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The Universe versus Alex Woods

The Universe versus Alex Woods [Kindle Edition]

Gavin Extence
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (755 customer reviews)

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Product Description


This is a story that will have you smiling through your tears, a story that touches on the most potentially devastating of human dilemmas, without an ounce of sentimentality. It is also enormously uplifting. Perfectly crafted and beautifully written, the voice of this novel is true and clear and brings to life the human condition with insight, tenderness and humour. Which is to say the quality of style matches the quality of content. The Universe versus Alex Woods may be a debut novel but it is an outstanding novel by any standards. Unforgettable. (Red)

'It's Mark Haddon meets Kurt Vonnegut' (Observer)

'An eccentric young protagonist meets his match in a compelling comic debut' (The Bookseller)

'One of the year's most anticipated debuts' (Time Out)

'You'll laugh and cry... One of the funniest and most heartbreaking double acts in ages . . . an exceptionally good debut novel 5*' (Heat)

'Fans of quirky tales will love this debut novel' (Bella)

'This is an extraordinary debut novel. For me, Gavin Extence has produced in his narrator and hero Alex one of the most intriguing literary young people since Mark Haddon's Christopher. He's reminiscent of a better behaved Just William as an 11-year-old, combining a hyper-intelligence with naiveté that's as quirky as his upbringing' (The Bookbag)

The debate around assisted suicide is eternally controversial but, when it comes to an argument for allowing sick people of mind the right to die, The Universe Versus Alex Woods trumps any Dignitas spokesman . . . Where this novel shines is in its characterisation: the brittle outer layers of socially awkward people are unpeeled to reveal big hearts and raw emotions. The sparring between Alex and Mr Peterson is a joy to read . . . With wit and warmth, Gavin Extence shines a light on one of the darkest, most difficult subjects of our time. (Sunday Express)

Warm and funny and tragic and uplifting all in one. Extence should be on everyone's radar (Jasper Fforde)

'Extence unfolds his offbeat tale with skill but his real triumph lies in providing such a memorable voice' (The Sunday Times)

'Extence's plotting is astute, and he handles the theme of euthanasia with an affecting delicacy' (Financial Times)

'Where this novel shines is in its characterisation: the brittle outer layers of socially awkward people are unpeeled to reveal big hearts and raw emotions. The sparring between Alex and Mr Peterson is a joy to read . . . With wit and warmth, Gavin Extence shines a light on one of the darkest, most difficult subjects of our time' (Sunday Express)

'The author Gavin Extence has been likened to Mark Haddon and Kurt Vonnegut, but the best comparison I can make is to JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. It's not the subject matter, more the way that Extence takes a small group of characters and builds up a story that hooks you in slowly and enduringly so, when the final crescendo peaks, you're so involved that you're weeping in to your pillow at 2am on a school night because you just had to know what happens. Then, of course, there's Alex: the quirkiest hero to grace modern literature since Adrian Mole . . . both heartwarming and painful to read . . . a resonant coming-of-age tale with a light touch.' (Stylist)

'Extence masters the difficult combination of comedy and tragedy and his lovingly-drawn central characters provoke deep-thought. Like his mother's colleague, emo-esque Ellie, readers will become increasingly fond of Alex, the naïve - yet insightful - narrator. Here's hoping Extence plans a sequel.' (We Love This Book)

'Laugh-out-loud funny in places, Gavin Extence's debut novel perfectly captures the awkwardness and agonies of growing up . . . Death, faith and morality are some of the gigantic concepts tackled here but with a lightness of touch and humour that never sounds like preaching.' (Press Association)

'The Universe Versus Alex Woods is built on brilliant characterisation, humour and emotional sincerity, cemented by philosophical mettle . . . a very impressive debut novel. With writing that is logical yet lyrical, comic yet compassionate, Gavin Extence has revealed the simple beauty of laughter, friendship, love and reason.' (Litro)

'When the material darkens towards the end, Extence skilfully manages to keep the narrative engaging and surprising. Mr Peterson, in particular, is a welcome antidote to those endless depictions of wise old men who know everything, being a spiky, contradictory figure raging against the dying of the light with impressive and stirring verve. After it finds its voice, this is a hugely enjoyable and even wise book, with plenty to say about life and death, and Vonnegut fans, in particular, will absolutely love it'. (Observer)

