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Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a great book that had me utterly charmed. I had read many positive reviews of this one, and noted that it made it onto this summer's Richard and Judy Book Club list, but had no idea just how much I would enjoy it.

Alex Woods is an average, unassuming schoolboy who lives an ordinary life with his Mum in the South West of England. At least, that is the case until he is unlucky enough to be struck on the head by a meteorite that comes hurtling through his bedroom ceiling when he is ten years old. After that, nothing can be the same again. His face is plastered all over the national press, his infamy leads to plenty of unwanted attention from the local school bullies, and in addition, he has to learn to deal with the regular seizures that come as sequelae of his traumatic brain injury. It's a lot for one kid to deal with, but luckily he has support from his oddball Mum and his reclusive friend and neighbour Mr Peterson.

The book starts in a dramatic fashion as Alex is stopped by border police while trying to enter the UK at a ferryport with 113 grams of home-grown marijuana and an urn full of human remains in the passenger seat. Having well and truly hooked the reader from the off, Alex tells the story of how he ended up in such a pickle, starting with the day of his freak encounter with that whopping chunk of celestial rubble. Extence makes absolutely sure that from the first page you are not going to want to put this book down.

Alex is a thoroughly charismatic protagonist. At times he seems naive, elsewhere he gives the impression of being wise beyond his years. It is touching to see him keep the unlikeliest of company in Mr Peterson and the eclectic mix of people in his Kurt Vonnegut book club. It really made me think about how the closest friendships can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places. Alex also has a definite sense of right and wrong and approaches some very heavy ethical issues in a logical, black-and-white way. His moral dilemmas are dealt with very sensitively and I had a real lump in my throat at the end of the book.

I will finish by saying that Kurt Vonnegut is one of my all-time favourite authors and the prospect of the Vonnegut references was definitely a major reason why I picked this book up in the first place. So perhaps the greatest praise I can give to The Universe Vs Alex Woods is that it has made me look at passages from some of my favourite books in a new context, and honestly I feel it has enhanced my enjoyment of them.

I think The Universe Vs Alex Woods is a book with widespread appeal. I hope this review has piqued your interest!

Many thanks to the folks at Hachette for giving me the opportunity to read this one via NetGalley.

10 comments:

  1. I don't know if I would like this or not, but your review is great and you have me interested in it. Thanks for the review.

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  2. I think this book would appeal to most people, it's really well done. Give it a try!

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  3. Definitely sparked a wee interest, thanks for the review lovey - will keep an eye out for this one.

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

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  4. Love this review! This book is on my TBR list on Goodreads, but now I'm even more intrigued. Can't wait to read it! Thanks for sharing :)

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  5. I am so glad I came across your blog. Itotally love blogs which are about books.

    Following you now.

    I have awarded you at my blog. Please check it out. :)

    http://miss-ridx.blogspot.com/2013/07/lets-spread-some-love.html

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    1. Thanks for following & thanks for the award. I'll head over to check out your blog now. Love discovering new bookish bloggers!

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  6. I must keep an eye out for this one, Marie, thank you for a great review. If only there were more hours in the day, we could conquer those TBR piles...but then we might be disappointed! ;-)

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    1. Conquer the TBR pile? But then what would I have to read?! I think you would enjoy this one, I seem to remember you're interested in fictional portrayals of Asperger's - while Alex doesn't have Asperger's, he certainly exhibits personality traits that might place him somewhere on the spectrum. I found his character to be really sensitively illustrated.

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  7. I started this recently and got distracted, am now reading it properly and about halfway through, and think it is really good. Love your review.

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    1. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on it! I found it to be really charming.

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