Image via Goodreads
Alex Woods is a wanted man. We’re first introduced to him as his car is stopped at the UK border, Dover. His car just happens to contain a bag of pot and the ashes of a dead man. Alex’s crime is unclear, but what is clear is that it’s big news.
The story, told from the perspective of Alex, then flashes back to when he was five and had his first taste of infamy. Alex is hit by a solid metal meteor that comes crashing through his bathroom ceiling. Hitting him square on the head, the chances of this happening, never mind him surviving, are extremely low so when he does he feels as though the universe has picked him out for something. And fate is an important part of The Universe Versus Alex Woods. Circumstances set in motion by the astral mishap lead Alex to meet Mr Peterson, who, as it happens, becomes one of the most important people in Alex’s life.
As in most young and old buddy stories (think Pixar’s Up) Mr Peterson is a reluctant partner. He is grumpy, a bit of a loner and extremely set in his ways but Alex is undeterred and soon a shared love of reading bonds them. Mr Peterson introduces Alex to the works of Kurt Vonnegut which take on significant meaning in their relationship. Gavin Extence has very cleverly used the works and symbolism of Vonnegut to imbue The Universe Versus Alex Woods with meaning. The reader is allowed to contemplate the significance of the references without it being forced or heavy-handed.
The Universe Versus Alex Woods certainly tackles some challenging and controversial subjects. Mr Peterson falls ill and Alex is forced to consider what it means to be able to live a life of quality and to be in control of your own destiny. At its core, The Universe Versus is about life but due to Alex’s narrative voice, it never falls into the overly ponderous category. Due to his accident and “alternative” upbringing, Alex has a unique perspective on life. He is bookish, logical and has learnt a high level of self –discipline so the emotion and lack of control of Mr Peterson’s situation presents him with a huge challenge.
Gavin Extence has written a spectacular debut in The Universe Versus Alex Woods. Alex is a truly unique hero, elevating the tried and tested coming of age story with intelligence, determination and fierce loyalty. Touching, humorous and thought-provoking, you can help but be pulled in by this novel to the very end, and what feels like only the beginning of the remarkable life of Alex Woods.
This post was written by guest reviewer Ali who blogs over at AlleyHope.com