Waste of Space

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Jul 2017

Member Reviews

I don’t watch reality TV. There was a time when I did and I’d marathon VH1’s various dating and competition reality shows like Flavor of Love, I Love Money, and Charm School, but it lost its appeal as I got older and a little more cynical. That doesn’t mean I won’t read novels about reality TV because I absolutely will. They’re usually tearing the genre to shreds in one way or another. In epistolary format, Waste of Space starts out as a funny, biting portrait of a faked reality show and devolves into something that touches the boundaries of horror and maybe even sci-fi. You’re getting so, so much more than you expect this novel to give you.

To be honest, I nearly gave up on the novel just before the halfway point. Our ten teens were gathered from mall auditions (at least two of them against their wills to fulfill ableist and racist casting quotas), made to think they’d been blasted off into space, and quickly got so bored of being in “space” that the CEO of the show’s network demanded the scientists in charge of everything spice things up a bit with an enormous robotic arm. Though transcripts of unaired video footage flesh out some characters like Nico and Titania, others like Hibiscus are played straight as stereotypes.

But I stuck around and it’s at that halfway point that the novel really gets good. The scientists take over at the end of the fourth episode, the teens who now know the show is fake come to realize something else is deeply wrong, and all the subtle hints from the first half that Something’s Not Right come to sweet, scary fruition. The six teens still on the “spaceplane” get the bulk of their character development as psychological horror enters the picture and three in particular aren’t who they seem to be. Even the four teens who were cast out before the takeover remain active parts of the story, like Hibiscus trying to expose the show as fake.

Still, readers shouldn’t have to slog through a boring first half to get to a good second half no matter how good it all gets.

The one character I take issue with is Kaoru, a Japanese girl who was in the US for a tournament and got carried away by DV8 staffers when she made the mistake of asking them for help in her native language. Though she understands English, she can’t speak anything more than “This is a fine kettle of fish” and can’t get across that she figured out they’re not really in space. (She’s my favorite.) Knowing full well no one around her can speak or understand Japanese, she still speaks to people as though they can instead of trying to communicate another way like physical signals.

For instance, a woman asks Kaoru and another teen a question. Kaoru says no and tells the other teen to say as much, but because he doesn’t understand Japanese, he says yes on their behalves. Seeing as the use of physical signals is a common way for people without a shared language to get across what they’re saying, it doesn’t make much sense Kaoru didn’t shake her head in refusal or something similar. It might make for a funny scene, but that’s just not how someone who doesn’t speak the language being spoken to/around them tries to communicate!

Gina Damico writes some of the funniest, most memorable YA novels around and Waste of Space is no exception. Her backlist may be a bit harder to find in print since her first book came out in 2012 and her latest in 2017, but they’re books worth looking for. Go for her Croak trilogy in particular–they’re some great paranormal YA about grim reapers and the finale of the series still wrecks my heart years later. If you enjoyed that old Lifetime series UnREAL, then you’re probably going to love Waste of Space. Cynical of reality TV like me? You’ll probably like it too! (I’d also recommend you read Reality Bites Back by Jennifer Pozner. Though it came out in 2010, it still has some relevancy for today’s reality TV landscape.)
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HMH Books for Young Readers and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Waste of Space. I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

A new reality show with instant success, tremendous ratings, and a huge following on social media. Ten teenagers are crammed into a spaceship, heading for... well, nowhere. When life seems to be bigger than fiction, there is usually a good reason why. As things inside and outside of the spaceship start to fall apart, how will this story end?

Written as an exposé from a whistleblower, the unique format of this novel is what attracted me to it in the first place. Production meetings, notes, and transcripts make up the bulk of the novel, giving it an interesting take on reality television. It is way over the top, though, and lost me part way through. It is supposed to be a parody of reality shows today, but something gets lost in translation. Waste of Space would make a good show, but the book itself is lacking.
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Waste of Space by Gina Damico is a very clever idea, written in an interesting (appropriate for the subject matter) style, but still mostly a long, drawn-out story that doesn't have the payoff for sticking with the book.

Some not quite top-of-the-line Hollywood producers are looking for the next great reality show and team up with some not quite top-of-the-line scientists at the organization NASAW to produce the first reality show in space. Auditions are held and the typical assortment of teens are lined up (including one who doesn't speak English and thinks she's been kidnapped).  The Hollywood producers have a plan, however, to not actually send anyone into space, but need the NASAW team to make it look like it. The NASAW team feels as duped as the teens will be.

