Review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence

October 10, 2013 Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin ExtenceThe Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Published by Hachette on 25 June 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 407
Source: Netgalley
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository

A rare meteorite struck Alex Woods when he was ten years old, leaving scars and marking him for an extraordinary future. The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn't had the easiest childhood.
But when he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who teaches him that that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make it count.
So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he's fairly sure he's done the right thing ...
Introducing a bright young voice destined to charm the world, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a celebration of curious incidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that form our world.


This book had me hooked from the opening pages. A seemingly wired teenager is stopped at the Dover border with a bag full of marijuana, some cash and an urn containing the remains of one Mr. Peterson. The search for the boy and Mr. Peterson has been all over the news, and for the second time in his extraordinary life, Alex Woods is surrounded by media hype.

The first time was when he was 10 years old and woke from a coma after being hit in the head by a meteorite.

Alex lives near Glastonbury with his esoteric mother and helps out in her Wiccan shop. He seems to me to be slightly autistic, although this is never referred to in the text. He is very much an outsider and lives on the peripheral of his peer group. He is bullied at school and his closest friends consist of scientists and doctors.

The crux of the novel is Alex’s friendship with Mr. Peterson – an unlikely relationship to say the least. After being ‘forced’ to spend time together, they quickly develop a bond and share a mutual respect. This relationship is beautifully explored and illustrates how friendship can breach any age gap.

Alex’s narration is precise and logical (as he is himself) but is an absolute joy to read. It is funny and touching in its honesty, although sometimes I had to remind myself that this was the story told by a seventeen year old, not the twelve year old he seems to be. Alex is very naïve – more so then I think a seventeen year old should be. But that’s ok. I loved him anyway.

Some people may find Alex’s preoccupation with science and astronomy a little distracting and tedious. However, I found his explanations simple and interesting (maybe I am a science geek at heart too).

The ultimate message in the book is of love and friendship, yet at the end poses an interesting moral dilemma. From the plot and the writing, I think it is safe to say on which side Extence stands, and I tend to agree with him. But what do you think?

four-half-stars – Be prepared to fall in love with a rather strange geek!

Natasha lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and son. She is a self confessed bibliophile who enjoys literature and adult fiction. She also loves travelling and aims to visit 40 countries by the time she is 40 (current count 36).

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