I can’t tell you exactly, but I think I know when I pick up a book that has ‘It”.
When I moved house recently, I found $20 I’d won in a CYA writing competition years ago when I was trying to get my YA novel, Letters to Leonardo published. It might come as no surprise that I decided to spend my prize money on a book.
I chose Melissa Keil’s new YA novel Life In Outer Space for a couple of reasons. I enjoy reading realistic YA (the same genre I write) and the book came highly recommended by the bookseller I purchased it from.
Life in Outer Space is the first book to be published by Hardie Grant Egmont in their The Ampersand Project
It’s about a geek called Sam Kinnison (At this point I should mention that I have a son called Sam the same age who shares a number of Sam Kinnison’s traits and interests).
But that’s not what hooked me in. I loved this character’s voice; his sensitivity, his wit and his vulnerability. I am not and never was a teen boy, but I could feel this guy’s pain and confusion. I connected with his character.
Sam meets the beautiful Camilla who seems as far out of reach as the moon, but she has plans for Sam, and her life is far from being as perfect as it seems.
It wasn’t just the main characters that endeared me to Life In Outer Space. I loved the friendships between teens who have grown up together and are trying to adapt to the changes in each other.
I don’t want to give too much away because if you enjoy a good YA or have have aspirations to write it, you really should read Life In Outer Space for yourself.
But what I can tell you is that these are the things I think make up the illusive “It” factor in LIFE IN OUTER SPACE:
1. Well rounded characters that the reader can connect with – characters with endearing qualities and believable flaws.
2. An element of mystery
3. An attraction between a boy and a girl that may or may not be resolved
4. Gentle humour – the kind that makes you smile and feel warm inside rather than laugh out loud
5. Energy – this book has life – the author takes us into the character’s world rather than simply telling us about it
6. Obstacles – There are plenty of things to turn Sam’s world upside down and force him to change and grow in order to overcome them
7. A realistic setting that draws the reader in
8. Complex and varied relationships between characters that make them interesting and are a catalyst for action and tension
Have you picked up a book recently where you thought to yourself, “Wow, I know why this one got published.”
If you have, I’d love you to tell us about it in the comments section of this post so that we can read it too.
Happy writing and reading:)