'Sensitive, intelligent and articulate' (Joe Thomas, from The Inbetweeners)

This is the most thought-provoking book I have read for a long time.... I laughed out loud and cried quite a lot. (Pages & Pages Booksellers)

Spectacularly barmy, unexpectedly moving and reasonably thought-provoking (

It's becoming a cliche to that say that x is a strong debut novel which shows the author has potential but TUvsAW is one of those novels... Extence is a strong writer. Alex Woods feels like a unique and powerful character and as a narrator had me laughing and crying... it's a tale well worth telling and reading. It's also one that makes a cross-over novel for adults and children alike and I'm curious to see that Gavin Extence writes next. (GavReads)

'The novel won me over. Extence tells a great story that owes much to Kurt Vonnegut, but also something to Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. It's hard not to see an echo of Harry Potter too, in the boy hero with a scar on his head. The final section is human and touching and Extence deserves credit for the clever and timely idea of fictionalising a trip to the Swiss death clinic...Extence's hugely likeable first novel is a fairytale for rationalists' (

This is a genuinely hilarious read, but also a deeply moving story about childhood, neurology and mortality. (Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

A funny, moving and entertaining first novel from an exceptionally talented young British author.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 591 KB
  • Print Length: 417 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1444765884
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (31 Jan. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008RRH63M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (755 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,013 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Gavin Extence was born in 1982 and grew up in the interestingly named village of Swineshead, Lincolnshire. From the ages of 5-11, he enjoyed a brief but illustrious career as a chess player, winning numerous national championships and travelling to Moscow and St Petersburg to pit his wits against the finest young minds in Russia. He won only one game.

Find out more: and on Twitter @ThingsAlexKnows

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are all made of stars 20 Feb. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I almost didn't read this book. Something about the blurb put me off, '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 . . .' It sounded a bit too clever for it own good, a novel that would be all style with little substance. When it was selected for as a Waterstones 11 title, I put prejudice aside. My assumptions could not have been more wrong. This book has so much substance, it had me sobbing my heart out.

I should have known it was coming; the clue is in the urn of ashes, but the tone for the opening half of the novel is light and playful. Alex Woods is a social misfit, a slightly geeky modern teenager. After he is knocked unconscious by a meteorite he finds himself a minor celebrity. Worse his head injury causes him to suffer from epilepsy. Many things conspire against him to make him the school pariah.

Bullying inevitably ensues. After fleeing his persecutors Alex finds himself in the back garden of the daunting Mr Peterson. Despite an initial mistrust, Alex and Peterson, strike up an unlikely friendship, brought together by a love of Kurt Vonnegut.

Alex is an astute and entertaining chronicler, though much of the humour lies in the things he misunderstands. He is very much a modern Adrian Mole.The book is laugh out loud funny in places, and Alex a wholly likeable character, especially for those of a geeky disposition. Though mostly very different, this book has a number of similarities with Jo Walton's terrific coming of age novel, Among Others.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A series of pleasant surprises 17 Feb. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
What I most like about this book is the unpredicability of it all. At the start you are not even sure what sort of book it is going to be - a mystery? a comedy? To be honest I don't think it would easily fit into any pigeonhole easily, though maybe the comparisons to Mark Haddon give the best indication of the feel of it.

One of the appealing aspects of the book, which reminded me a little bit of James Finney Boylan's The Planets, is that extraordinary things happen to the main character but he takes them in his stride. All together I found this to be a charming book which is very hard to put aside.

As a book based on strange twists and events it is hard to say too much without spoiling the surprises, but it really is a book worth reading if you like books that are just a bit askew.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blunt Rationality 19 Nov. 2013
By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is Gavin Extence's debut novel. And what a talent he clearly is.

In his own words Gavin likes books that "deals with big issues in a funny way"; 'The Universe Versus Alex Woods' is certainly that. It's acclaim in and around book clubs and literary houses should be enough to get you to read this, out of intrigue if anything else.

