Ever since I’d read that Melissa Keil would be the first author to be published as part of The Ampersand Project I was curious to read it. The goal of the project is to help debut YA authors get published. Life in Outer Space sounded wonderful and exactly my sort of book. I was lucky enough to get to read it back in December and I fell in love with it from the first line. I loved it so much that I’ve read it twice, and I loved it even more the second time around.
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.
I love absolutely everything about Life in Outer Space! It’s full of cool characters that you want to be friends with, great dialogue, pop culture references galore, and hilarious moments that will have you laughing out loud. Reading Life In Outer Space made me feel like I was at a comic book convention or a book conference, because I felt totally surrounded by people who were just like me.
Melissa’s characters feel totally real and you can imagine seeing them walking down the street or waiting outside the cinema to catch a movie. Sam’s voice is so authentic that I’m sure Melissa has a teenage boy trapped inside her. Sam is an incredibly likeable character, from his extensive knowledge of movies and his ability to relate them to real life, to his loyalty to his friends. He’s got a great sense of humour, but he’s also quite awkward. He says that ‘everything useful I do know about real life I know from movies,’ and I love the way that he proves this frequently throughout the book. All of the other characters stand out too, especially Sam’s friends. Adrian is the clown of the group, Mike is Sam’s gay best friend, Allison is their tom-boy female friend, and then there is Camilla. Camilla is the cool new girl who arrives at Sam’s school at the start of the story and quickly becomes part of his group of friends. She has an unusual name, a British accent, a tattoo, she’s from New York, she has a great smile, and she’s objectively attractive, all of which means she scores highly in Sam’s ‘mental social scorecard.’ Not only this, but she also knows a lot about movies and she wants to be friends with Sam. I found myself falling for Camilla and I just wanted Sam to hurry up and kiss her.
Melissa’s writing is witty, heartfelt and incredibly funny. I clicked with Sam straight away and I loved his point of view. I loved Melissa’s description of characters through Sam’s eyes, like this one of Sam’s dad,
“My father likes Harvey Norman, the Discovery Channel, and for some reason, lizards. He last smiled in 2008, which is one of the few things we have in common…My dad also looks like me – i.e. sort of like a storm-trooper. And not the cool Star Wars kind.”
The dialogue is witty and I had to put the book down a couple of times because I was laughing so hard at some of the conversations between Sam and his friends.
I loved all of the pop culture references in Life in Outer Space. I’m a huge movie geek so I loved all of the references to Sam and Camilla’s favourite movies and their debates about the merit of different movies. Everything from Superman and Star Wars to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead gets a mention. Every time they would mention a movie I hadn’t seen I wanted to write it down so I could add it to my list of to-be-watched movies.
Life in Outer Space will make you think, feel, laugh and leave you wishing that Melissa’s characters were real.
5 out of 5