Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review and GIVEAWAY: The Universe Versus Alex Woods

The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence.

To be honest with you, I'm not sure why they bothered weighing it.

"Alex, I have to ask: the contents of that urn ..."

Chief Inspector Hearse looked straight in my eyes and didn't say anything. It was pretty clear that he
wasn't going to ask, despite what he'd said, but I knew what the question was, obviously. And really I'd had enough of all of these psychological games. I was tired and thirsty. So I didn't wait to see if Chief Inspector Hearse was ever going to finish his question. I just nodded my head and told him what he wanted to know.

"Yes," I said. "That was Mr. Peterson."

Alex Woods is definitely an interesting narrator. Whip smart, he was struck by a meteor at the age of ten, and has never really been quite "normal" since. Although I overall liked this novel, sometimes the matter-of-fact way he explains everything does drag on rather long; other parts, however, are hilarious without Alex necessarily meaning them to be.

Official synopsis:
Gavin ExtenceA rare meteorite struck Alex Woods when he was ten years old, leaving scars and marking him for an extraordinary future. The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn't had the easiest childhood.

But when he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who teaches him that that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make it count.

So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he's fairly sure he's done the right thing ...

Introducing a bright young voice destined to charm the world, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a celebration of curious incidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that form our world.

First, we start at the end: Alex is detained by British customs after driving back from Switzerland with 113 grams of marijuana and an urn of ashes containing his best friend, Mr. Peterson. Though this might look suspicious, and in fact a manhunt to find Alex had been going on for days, there are always two sides to every story.

We then jump to the beginning, where Alex's life changes forever when he's hit by a meteor one day in his own home; it crashes through the roof.

On this book's back cover, it says "Perfect for fans of Mark Haddon, Nick Hornby and Karen Russell" - I haven't read Russell, and I like Hornby's books, but I was not a fan of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and the narrator in this one is very similar. The story in Alex Woods, however, is very interesting, and reminded me a bit of the Dr. Kevorkian trials we had here in Michigan a while back - it deals with assisted suicide, and what is right by the law versus what is "morally" right.

I will say that Alex can be a cheeky/funny character sometimes. Some of these passages had me laughing:
This turned out to be the psychiatric ward - abbreviated to the 'psych ward,' or simply 'psych,' whenever the nurses were talking amongst themselves. I found this casual shortening a little too casual for my taste, but my mother seemed to think that for most people it was more likely to be reassuring; most people, she said, were not that comfortable with medical polysyllables. From her personal experience, she knew that a similar shortening occurred on gynaecology, which was always abbreviated to 'gynae' - but this was a conversation I decided not to pursue.
I'd found this a reassuringly practical approach to town planning; from what I'd been able to ascertain online, the Swiss were a reassuringly practical people. They had a long, proud history of staying out of wars, preferring to devote themselves to more constructive endeavors like science, secure banking, and building extremely accurate clocks.
The Universe Versus Alex Woods, then, is not for everyone, but if you like a good story with a quirky narrator, you should pick it up to read at some point.

3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was given a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


I have one copy of The Universe Versus Alex Woods to give to a lucky reader. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end next Wednesday, July 3, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be emailed on July 4 and have 48 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I've never had anything as bizarre as getting hit by a meteor happen to me, but giving birth to my son was pretty extraordinary! It was a really hard and crazy birth!

  2. Well, not sure anything compares to being hit by a meteor but I think meeting my husband and falling head over heels in love at first sight is pretty darn close :)

  3. Certainly not that though many extraordinary things have happened to me. I nearly drowned as child, unconscious and everything. Woke up being revived by a pretty blond lifeguard in a red swimsuit. That was unusual at least.

    1. That's kind of extraordinary! Glad nothing bad happened.

  4. Now I'm depressed...absolutely nothing! lol It would have to be blessed with 2 awesome daughters!

    1. Well I think having a meteor hit you is highly unusual anyways. :)

  5. Bizarre is deffy having a meteor hit you, I can't compare anything like that to my life. I am still waiting for the bizarre!



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