The ratings are out of this world and very few watchers (or participants) seem to notice that the space ship is made with wood, or question that there is still gravity and that there's a hot tub on the ship. The only one who does seem smart enough to question it is the one who doesn't speak English.

But just as the nation seems enthralled and the ratings are at the top, NASAQ pulls the plug ... literally ... and no one seems to know where the set - or the kids - are, leaving the producers to scramble to try to come up with an explanation.

The concept here doesn't seem too far off. I'd heard talk of hopes to do a reality show on the moon, but of course rumors in the entertainment industry are nothing new. And that's precisely what this book plays with.

The set-up of coming up with the concept and bringing the science guys (NASAW) into the story, and the auditions to find the right teens to send off on a spaceship, is a lot of fun. It's fast-paced and the sort of exciting where you want to rub your hands together and chuckle because you just know something delicious is about to happen.

But then it doesn't.

Author Gina Damico tries to keep it moving along by giving us plot twists at every turn, but we don't need plot twists! The story is fun and frightening and so much better than a reality show, that we are simple let down when this becomes ordinary. And that is what happens.  It becomes a YA relationship/mystery novel instead of something really kind of different.

The idea of writing the book as if it was found material and adapted for the book (mostly transcripts of video recordings - both private and part of the reality show film (aired and un-aired)) is clever and quite appropriate , but at 500+ pages, a little long to sustain this style of story-telling.

Maybe this was too much like a reality tv (or "unscripted dramas" - as one producer has referred to them) show ... I've never enjoyed those. Perhaps this is truly a generational thing - for those who've grown up with reality show after reality show and fame simply for having a camera follow you around, perhaps this hit the spot.  For those of us of a different generation, we know that story-telling can be so much more.

Looking for a good book? Waste of Space by Gina Damico is a YA story - bringing 'reality tv' to the page in a great concept that doesn't quite survive the story ... a lot like actual reality tv.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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{Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an eARC of Waste of Space free of charge.}

Waste of Space by Gina Damico has a hilarious premise - 10 teenagers are sent into space for a reality TV show. The novel is full of humor, satire, and situational comedy that made me laugh out loud.

So why the three stars? The concept could only carry the book so far. At a certain point, the humor and satire were noticeably absent as the story took a turn. Because the characters had been mostly there to deliver jokes up until that point, they weren't fully enough developed to support the new plot twists.

With that being said, I have to admit to reading this novel in one day! It is comprised mostly of transcripts and emails, which are a quick read.
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I unfortunately was not able to read this book before the archive date. Someday I hope to read and review it for my blog. I will give a 5 star review on here so that I don't mess with it's rating.
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I received a copy from Netgalley.

This is the second book I’ve read recently with a satirical tone which seems to be poking fun at the absurdity of “reality” TV.  In this reader’s opinion, this is the better book. It’s funnier, and there are an abundance of characters who needed to be punched on lots of different occasions, but it is utterly gripping. 

The premise of this one is pretty straight forward as explained in the synopsis. Ten random kids thrown together on what they think is a spaceship, and sent into space. Which is really a big ass soundstage in the Californian desert somewhere with a host of spectacular special effects, built by a team of scientists. Lead by an executive producer who’s a gigantic moron but clearly thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread.  

The casting is the worst type of stereotyping, and personalities will almost clearly clash, with maybe two or three characters who were actually likeable. It’s impossible to recap much without being spoilery. 

Of course with this sort of premise, it’s not long before things go hideously wrong. There is a slightly snarky tone to most of it, it’s told in a series of reports and interviews and such of what happened after it all went down. Nothing is as it seems, behind the scenes things unravel fantastically, and the viewing public are utterly fascinated. It’s the type of terrible TV show that you find yourself unable to stop watching no matter how obviously fake it is and how obviously bad it is. 

I did find some of the characters to be really surprising, showing a really surprising side to themselves. There were a fair number of them who were idiots. There was also some great twists to the plot as well.  Nothing too deep. It was quite silly in parts, and quite funny. Very entertaining. 

Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for approving my request to view the title.
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Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy for review - in exchange, here it is - my honest review! All opinions are my own and do not reflect the view of any organization that I am affiliated with. 

