Author: Melissa Keil
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Pages: 320 (ARC edition)
Published: February 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
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.
Life in Outer Space is a romcom in YA book form. It's cute, it's sweet, it's adorable, and it's predictable. It's a fun, fast read that doesn't demand attention but provides a lot of entertainment and pop culture references. It's full of interesting, if slightly under-characterized characters, and Keil spins her story rather well. Life in Outer Space is funny, authentic and full of great moments, though it does falter when it comes to secondary characters especially.
Where the book floundered the most for me was where the female love interest, Camilla, was concerned and how Sam acted around her. It's not a spoiler to label her the love interest because long before Sam has his "a ha!" moment, the reader is acutely clued into his feelings for her. There is a real connection between the two main characters. It just took Sam way way too long to catch on to what he wanted. Though I appreciated the slow-building of a real relationship between the two, it made the storyline feel stretched rather thin. The romance is sweet, and funny, but it could've been tighter.
I liked Camilla - but she does stray into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory often throughout the novel.
Let's run a checklist, shall we?
- Quirky and idiosyncratic? Check.
- Wild hair choices and unique approach to fashion? Do Leia buns count? I say they do -- check.
- Opens up the love interest to a wider experience of (high school) life? Double check.
- Fixated on the main character from the start? Oh yeah - but not in a creepy way.
There's more to both the trope and to Camilla, but she fits within the designation fairly well.
She does differ from the trope in that Camilla has a realized inner life and struggles of her own. She struggles with family issues, abandonment issues, and more. The fact that Keil fashioned her into a more evolved MPDG is what saved both Camilla and the love story. I liked her, despite how she was occasionally presented. She was interesting, she wasn't dependent on Sam for meaning, and she was funny.
The other side characters aren't as defined as Camilla and Sam. Mike seems to be sadly defined by his homosexuality, despite the author's clear attempts to do otherwise. Adrian never evolved into more than comic relief, and though the parents are featured, they lack presence. They're likeable enough, but they aren't memorable. They just seem to exist in the periphery of Sam and Camilla's love story and lack any agency on their own.
There's angst, there's romance, there's a high school dance. All in all, Life in Outer Space constitutes pretty typical contemporary fare, but it's fun to read and the nerdery of the main characters makes for a fresh read. It could have been more original, and the secondary cast could have used some more time and definition, but it was a fun and pretty adorable read. I'd read it again, and I would recommend it to a friend looking for something light and quick.