The Universe Versus Alex Woods
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The Universe Versus Alex Woods

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  7,409 ratings  ·  1,328 reviews
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 lif...more
Hardcover, 407 pages
Published June 25th 2013 by Redhook (first published January 1st 2013)
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The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin ExtenceThe Marlowe Papers by Ros BarberThe Palace of Curiosities by Rosie GarlandThe Panopticon by Jenni FaganThe Fields by Kevin Maher
Desmond Elliott Prize Longlist 2013
1st out of 10 books — 23 voters
The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin ExtenceThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceBefore I Go To Sleep by S.J. WatsonCare of Wooden Floors by Will WilesRandom Acts Of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann
The Desmond Elliott Prize
1st out of 73 books — 16 voters


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Community Reviews

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Melissa
Sometimes, life just lines up in a way that seems like it isn't just a coincidence. Like this:

I'm teaching Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five this fall, so I re-read the book last week. Then, Gaiman's new book was released, and I read that one. I signed into Goodreads to review The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which was really good) and see Gaiman's recommendation for The Universe Versus Alex Woods. I bought the book without reading more about it because I needed something to read on vacation, and...more
Tania
In life, there are no true beginnings or endings. Events flow into each other, and the more you try to isolate them in a container, the more they spill over the sides, like canal-water breaching its artificial banks.

This was a very sweet coming of age novel. I enjoyed learning about meteors, tarot cards, epilepsy and Vonnegut. If you enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I highly recommend this. My critisism is that I found Alex to be a bit one-dimensional. I realize that at sixteen you are m...more
Su
I really wanted to like this book, and it starts out strong--the main character, Alex, has a strong voice, and the book starts at a perfect dramatic moment. But the book eventually falls apart--ultimately, the main conceit, that Alex has been hit on the head by a meteorite, isn't necessary. It doesn't drive the plot, and nothing that happens as a result of it, such as Alex meeting a certain doctor, or developing epilepsy, is essential to the story or requires the meteor. The thing that really se...more
Erin Laidley
The best description that I can think of for this book is that it reminded me of "a mixture of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Up, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and The Fault in Our Stars." While that may seem like a strange combination, elements from all of these works are seamlessly combined to create a humorous, poignant novel that will leave a lasting impression.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods is written as a first person retrospective narrative in the style of Kurt...more
Maya Panika
The tale of Alex Woods, age 17, as told by himself, in a steady, logical, borderline-autistic voice.

Struck on the head by a meteorite when he was a child, Alex lives a quietly extraordinary life. An epileptic, obsessed by maths, astronomy and Kurt Vonnegut, Alex is a deeply geeky, lonely boy with few friends but a complex inner life. The story is rich in references - His Dark Materials, A Prayer for Owen Meany, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Catch 22, Schubert - but most of all, Kurt Vonnegut,...more
Yodamom

It all started with a drive, thirteen grams of marijuana and an urn of ashes. This is the story of Alex Woods from the age of 10 to 17. Alex is one unique and complex character. His life was shattered into a new realm when at age 10 a meteor crashed through his bathroom ceiling and hit him on the head. He lives with his mother a tarot card reader and is receptive to more than most. She doesn't try to fit in and her beliefs are not mainstream. He is already seen as different in his community. Aft...more
Melissa
What a sweet book. It's about a boy from a small town in England who is odd and a loner, but also very smart and likeable. He rather reminds me of the autistic kid in Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend - or the main character of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - but more social and less autistic - but he seems like he's on the spectrum or at least a kid with some quirks. Toward the middle of the book, I start seeing similarities to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. BTW, if you h...more
Julie
Wow. I laughed. I cried. I laughed while I cried. What a quirky, beautiful, funny, heartbreaking and overall incredibly touching book.
Nikki
Oh, wow. The Universe Versus Alex Woods starts off seeming like it's gonna be a quirky sort of book: the narration is matter of fact where it possibly shouldn't be, and the situation Alex is in on the opening pages is an interesting one. Unfortunately for everyone who picked it up on the basis of that, it's not really the kind of book it turned out to be. I don't know that I'd call it funny -- it's not laugh out loud funny, anyway; more "wry smiles" funny -- and I don't know that I'd call it hea...more
Fiona Robson
“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. This is the story of seventeen-year-old Alex Woods - born to a clairvoyant mother and a phantom father, victim of an improbable childhood accident - who is stopped at Dover customs in possession of 113 grams of marijuana and the ashes of his best friend, Vietnam veteran Isaac Peterson. What follows is a highly origi...more
L.A.
Posted first on Blog critics

