will appeal to those of a geeky or romantic persuasion, or a geeky AND romantic persuasion, or people who simply like their YA to be funny, warm and well written.
If you would like to find out more about Melissa Keil and “Life In Outer Space”, please check out her Blog.