The book is narrated by Alex Woods, a fictional adolescent nerd. Mostly it seems Alex is an innocent bystander in his own affairs and his disposition is that of stark rationality, symptomatic of his scientific background. A chance event leads him off down the deterministic route of life. Ultimately the book is deigned to lead towards the logical and scientific interpretation of a classical moral dilemma. But along the way Gavin (Alex) flirts with a smorgasbord of subject matters juxtaposing astronomically out-of-this-world objects with bluntly humane and intricate relationships here on this planet.

At times exciting and for the most part highly amusing, 'The Universe Versus Alex Woords' is a quirky coming of age story that delves into determinism, eternalism and the universe. Alex's honest narrative is meticulously detailed and regularly provides insightful wisdom that will have you underlining and highlighting. Whilst (unrealistically) his wisdom significantly surpasses his age the insights of this book are plentiful and affecting.

I don't want to give much of the plot away as it does develop into a neat little page-turner, but the real excellence of this books stems from it's anthropological insight. A book that, if you give it a chance, will reaffirm your faith in human nature.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling! 20 May 2013
By Jayjay
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This unusual book really surprised me with the quality of writing, a great plot and some lovely, very varied but believable characters. It is intelligent and informative without speaking down to those readers who don't know much about the scientific facts -that just added to the interest. Despite the fact that the ending is sort of inevitable, I had to keep on reading. My Kindle was almost out of battery, but thankfully I made it to the last page. It's the kind of book which demands a second reading at least. The general wackiness has echoes of Adrian Mole, though I'm not sure why. A very satisfying read. I look forward to this author's next novel with interest, though it will be difficult for him to better this one.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky 25 Jan. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The book begins with seventeen year old Alex's arrest at Dover for bringing cannabis, albeit a small amount, into the country. Whilst in detention Alex relates his story, which is unusual to say the least.

Alex is an intelligent, articulate, geeky boy, living alone with is mother. Among his interests are astronomy, Kurt Vonnegut and the Deeper Meaning of Life.....the usual boy things, right? Well no, not really for a boy of his tender years. As a young child Alex is struck on the head by a meteorite which crashes through the roof of his house. Now how many people can say that has happened to them? Falling out of a tree and breaking an arm or leg, maybe, but being struck by a meteorite? Certainly unusual.

Told from Alex's point of view in a matter of fact, deadpan way, his story manages to be profound, sad and occasionally quite funny. At times the humour didn't work for me, but on the whole this is an interesting and unusual read. I'm honestly not sure if I actually enjoyed the was certainly different, but somehow I couldn't help thinking about other books which strike me as similar.....Mark Haddon's "Curious Incident......." being one. I don't want to be unfair about this book as I read it in a bit of a rush, but I'll probably go back to this in a year or so and read it more slowly in the hope I get more out of it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I veered between loving this and hating it but overall I award it a...
Parts of this book were very entertaining and the narration extremely well done. Very reminiscent of the Curious Incident and sometimes felt as if it were trying just a bit too... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Jax
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
Compelling, fast paced and very funny! I loved this book and highly recommend it. I'm looking forward to reading more by Gavin Extence.
Published 5 days ago by Catherine Fleming
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt and interesting
A great little read with some interesting characters and issues that get you thinking. Funny and warming. Highly recommend for a light read.
Published 5 days ago by Phil Archbold
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good read
Published 5 days ago by K Blomfield
4.0 out of 5 stars The Universe versus Alex Woods
Very appealing despite there being 50 years between the focus of reader and protagonist. Every time I thought I could not bear the ingenuous_ness of the hero he managed to... Read more
Published 6 days ago by AVRIL E M CLARK
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite read of 2014
My favourite read of 2014. I loved the style of writing, the beauty of the characters, the depth of the relationships. But most of all I loved the story from beginning to end. Read more
Published 7 days ago by DC
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read
I really enjoyed this book, it was easy to read and a good story with likeable characters. It does seem like YA lit but I found the story compelling and well written.
Published 9 days ago by Loo9berg
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A clever book. The unexpected friendship between the two main players is believable and realilstic.
Published 9 days ago by Mrs. C. H. O'reilly
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and honest
This is one of the most beautiful, sad, sensitive and humane books that I have read for a long time. Read more
Published 14 days ago by F. E. Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Start to finish what an incredible journey. What I loved about this book, is the way Alex makes you a part of his thoughts throughout the book. Read more
Published 15 days ago by MadCaddieKarlos
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