Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil, Hardie Grant Egmont is the winner of IBBY Australia’s Ena Noël Encouragement Award in 2014.
Melissa Keil’s debut novel arrived on the YA scene with a refreshing, individual style which has impressed not only its target audience but also readers across generations.
The narrator, Sam, budding horror-filmmaker, has a tightknit group of high school friends who are anything but cool: disarmingly naïve, their lives focus on movies and gaming. Their ‘nerdy’ lives are turned upside down when new student Camilla befriends them. Her zest for life, her worldliness yet naive, undemanding friendship and her personal warmth, wreak wonderful havoc on Sam, Mike (who has come out as gay only to the close group), Adrian and Allison, forcing them to lurch unprepared into new and disconcerting life experiences. Keil has a superb knack of capturing the teenage ‘cringe’ factor: the beach picnic episode is a laugh-out-loud account of awkwardness and developing confidence.
Keil achieves a successful balance through the novel, interweaving serious issues through the otherwise humorous narrative. Readers are acutely aware from early in the novel that Sam’s family is about to fall apart, and the resulting climax is heartfelt and poignant.
The ingenuous style of this novel makes it highly readable and amusing. The judges unanimously agreed that Life in Outer Space is a worthy winner of IBBY Australia’s Ena Noël Encouragement Award, and congratulate the writer on her success. Information about the award, and a list of former winners can be found at on the website and further queries can be directed to National President, Dr Robin Morrow AM
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