Title: Waste of Space (2017)
Author: Gina Damico
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Extent: 368 pages
Release Date: July 2, 2017
Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space.
The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show.
And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.
Waste of Space is a very interesting book, one that I have no doubt would be quite polarising among the YA audience. It’s wacky, it’s ridiculous, it’s surprising as hell, and even now I don’t feel like I have the vocabulary extensive enough to describe it the way I actually want to. Hell, I’m not even sure how I feel about it, weeks after finishing it.
This is an epistolary novel, written in the style of a report with transcripts of phone calls, TV episodes, and conversations, with small sections of narrative. The premise is intriguing: ten teenagers are being sent to a fake spaceship without them knowing that it’s fake, and their whole experience is televised for the nation to see. The narrator has written this report to expose the very unethical nature of the whole operation.
Anyway, the mission commences. Lifelong friendships are formed. Bitter fights erupt. Maybe a slap or two. A slap in zero gravity — that’s never been done before! . . . Every eye in America will tune in to check on their cosmic sweethearts.
Waste of Space introduces you to several characters, but I never felt like any of them was a protagonist. There’s Chazz Young, the head of DV8, the channel broadcasting Waste of Space; there’s NASAW, a group of shady scientists collaborating with DV8 for funding; and there are the ten contestants: Nico, Titania, Hibiscus, Clayton, Jamarkus, Bacardi, Matt, Kaoru, et cetera.
I won’t bother telling you about them one by one since the list will be long, but they’ve got quite defined personalities. I wouldn’t say they’re that well-developed, though, because Waste of Space is not a book that tells you a lot about its characters. Reading it was exactly like reading a report — I felt incredibly distanced from the characters and the events.
There’s a lot to unpack in the story, but since I’m not entirely sure what it’s all about, I’ll just share with you the range of emojis that I felt:
- 😰 at how crazy unethical everything was, how shady most of the adults are, how much I just want to take these kids away from this seriously disturbing operation.
- 😵❓ at what’s going on because this book definitely kept me guessing the whole time.
- 😱 at how things turned out at the end. Is this real? What is reality? Who even knows.
Are you guys familiar with UnREAL, the TV show? This book is somewhat similar to it in that the characters are equally unethical and willing to do whatever it takes to make great television. You know those link-bait titles that go “You won’t believe what happened to ABC in XYZ! The true story will surprise you!”? In Waste of Space, you actually won’t believe what happened to ABC at XYZ, and the true story will surprise you.
“Everything we do and say — are we being watched by the world? Or by no one at all? Which is worse?”
Waste of Space left me feeling intrigued, confused… bewildered. Bewildered, and yet amused. For most of my reading I was busy trying to figure out what the hell is actually going on. It’s not the most realistic of premises, but it is crazy and ridiculous and can be a lot of fun if you like that kind of thing. I’d recommend it to certain people… I’m just not quite sure who those people are. 😂
“You have to keep going, Nico. Bad things happened to you. But you can’t wallow in them forever. You can’t go backwards. You have to keep moving. Keep exploring. Like a shark — if they stop moving, they die.”