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The Universe Versus Alex Woods Hardcover – June 25, 2013
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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"[An] incredibly touching tale... [Extence] strikes a balance of describing tragic events with comedic style, wrapping his seriousness with subtle absurdity."―Amazon.com (Best Book of the Month, July 2103)
"Warm and funny and tragic and uplifting all in one. Extence should be on everyone's radar."―Jasper Fforde
"Perfectly crafted and beautifully written... The Universe Versus Alex Woods may be a debut novel but it is an outstanding novel by any standards. Unforgettable."―Red (UK)
"With wit and warmth, Gavin Extence shines a light on one of the darkest, most difficult subjects of our times."―Sunday Express
"Mark Haddon meets Kurt Vonnegut."―Observer (UK)
"A bittersweet, cross-audience charmer, this debut novel will appeal to guys, YA readers, and Vonnegut and coming-of-age fiction fans."―Library Journal
"Extence's engaging coming-of-age debut skillfully balances light and dark, laughter and tears."―Publisher's Weekly (Starred review)
"The Universe Versus Alex Woods will put you through the wringer. But oh, what a wringer!"―NPR Books -- Included on their "5 Great Summer Reads for Teens" List
"[The Universe Versus Alex Woods is] done in a dark, offbeat style that brings to mind the characters' hero, the literary giant Kurt Vonnegut"―New York Post
"Clever storytelling, winning characters and nuanced rhythm... Alex is a precocious, endearing, infuriating and unexpectedly brilliant teenager, and he and his indelible voice are incapable of sticking on the road most traveled. Lucky us: We get to go along for the (sometimes bumpy) ride."―Denver Post
"The Universe Versus Alex Woods is the story of how misfit Alex comes to befriend an elderly American curmudgeon, learns to cultivate marijuana and develops a deep appreciation for the work of Kurt Vonnegut. It's a wonderful coming-of-age story, delivered in an offhand casual style that belies the deeply moral concerns of the author."―Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
"Precocious and awkward, Alex Woods truly is a welcome addition to the literary world."―Charleston City Paper
"If you enjoy interesting and unique experiences, you will find this to be the must-read of the summer...[The Universe Versus Alex Woods] is a must-have for your library, and a treat for both the young, as well as the young at heart. There is some very deep subject matter discussed, yet the end result is extraordinary. Gavin Extence is an author to watch for."―Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Top Customer Reviews
Alex has a fantastically well-realised narrative voice, with very penetrating observations to make about lots of things, all of which are deadpan and as a result are often funny as well as being very shrewd. For example, of his mother, a clairvoyant, he says: "...my mother revealed that she'd foreseen the entire catastrophe. Of course, she didn't realise that she'd foreseen the entire catastrophe until after it had happened." There are many examples of this sort of thing, and I loved it. I found echoes of Mark Haddon's The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime in Alex's voice, which is high praise indeed. Other characters are very believable and beautifully portrayed, and all have their own very distinctive and recognisable traits and voices. The story is excellently structured and paced, and I found myself utterly bound up in this book and it eventually hijacked my day because I couldn't bear not to finish it.
This is one of the best and most memorable books I have read for some time - very warmly recommended indeed.
I will not go into much detail on the story as there is a danger here of spoiling it for future readers. However, the main plot is about an unlikely friendship between Alex Woods, who is at school, and an elderly American whom he meets, Mr Peterson. It covers a period of about five years from when Alex is 12 to aged 17. Alex is from an unusual background, having a witch for a mother and having also being in the unlikely position of having survived being hit by a meteorite. Mr Peterson is a dour, veteran of the Vietnam War. The relationship between them builds very gradually but is complex and very meaningful.
This is a tale which is quite poignant in parts, but with plenty of humor mixed in. The end manages to be both sad and uplifting which is quite a difficult feat for an author to accomplish. Certainly I felt at the end that I would have liked to be able to read more in the same vein, but this book is very much a one off so it is unlikely that there will be more. However, it is certainly a read which most will enjoy and certainly I found myself thinking about the issues raised once I had finished, which is always a sign of a story which has had quite an impact.
"The Universe Versus Alex Woods" is very episodic.....this happens, then that, then this, etc. For this style of book to be stellar, the magic in the style of writing itself has to carry things. Kurt Vonnegut (Extence's self-proclaimed hero) was a master of sparkling, wonderous writing. Even though Vonnegut's books had more wild flights of fancy than just a meteorite hitting someone (which is the one fanciful conceit of "...Woods"), I always felt like he could have written about almost anything and still had me enthralled, through the sheer wonder of his writing style. I have every reason to believe that Extence is going to reach that type of writing in his career, probably sooner rather than later, but he isn't there yet in this, his first novel.
The characters are potentially interesting, but not fully realized. Ripe plot developments are teed up, but never really pursued. Overall, the read is pleasant and I did enjoy the book. But I realized about a third of the way through that this is an author I'm likely to love in the future, but he hasn't put it all together yet. I sense there may be a much more interesting and idiosyncratic writer underneath this book, waiting to get out. I hope Extence lets him roam free and wild for the next one. I look forward to seeing where this talented and intelligent writer takes his craft.
He's notorious because as a young boy, he was hit by a meteor and recovered after a two week coma, but not without consequences. He gets severe epilepsy, enough that it keeps him out of school for a year. Then he goes to school where he's bullied because he's different; isn't that the way?
I like how Alex figures stuff out and often lists it -- such as ways he doesn't fit in or how his friend Mr. Peterson needs help making a critical decision.
What I appreciated is that our precocious protagonist is real. He makes mistakes that seem genuine -- you could easily have made them. He also in the process of learning about life and literature, about how to control his own unsound brain and how watching someone he loves die.
I love that a major thread of the book is Kurt Vonnegut, absurdity, and secular humanism. I totally want to join The Secular Church of Kurt Vonnegut.
Alex learns from his friend, Mr. Peterson, an irascible war veteran who'd rather be left alone. Alex and Mr. Peterson rail against each other in a way that's hilarious -- Alex won't bring him certain kinds of music in the hospital, because he's not ready for it.
This book was a library ebook loan, and I loved it so much that I bought it. That's the highest praise, trust me.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the best books I've ever read.
A touching tale of the friendship of a boy and a man. The boy, troubled by seizures after being hit by a metiorite is teased and bullied... Read more
This was an impulse purchase and I did not know at all what to expect: what a pleasant surprise!
Very well written, funny at times yet believable, the main character is very... Read more
Didn't care a whole lot for this book since it had a drab writing style and awful pacing, but I was intrigued by the teen/older person friendship. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Chasia Lloyd
My 2nd book club read and it was ok. I enjoyed the way it read...like a young boy dictating his story.Published 22 days ago by Monina
Nice unusual friendship story built on medical challenges for the narrator and principle character. Some excellent insights into what friendship means.Published 1 month ago by Jammer13
A very simple and beautiful tale about a very unordinary boy, loved this book, even brought a tear to my eye! Great characters, highly recommended easy read.Published 1 month ago by Paula Walsh