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Reading Mutiny Challenge: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Monday, January 27, 2014

Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 3/5

Sam and his best buddies are the geek clique of the school. Fans of cult horror movies and World of Warcraft, they are quite happy to stay out of the way of the 'populars', keeping their heads down in class and seeking refuge in the computer room at lunchtime. Then Camilla joins the school and upsets the apple cart. Camilla, having moved around her whole life and been the 'new girl' way too many times, avoids joining cliques and seeks being friends with everyone. This includes Sam and his crew. Over the course of a school year, Camilla's easy-going nature and general kindness brings together members of the student body who have previously avoided each other and helps Sam to believe in himself and his talents and his true friends.

There are probably loads of songs that could apply to this story but I think 'For Good' is appropriate. Firstly because this book is about those marker people who change you in some way. Secondly because it is a story set during the last year of high school and people like to sing this for leavers assembly and such like, don't they? Anyway, I like these kinds of stories and I enjoyed this book.

I didn't like Camilla at first because she seemed like every other manic pixie dream vintage dress wearing free spirt kind of girl. However, she really grew on me and by the end I was completely Team Camilla. Also, there are people out there who are genuinely like her - effortlessly cool, hippie, nomadic types. We didn't get to see too many of her flaws but a) it was Sam's story and b) we were seeing her through Sam's rather rose-tinted glasses.

Sam verged on being a bit of a Debbie Downer, which might be why Camilla came off so annoyingly perky and twee in the beginning. However, Sam really needed someone like Camilla to push hum to do things outside his comfort zone and learn to embrace life and everything that comes along with it. She also helped show him clique snobishness can go both ways - the majority of the 'populars' didn't necessarily hate the 'nerds' but the 'nerds' never gave them a chance because of the actions of one member - Justin.

The rest of Sam's gang were a cute ensemble. Adrian was the Howard Wolowitz of the group, fully embracing his nerdiness and not letting it hold him back from pursuing what he wants. Allison was sweet and I loved the scene at the beach where she found her voice and began to open up to the other girls. Some women say they can't be friends with other women but I think every woman needs a good girl friend. Camilla became Allison's person and it was very sweet. Finally, Mike, Sam's stoic, karate loving BFF since kindergarten. I appreciated that his story arc was not about his sexuality - it didn't define him. He had his own battle to deal with.

I really enjoyed the scenes when the whole school class came together, such as the beach and prom scene. The writing was strong as Melissa Keil presented a diverse body of students trying to deal with feeling a bit silly having spent the past five years looking down on and not speaking to each other. We all went through this during final year.

Along with growing up and moving on, another major theme was that of absent parents. It seemed like Camilla's need to reconcile everyone and everything stemmed from loneliness. Her dad - a music journalist - was constantly at gigs and enjoys globe hopping. Her mother is more concerned with running her modelling agency and pampering herself. There's a really sweet bit towards the end where Camilla, literally run down from trying to help everyone, finally accepts help from Sam and his family. I thought Melissa Keil handled Sam's parents' problems really well too. The extent to which their unhappiness effected Sam didn't manifest until the final third of the book when they make a decision and it was very well done.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot. The film references were lost on me because I don't watch horror films, however I would've loved to go to their prom! A nice little Aussie novel.

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