My 2 cents:
You know it's a good YA book when your own teen picks it up, and 15 minutes later, you glance over at her, and she hasn't moved (except to turn the pages as quickly as she can). That's what happened this week when I handed my daughter Melissa Keil's debut YA novel, Life in Outer Space. It's a good thing I got to it first. Sponsored by Hardie Grant Egmont Publishing, Keil's new novel is the 2012 first-ever winner of the Ampersand Project. Sam Kinnison (a year-11 movie-geek and screenwriter-in-the-making) and Camilla Carter (new-girl-at-school and daughter of a famous music critic) win readers' hearts immediately with their nerdy, brilliant, funny, cool selves.
Sam and Camilla's story is heartbreakingly authentic. I laughed (a lot), winced (a little), and nodded my head in empathy (more than once). But, mostly (like my daughter), I just turned the pages as fast as I could. Sam's friends, Mike, Allison and Adrian, round out this cast of characters at a high school set in Keil's native Melbourne, Australia. But if it weren't for the “down-under” terminology, this story could be set at any high school in the universe. As Camilla tells Sam:
“Anyway . . . school is school. I've never been to Mongolia or Afghanistan, but I'd bet money that school is the same in those places as well.” (p. 56)
A lot happens in the hallways, classrooms, cafeteria and janitor's closet at Bowen Lakes Secondary School. Complicated relationships abound, as well as: World of Warcraft games, the beach, karate, Justin Zigoni, homework, an awesome Spring Dance, parents, absent parents, movies, music, Princess Leia and Star Wars.
See if you can resist that combination. I couldn't.
Length: 309 pages
Worth Your Time? Yes, you bet your “arse” it is. There is some “language” in Keil's novel, not very much, but some.
Bonus: Check out my next blog for a riveting author-interview with Melissa Keil.