The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence

alexwoodsA 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 . . .

Find the book on Goodreads.

This was a cover buy for me and I went in totally blind.  I’d flipped through on several occasions whenever I saw it in a bookshop and the writing style seemed to be something that I would enjoy, and when I finally got around to reading it, I wasn’t disappointed.  The writing kept me engaged and the weird and well paced story had me reading just one more chapter before bed.

The beginning of the story is Alex’s backstory and it’s an interesting one, he having been stuck down by a lump of space debris as a child.  It’s all told from Alex’s point of view, and he occasionally speaks directly to the reader almost in the style of a diary entry.  He is a frank teenager and I enjoyed reading from his perspective, though I often forgot how young he was supposed to be.  There are several other characters, characters who play rather significant roles in fact, but I didn’t find many of them to be particularly three dimensional.  They were kind of floating voices, rather than distinguishable figures.  Regardless, it’s Alex’s story and he’s a bit of a loner for the most part anyway, so the lack of other strong characters never really detracted from the story in my experience.

The story really picks up with the introduction of Mr Peterson, the catalyst for the rest of the story.  Mr Peterson was an interesting character with a rich backstory, but even with everything I did  know about him, I felt I wanted to learn more.  I did, but not in the way I expected.  Through the events of the novel you learn more about his character and his motives and he certainly teaches Alex some valuable life lessons – including the importance of allowing people to make their own decisions.  All the way through while I was enjoying myself reading it, I didn’t realise that I had become so invested in the characters until it got to near the end and I was ugly crying my way through the last thirty odd pages.  I guess what I really want to say is that this book is well worth reading.  It’s contemporary with a small side of absurd and apparently that’s a welcome addition.

four

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