The Universe Versus Alex Wood


Title: The Universe versus Alex Woods
Author: Gavin Extence
Publisher:  Redhook
Genre: Young Adult Novel, Coming of Age
Page Count: 407
5 hippos

Synopsis (from goodreads):
A 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.

My Thoughts:
The synopsis I read about this book on goodreads (the one provided above) gave me no indication what this book was about, I only bought it because it was on sale on Chapters. ca (I believe) and I needed like $8 more to get free shipping. I stuck it in my cart and decided if I didn’t like it then someone was going to get it for Christmas. I definitely didn’t know what to expect when I received this book. I am so glad I did end up getting the book though- it was so cute, had some good laughs, and it even had a bit of heartbreak. This was a very interesting story, and although it had a bit of romance, it wasn’t one of those sickeningly sweet romances that shoves it in your face… it was very much an every day kind of romance you get in elementary and high school.

The way the story was written is that you start at the end and then go back to the beginning and work your way back to the end. You get to understand Alex and why he does what he does. I found myself thinking about Sheldon from Big Bang Theory a lot when I was reading this book. Their circumstances are completely different, but I feel like Sheldon would act very much the same way as Alex… except for the ending.

As I mentioned there were several laughs throughout the book. Gavin Extence has some hilarious lines throughout the book, such as “My mother often said mysterious things, and usually there wasn’t much point in asking for an explanation, which would in turn need explaining” (p. 41) and “Rest assured: by the time I was ten, I had managed to find out what my mother meant. She meant that as far as our family was concerned, only the cat had a sex life” (p. 46). Although there are a number of humorous scenes scattered throughout the book, there are also some heartbreaking sections. One statement that made me upset was “Most of the time I was just Woods, and wished for nothing more than to be as plain as my surname- widespread, forgettable, ordinary” (p. 92). I’m sure Extence didn’t mean for this to be such a sad statement, but it made me feel really sorry for Alex. He wants nothing more than to be forgettable. No one should ever feel like they want to be forgettable…

Alex is very smart, but not in the standard way we measure smart. He clearly has some problems at school, mainly because of his accident, but there are other indications of his smarts. One such example is when he learns about Newton’s Laws of Motion in school but nothing more. Alex took it upon himself to research more about Newton and found some very interesting information about him. He also doesn’t fit in well at school because according to him, he commits the “crime of being offensively different” (p. 82). I think that those of us who also committed crimes of being offensively different can relate a lot to Alex. I found myself relating to him a lot. When I was in school I loved classes and really hated gym and recess. I wasn’t bullied until grade 8 when some boys started to pick on me (this may have been because they liked me and didn’t know how else to express it- which I didn’t find out until much later).

I really can’t say enough about this book. It is just awesome in its writing, its humour, and its sad sections. It is definitely a must read!!!! One of my favourite books in 2013.

Memorable Quotes:
“Sometimes when people ask you for a full explanation, you know damn well that’s that last thing they want. Really, they want you to give them a paragraph that confirms what they already think they know. They want something that will fit neatly in a box on a police statement form. And that can never be a full explanation. Full explanations are much messier. They can’t be conveyed in five unprepared, stop-start minutes. You have to give them time and space to unfold” (p. 15).

“There are two ideas I want to think about at this point: (1) In life, there are no true beginnings or endings… and (2) The universe is at once very orderly and very disorderly” (p. 93).

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