Saturday, May 18, 2013

Aussie Reviews: Creepy and Maud by Dianne Touchell & Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil


Title: Creepy and Maud

Author: Dianne Touchell

Rating: 3 Stars

Creepy and Maud is a strange book. A really strange book. On one hand, I really do have to give Touchell props for creating a contemporary novel that is original and unique in nearly every way that counts. It quite honestly seems impossible to find another novel that is similar to this in any way. Yet, ironically enough, I think it was this very same originality that I'm always running towards that managed to make this book not work for me as much as I may have wanted it to.

I find it difficult to explain Touchell's debut. Very loosely, it's the story of two children who are neighbors and fall in love through their window conversations. From the surface, it seems very cute and sweet, but don't let that fool you. In actuality, Creepy and Maud is a very dark tale. Creepy narrates the majority of the story with a few perspective shifts to Maud, the girl next door, who constantly pulls her hair out. Whether it be the hair on her head, the hair on her eyelashes, or her pubic hair, Maud just can't seem to stop.

At the same time, though, Maud has a volatile relationship with her parents with her father occasionally abusing her and her parents stuck in a terrible marriage. Creepy understands this perfect as his own parents share a bad marriage - one so bad that his father has trained their dog to bite his wife. If that wasn't strange enough, Creepy has his nose stuck in books all day, denied the access of any technology and both him and Maud attend a religious school.

Now, first and foremost, I have to admit that it was simultaneously really easy and really hard for me to connect with this story. On one hand, Creepy's narration reads very intelligently and is extremely witty, keeping your attention. Yet, at the same time, so many of the instances in this novel seem exaggerated to the point where they come across as unbelievable. For me, this novel felt like a classic situation where I sympathized with the characters and for their dire situations, but never really empathized with them.

Furthermore, Maud was very tough for me to get a grasp on. I suspect this has to do with the fact that her narration lacks contractions, making it a little irritating to read through and, as such, I will admit to skimming through a lot of her story. Yet, in my defense, this book lacks a conclusive plot line. Dianne Touchell pushes her characters to the limits of their endurance, but almost not enough. Granted, they both have bad backgrounds and go to a ridiculous school that continually censors any mention of sex (which is impossible since teenagers will find out about sex one way or the other) and on top of that, their parents don't understand them and they've grown up believing that love can never really last, as evidenced by their parents marriage.

Yet, into this is thrown the weirdest romance/friendship/love story imaginable. Creepy's narration is dispersed with paragraphs dedicated to random observations, his friendship with Maud grows through words scribbled on paper and shown through a window, and all in all, this was just so...strange. Weird. Unusual. I know I'm always harping about books being too typical, too standard, too much like everything else out there, but I think this one was a little too out there for me. I simply could not completely understand the characters. I wasn't in their heads enough. I didn't even find the ending to be all that powerful. If anything, it just seemed kind of inevitable.

Creepy and Maud, though, is a book I still recommend, although with reservations. I know plenty of my friends have loved it, which clearly means there is something in this book that I am just not seeing. It's written very well, clever and witty while still managing to paint a picture of depression and reality. Perhaps the best part of it, though, is that Touchell never sugar coats life. Instead, she keeps everything very realistic, which I truly appreciated. Sometimes, people just aren't meant to be parents and that is felt so palpably with this novel. Although I'll be wary about picking up another Touchell novel in the future, I know she's an author I'll be too curious to resist. If nothing else, you can be sure that she'll make you think and, sometimes, what more can you ask for?

A huge thank you to my friend Mandee at Vegan YA Nerds for sending me a copy of this book to read and review since it isn't available in the US. You're the best, dear! :) 

Title: Life in Outer Space 

Author: Melissa Keil 

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Life in Outer Space has got to be the cutest book I've read this year. As a fan of films, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, and most nerdy things, I thoroughly enjoyed Keil's debut, devouring it over a weekend - one where I was frantically cramming for exams. Although Life in Outer Space seems like a rather standard romantic comedy novel, told from a guy's PoV, Keil manages to introduce many original aspects to it and, frankly speaking, it's worth the few hours of time it takes up. You'll come away from this novel feeling lighter, happier, and grinning like a fool. I don't know about you, but amidst all the depressing novels on my list, not many books that successfully accomplish that.

From first glance, Life in Outer Space is a book we all know well. We have our standard group of misfits who is content with their avoiding-the-bully-at-all-costs lifestyle until the new girl walks in, dazzles the entire school, but somehow joins the group of misfits. Who are not-so-misfit anymore. And, what do you know, we have our classic tale of a best friend romance. I know it's been done before, but it works every time. What makes Life in Outer Space so remarkable, though, is that it is a story of friendship far before it is a story of love. Camilla is the type of girl who fits in like a glove, but underneath her cheerful exterior is a girl who wants to find a place to belong. Stuck with her dad, who constantly moves, Camilla has never had a close group of friends who have lasted for very long - until now. In Sam, movie nerd 101; Adrian, socially awkward but without inhibitions; Allison, obsessed with anime; and Mike, silent, gay, and dedicated to karate, Camilla finds a group of friends who have each others backs and are ready to have hers too.

