The Universe versus Alex Woods Paperback – 9 May 2013
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'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)
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Slow start but the it will grab you until you finish it. Easy reading for holidays, the end makes you think quite a lot!Published 18 days ago by Mario
Just Finnish ed this book, the first I've read by this author. Made me cry. Basically it's about a teenage misfit boy, who strikes up an unlikely bond with an older American man,... Read morePublished 20 days ago by sue bickerton
Assisted suicide is an extremely contentious issue which is frequently argued sensitively by its advocates with little attention to the profound principles involved. Read morePublished 1 month ago by David Potter
I'll start by saying I'm a bit of a crime/thriller fan so this would not normally be top of my list of books to read but I came it across it by accident & thought why not? Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mrs Ferret
Fabulous ! Couldn't put it down ! I really liked Alex, the hero , and his unconventional upbringing ! I recommend it strongly !Published 1 month ago by Mr Michael Cronin
Even though the reader can sort of guess what is coming, it is still a very powerful story. It is written with much sensitivity and the characters are very likeable and well... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Isabella