What happens when you put damaged, spoiled, and ambitious teens in space and put it on TV? Gold! Unless your space science partner threw a wrench in your plans and also the teens aren't in space at all. Who will come out on top? The damaged and sensitive token orphan boy, the rich kid who called in all the favors, the young space nerd, the crafty girl with all the ~secrets~, the innocent farm boy, the parti gurl, the foreigner, or the MIT-bound black gay boy? Or maybe it's the hippie, or even the kid who doesn't know why he's there but the producers paid an awful lot of attention to his one finger missing a knuckle? Can you all say TOKENISM?? 

This book is hilarious and a little all over the place and clever and wry. I liked it a lot, but there is just a butt-load of silliness that sometimes mixes with seriousness so hard that it will make you uncomfortable. One of those instances at the end didn't work for me, but the rest was pure joy at the expense of reality TV and social media-obsessed internet people. 

It's a fun, bonk-reality-over-the-head, irreverent, bonkers piece of work.
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will be unable to provide a review of this novel. I thank the publisher for the opportunity to read this novel in advance from the publication date.
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I really did not like this. It was annoying and I didn't really like the plot
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This book was good. Based on the cover being similar to Stuart Gibbs SPACE CASE in style of artwork, I initially thought this book was aimed at middle grade audience, but really it was more aimed at an older high school audience with coarse language and scenarios. I enjoyed the humorous writing style-it reminded me of Libba Bray's BEAUTY QUEENS, with multiple perspectives and 'stranded' teen scenario.
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A bunch of teens blasted into space as part of a reality TV show? There was no way I could not pick up WASTE OF SPACE by Gina Damico after reading the premise! Waste of Space is such a weird, brilliant satire, and takes some pretty dark twists as the secrets behind the show are revealed through found footage, reports, and phone transcripts. It was very smart, funny, and a concept unlike anything I've read before. I read Hellhole by Gina Damico a few weeks ago, and her style is easily recognisable in Waste of Space, even with the genre switch and different format of the novel. I will definitely be reading more of her backlist, and keeping an eye out for whatever comes next.

 *I received a copy of this from Netgalley for review*
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Omg I loved this! I didn't expect to love it and there were times that I didn't but I really wanted to know what was going to happen. SO....teenagers, space, drama, twists, turns and a pig. I mean come on! It was like Real World meets Illuminae! I want more!
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Accurate summary, which led me to read the book. Overall, the book was very entertaining and a bit thought provoking.
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Gina Damico just made the end of my summer. This book was funny, biting, and diverting all at once. From the horrific cable co DV8 comes a new plan--sending teens into space, or are they? From every outlandish reality show that gets mentioned (So You Think You Can Pole Dance) to the unscrupulous scientists of NASAW, the book just gets better and slightly crazier as it goes on. It's fashioned as a tell all, an intern wants everyone to know what really happened aboard Laika, to the spacetronauts that 'volunteered' to be on the show. And just like a real reality show, certain contestants draw your attention the most. I was rooting for Nico, Titania and Kaoru all the while.
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This YA novel asks the question "What if you put a group of teenagers on a spaceship, launched them into outer space, and filmed the whole thing for a reality show?". Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, right? Of course it is. Which is part of what makes this story so good. All of the characters fit into perfect, stereotypical categories. And then they'll do something completely out of character, leading you to realize that maybe you underestimated them. Every character in this novel is fun to follow, and they bring both humor and depth to the plot.
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A wonderfully written satire with tragic comedic undertones; Waste of Space, by Gina Damico takes the reader into the world of T.V. reality with a bunch of troubled teens. A entertainment studio attempts to dupe young adults into believing they were launched to space. What could possibly go wrong? With an elaborately made ‘space ship’ stage, astronomy space geeks, a host one has the almost uncontrollable urge to slap, a pig and teens with conflicting personalities, you get a humorously fun novel that will cause more than a few chuckles. There is a place on my book shelf for a copy of this book and I recommend it to anyone who needs more laughter in their world.
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This book made me actually laugh out loud. It was so over-the-top in a good way. Almost all the characters were ridiculous in some way and everything was completely unbelievable and I still loved it. I liked the format it was told in too.
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This book was not at all what I was expecting, but it was a fun read. I really enjoyed the "dossier" sort of format.
I was surprised by the depth of some of the characters, and I enjoyed seeing them react to the situations thrown at them on the "spaceship".
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You'd think a nice staycation would be a great time to get some blogging done, but you'd be wrong.  The beach is exhausting, people.

I got Gina Damico's Waste of Space as an ARC from Netgalley quite a while ago, but I didn't read it till recently because of the PDF Problem. Books with interesting formatting often offer PDFs instead of Kindle files, and with some, like Waste of Space, the formatting can't translate onto my e-ink Kindle.  I ended up reading it on my computer, and I'd recommend a paper copy if you're going to read it.

