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The Universe versus Alex Woods Paperback – 9 May 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 967 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (9 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444765892
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444765892
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.8 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (967 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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)

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

'This funny, touching first novel... Extence unfolds his offbeat tale with skill but his real triumph lies in providing such a memorable voice' (Sunday Times)

'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)

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

'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'. (Obersver)

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

'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...Extence makes absolutely sure that from the first page you are not going to want to put this book down.' (girlvsbookshelf.co.uk)

'Poignant and hilarious' (Daily Mirror)

Book Description

A tale of an unexpected friendship, an unlikely hero and an improbable journey... This novel might just strike you as one of the funniest, most heartbreaking novels you've ever read.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Quicksilver TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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By C. Bones VINE VOICE on 7 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I must say that debut books that I have taken a chance with on Vine have usually turned out to be duds. This one is a real exception and could easily be a star of 2013. Not easy to talk about it though without giving away too much of the story and as a reader you would definitely be best served by not knowing in advance what direction this tale is taking.

Alex Woods goes from age 12 to age 17 during the course of this story. He's a geeky sort of lad to whom extraordinary things happen right from the outset but because this is written in the first person it is Alex's voice that remains remarkable throughout the entire 346 pages. He speaks and thinks in a deadpan style which is humorous, partly because at his age he is learning everything for the first time and he explains it to us in elaborate way that is very amusing, but also because Alex is such a serious minded and moral sort of chap that he seems at odds with everyone else. Even his own mother describes him as a "puritan" !

Alex is one of life's outsiders for reasons I won't reveal but his quiet determination to do what he feels is right in every situation and hang the consequences is both touching and thought provoking. I found it hard to imagine how the author could create a story so unusual and yet at the same time manage to keep it pitch perfect right to the end. Its a brilliant achievement and what happens to Alex, or more to the point what Alex causes to happen, will I'm sure be viewed by readers in many different ways.

In the gentlest of ways this novel asks us to consider several aspects of the lives we lead and how we deal with death but, for me, it was mainly about what we can achieve if we live our lives in a manner that remains true to our moral values.
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By A. Skudder TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is such a touching, captivating story with a wonderful narrative voice in Alex. What a marvellous debut novel - it's funny, brave, sad and original. Gavin Extence doesn't shy away from handling sensitive, difficult subjects and he does it thoughtfully, with honesty and humour.

The opening is set up to make us wonder at what has gone before, because we meet seventeen-year-old Alex on his way back into the UK, being stopped at Dover by a customs officer who finds some interesting items in Alex's car, namely 113 grams of marijuana and the ashes of his closest friend, Mr Peterson. Alex then takes us back, recounting the significant and often highly unusual events of his life to date, ultimately looping nicely back at the end of the novel to how he came to be in his present unusual situation. This structure, the bookending of the novel with the present day, and the past sandwiched inbetween, makes the read into a pleasing whole.

Alex has never known his father, and his mother has a somewhat unorthodox career as a clairvoyant, running a shop selling all manner of fortune telling type goods and offering her fortune telling services there. As Alex relates his past, we discover that he suffered an injury in a bizarre accident - struck on the head by a meteorite after it hit his home several years earlier. He has to learn to live with the medical after-effects of this, suffering seizures, and the occurrence also prompts an interest in neurology.
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