The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence

Published April 5, 2013 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

A tale of an unexpected friendship, an unlikely hero and an improbable journey, Alex’s story treads the fine line between light and dark, laughter and tears. And it might just strike you as one of the funniest, most heartbreaking novels you’ve ever read.

Alex Woods knows that he hasn’t had the most conventional start in life.

He knows that growing up with a clairvoyant single mother won’t endear him to the local bullies.

He also knows that even the most improbable events can happen – he’s got the scars to prove it.

What he doesn’t know yet is that when he meets ill-tempered, reclusive widower Mr Peterson, he’ll make an unlikely friend. Someone who tells him that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make the best possible choices.

So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at Dover customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the passenger seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he’s fairly sure he’s done the right thing . . .

What did I think?:

This is the February release from the Waterstones Eleven debut authors – please see my previous post HERE. This is the story of Alex Woods, a young boy who is hit by a meterorite, suffering a brain injury which makes headlines and changes his life from the course it might have taken. Things don’t go brilliantly for Alex: 1) the above mentioned meterorite incident, 2) epilepsy due to above mentioned meterorite incident, 3) his (single) mother is slightly off her trolley, 4) he loves his books and is a bit of a geek. All these things along with being “a bit different”  make Alex a prime target for bullying and it is not until he meets Mr Peterson that his life takes a turn for the better.

The book begins with Alex being arrested for carrying through customs the strange combination of marijuana and an urn full of ashes. From this event, Alex begins to tell us his story and from the start I was completely gripped by this darkly comic and genuinely life-affirming story. The unlikely friendship between a cantankerous Vietnam veteran and Alex was expressed beautifully, particularly when they set up the book club or  “church of Kurt Vonnegut.” In fact, it reminded me that I need to read some more of Mr Vonnegut’s work! Its also a philosophical tale, that gets you thinking about the universe and raises serious questions about morality, life and death. The ending is heart-breaking but incredibly poignant – an author to watch out for.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



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