Waste of Space is a scathing satire of reality TV, modern stupidity, teenagers, and basically everyone.  An insanely slimy and deeply stupid internet TV producer named Chazz hooks up with an organization called the National Association for the Study of Aerospace and Weightlessness (NASAW, aka low-rent NASA) to fake launching a dozen teenagers into space for $$ratings!$$. 

The teenagers are awful, except our hero and heroine. Hibiscus is a mindless, crunchy hipster. Clayton is a rich ass after fame. Snout is...well, actually a decent person, but since he's the hick from the sticks, he talks with a heavy accent and only tells stories about his pet pig Colonel Bacon (who is on the ship with him). Bacardi is the woo girl who stays sloppy drunk and makes out with random people.  There's an overachiever, a girl who speaks only Japanese, a supernerd--every stereotype you can imagine.

Plus our heroes, of course.  Nico, whose parents died and who is really shy, and Titania, who is running from her Troubling Past.

They go into "space," with a weekly half hour show and a live feed. Unbeknownst to them, they're on a sound stage being managed by NASAW scientists at the behest of Chazz.  The world is watching with bated breath, though it's not entirely clear if the world is hanging on a bunch of kids in space or an audacious reality TV gambit.  Either way, the world is full of people who buy this hook, line, and sinker, in spite of it making not a lick of sense.

This is what it comes down to--the book is so heavy handed that it ceases to be satirical and becomes slapstick.  I'm not going to let the YA designation get it off the hook for that--reality TV can be such a parody of itself that you almost can't make fun of it, but that doesn't mean the solution is going so far over the top I can't see the top in the rear view mirror.

Essentially, every character here was such a parody, and the entire cast (including the watching world) was so devoid of common sense, that I didn't have anyone to latch onto.  Even our POV characters, the kids who were pretty "normal" in the cast, were just exaggerated versions of the characters you root for on reality shows.

The coolest thing about the book was its form, as a collection of found documents and transcripts of both broadcast episodes and unaired footage.  The anonymous intern who put the book together and sent it to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children is the person I'm most likely to sympathize with in the whole thing, and she barely appears herself.  But she is the only sign that the world that real people inhabit has any relationship to the one in the book.

I can't say the book wasn't pretty fun, especially the few characters who you learn more about at the end--there's no real development for anyone, but there are some revelations that keep you interested. The boredom of living in a reality TV house between stunts is pretty well-evoked, though I can't say that's a selling point.  But there are some great lines, and honestly, I kind of wanted to meet Bacardi and Snout.  If I had to spend a few weeks trapped in a fake space plane with a couple of teenagers, I suppose I could do worse.
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Once again Gina Damico has written a story that is so much fun!  I love her characters, the snarkiness, the silliness, all of it. And it's not just that the characters are so great, the story itself is full of all kinds of great scenes, and extremely edge of your seat action at some points!  While you know there is something going on, I didn't quite guess exactly what it was until it was actually happening in the story.  In a way, this is almost a tribute to stories like Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, in that the story is told through recordings and video, with comments from the intern that is turning all this evidence into a book so that everyone knows what really happened.  This book had me sitting and laughing at something on almost every single page, especially a lot of the dialogue. There were actually two parts in the story I had to make note of.  Let me share them with you.

Page 73:

NASAW:  You know you can't just put the word "space" in front of everything and act like it makes sense.

Chazz:  Watch me!

Page 203:

NASAW:  It's ludicrous.  None of that makes any sense, scientifically speaking.

Chazz:  You don't make any sense, scientifically speaking.

As you can tell, Chazz is a bit of an imbecile.  I mean there are all the words he either creates or gets wrong.  Like "intrepit" instead of "intrepid."  And that he wants them to make a "Spaceplane" and calls the kids on there "spacetronauts."  All of the characters are really perfect fits for a reality tv show.  And Damico totally blows each of their stereotypes all the way out, takes them to the supreme limits.  The villain is pretty much a villain.  There is the party girl that is pretty crazy.  Of course they had to have minorities, which includes one Japanese girl - Kaoru - who pretty much only speaks Japanese, making all of her comments also hilarious.  They also needed someone with a physical handicap, in this case, a missing finger.   

I really need to get back and finish the Croak series, as well as get Hellhole read.  I'm never disappointed when I read this author's books.  Can't wait to add this one to my school library for my students to read.
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