As the narrator of the tale, Sam is delightful. One of my favorite aspects of his tale is the fact that he must come to realize that just as he doesn't have everything figured out in life, his parents often don't have everything figured out either. When his parents finally get divorced and are faced with a fresh plate, he is surprised at their indecision. And yet, this is what I love about this genre and age group - this is when we all realize that our parents are not God and nor are they perfect human beings. In fact, they are still finding themselves and sometimes, that is a very scary realization. And when this crisis hits Sam, he has his friends to fall back upon. Seriously, the dynamics between this group is so realistic and palpable that I feel as if I could hug them all. Although they are all concerned for one another, especially Mike who mysteriously quits karate, they are often too engrossed with their own lives to prod too deeply into each others. And I feel as if this is another classic friendship crisis - which, by the way, Keil deals with beautifully. As this book came to and end, I wanted to pump my fist and cry with happiness because the friendships in this are so, so lovely.

Not to be outdone, though, the romance is slow and sizzling, perfect and awkward. Sam doesn't even realize the depth of his feelings for Camilla until he is barreled over with them all at once along with the admission that someone like Camilla could never go for movie-obsessed him. Sam's passion for movies, though, is what makes this book such a delight to read. Life in Outer Space is riddled with movie references and allusions and while we can see that Camilla is besotted by Sam's passions, he - obviously - can't. And watching these two grow from friends to something more and witnessing the trust and understanding they share is wonderful. It's so rare to find love stories that are based heavily upon strong friendships, so in all counts, this book is a definite winner. Strong, lively, and endearing characters make Life in Outer Space the sheer delight it in and as far as rom coms go, this is one of the good ones.

THANK YOU Mandee for allowing me to be part of this blog tour and THANK YOU Flann for sending this to me along with The Bitter Kingdom! You ladies rock! :D 

10 comments:

  1. Both of these are new to me. I haven't seen them before. For the Creepy and Maud yes it does sound scary a bit but still I'm always in for original plots. I'll check that one out. I though that Life in Outer Space is more chick-lit because of the cover but it sounds so cute! I must check it out. Great review Keetana :)

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  2. Creepy and Maud sounds very different and creepy (haha) but I find myself strangely drawn to it! I've seen Life in Outer Space around and it appeals to me as well. More so with your excellent review! I too love all things nerdy, lol! :)

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  3. I am going to love Creepy and Maud because I dig strange books. A lot. Yay. And the other one sounds really awesome too.

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  4. I swear...there is something about Aussie authors that I just love! Creepy and Maud sounds so different. It totally sounds like something I'd go for. Wonderful reviews!

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  5. It was my pleasure:) What's mine is yours when it comes to books so just let me know if I have something you want to read. I totally had a blast reading Life in Outer Space. I loved Sam's nerdiness but also that Camilla was an actually nice character. I hate when new girls or guys come to school and are instantly AMAZING and popular. (see that annoying guy in Lucid, Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, etc.) I liked seeing someone who kept it real and wasn't really fake.

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  6. Like Rachel, I find myself drawn to Creepy and Maud, too. It might be a little too strange for me, but I'm still curious about it. I do think originality comes with a line, though. Authors who cross that line can either earn all my respect or make me wonder what's running through their heads. Life in Outer Space sounds exactly like my sort of read! I'm pretty confident I'll enjoy that book. Lovely reviews, Keertana! :)

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  7. C&M was an odd book, it was definitely very, very different and I think it was missing a little something for me, but still a unique book worth reading.

    And SO, SO, SOOOOOO happy that you loved Life in Outer Space - it makes my heart sing when I see +ve reviews!!!

    And you're so welcome, lovely girl!

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  8. I've been dying to read Creepy and Maude since Shirley Marr posted about it last year---how awesome that you got yourself a copy! I need to order it soon, it seems like it might be my kind of read, despite the reservations you mentioned.

    I have to confess I was a little on the fence about Life in Outer Space, though. It's certainly been making the rounds, but I didn't know if it would be too "clever," if you know what I mean. Seeing your 4 stars and excited review definitely piques my interest, though!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  9. Neither of these books was on my radar, but I definitely want to read Life in Outer Space now! Anytime you use the words cute and fun - and talk about strong character dynamics, I'm in. Also a well written, engaging male POV is always something I want to read.

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  10. Creepy and Maud: I think I'm going to pass on this novel. I'm not sure how far I would get and I don't think it would be a good idea for me to read a book I'm not sure I'm going to love it.

    Life in Outer space: you sold me at "As a fan of films, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, and most nerdy things." Honestly, when you give a book 4.5 stars AND talk about nerdy things, I'm in need of the book! I have actually not heard about this book at all so I'm glad you reviewed it!

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