Thursday, 22 August 2013

Review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods

The Universe Versus Alex Woods
Gavin Extence

'reading for pleasure, as I may have mentioned, was stupendously gay and, as such, was best kept a private vice'

Oh Alex, where to start? I have literally in the last hour finished reading Alex Woods and I knew, once I'd wiped away the tears and eaten a yoghurt for recovery purposes, I had to write about it immediately. This book. THIS BOOK (imagine me, at this point, wildly gesticulating with my kindle in hand and a crazed look on my face). Hang on a min, I'm gunna cry again...

OK, I AM FINE. So Alex Woods was hit by a meteorite when he was a youngun. Oddly, this seems to be the least of his worries when he has a selection of delightful bullies on his back, a penchant for things that get him on the radar of said bullies and a clairvoyant mother (this is Glastonbury, people). He strikes up a friendship with the elderly Isaac Peterson which leads to the remarkable, heartbreaking and comic events that transpire.

Firstly, can I just big up the West Country a moment? The novel is set in the South West of England, mostly in a small village near Glastonbury, and I would be lying if I said this wasn't the first factor that endeared me to Alex. I'm a Somerset girl so this pleased me very much.

Now, even though I have read many many sparkling reviews of this novel, the turn of events completely caught me by surprise. Either nobody included any spoilers in their review or I just glossed over but it proper caught me out. The subject that is the focus of the last third of the novel is one I feel very strongly about so I was very interested to see it included. There may have been a moment of 'yes, human rights!' fist-pumping occurring. Particularly because arguments surrounding the issue are presented wonderfully without becoming preachy. It is precisely this aspect of the novel that had me completely overwhelmed by feels of various varieties.

I think the characters are all brilliantly well-rounded. Alex's mother and his friend, Ellie (YES), though really only minor characters, are entertaining and provide a much needed contrast to Alex's personality. Mr Peterson is a grumpy old chap who has a massive heart and a love of Vonnegut. Alex is a bit too familiar at times, I feel like I've read his character before, but I am so completely in love with him (in a sisterly fashion, of course) that I don't even care. 

The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a gut-wrenchingly happy/sad book about friendship and the power of friendship even when the pairing is an unusual one. Alex Woods makes death about life and has given me a whole new way of considering 'the end'. I laughed, I definitely cried and I contemplated the universe more than I ever thought I'd want to. A stunning novel. Read it. That's definitely an order.

'In life, there are no true beginnings of endings. Events flow into each other, and the more you try to isolate them in a container, the more they spill over the sides, like canal-water breaching its artificial banks.'



  1. NO MORE ELLIES! Hehehe.

    I feel like a lot of people have been saying this is good lately, so I miiiight have to check it out. And by might I mean, yeah, probably!

  2. I think I need to read this, you know how freaked I get about "the end".

  3. Yay yay yay!!! *happy dance* I'm so happy that someone liked it as much as me!

    SO YES, the things that happen at the end and are the focus of the book. It was so hard to avoid spoilers for that, because clearly it's one of the best things about the book and it causes all sorts of emotions and GAHHHH I want to read it again! I so happy you liked it.

  4. I shall read this book this fall.

  5. I loved this one and I'm so happy to read how much you loved it too Ellie!


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