Every now and then a book comes along that takes you in directions that are unexpected. When differing backgrounds collide we are often surprised at the outcome. Such is the experience of reading The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence.

Alex Woods lives in an oddly disjointed world. His mother is a bit different than other mothers, and he doesn’t know his dad. He also has the distinction of having been struck by a meteor when he was 10 years old. This added to...more
Annie
Alex Woods is a logical science geek, with ADD tendencies, who is blind to the intricacies of human interaction to the point where I wondered if he had Aspergers. This makes for quite a humorous and touching novel.

It was great to read such a powerful YA title that was set for the most part in the UK. I spend so much time reading US literature that to have a frames of reference in a book that I understand first hand was a true pleasure. The cover, with Glastonbury Tor on the front is gorgeous – a...more
Ceecee
Well, here's the thing, if a book has:

*An introverted bookworm epileptic who loves learning about math, physics, astronomy, and who openly admits that his hobbies are definitely "gay" (in the high school context)
*Unexpected friendships
*Classical music
*Book discussions
*A dog
*Questions about Life and Death and the Universe

I am bound to want to pick it up. Especially with that kind of synopsis. It's one of those few synopses that are spot on. I am all about curious incidents and unexpected connecti...more
N.E. David
I first met Gavin Extence at a booklaunch in Waterstones in York. He attracted quite a following and I naturally wondered why. I met him again a few months later at Wakefield Literary Festival. Another following. This time I discovered that he is not only a remarkably nice young man but that he has also written a remarkably good book. No wonder he's popular.
His followers are predominantly women. That's no surprise in literary circles as the vast majority of readers are female, a fact prospective...more
Marleen
I received this book from Hodder & Stoughton through Nudge.

“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. (…) I’m going to tell you my story, the full story, in the manner I think it should be told.”

Alex Wood is not your average teenager. He didn’t have a conventional start to his life. With a clairvoyant mother who doesn’t know who his father is his life was always going to be a little bit di...more
Sooz
i'm only a couple of pages in, so only have two impressions:
1. it's immediately compelling
2. it's kind of simplistic writing. this isn't necessarily a bad thing. it is a seventeen year old narrator and an author's style and language should definitely match the chosen narrator. and simplistic is always preferred over trying too hard and failing at something more sophisticated. i know, i fail at that all the time!

so having finished it -and faced with finishing this review and giving out a star rat...more
Gayle
Another very good debut book! It's always interesting reading books from the perspective of a child/teenager and this did not disappoint (made me think a little of Adrian Mole although not the same humour per se). This follows the story of a boy through his teenage years and the strange things which happen to him (hence versus the universe) but more importantly the developing relationship between him and an old man. Definitely another one to recommend to others - I probably would have given it a...more
Tomáš Kaplan Fojtik
Od první chvíle jsem si uvědomoval, že po dočtení té knihy mi bude smutno. Je to další z knih, u kterých víte, jak dopadne. Příběh tedy není o tom, co se stane, ale jak se to stane. Meteorit, který zasáhne Alexe Woodse a dílem této nehody dostane epilepsii je spouštěč řady více či méně bizarních událostí. Alex Woods se začne zajímat o neurologii a astrofyziku (aby ne, když na vás sletí meteorit a praští do hlavy) a brzy se seznámí s panem Petersonem, válečným veteránem a podivínem. Spřátelí se a...more
Julia
I fell heavily for this book. In turn funny, heartwarming, clever and tearjerking, it's an absolute delight from its immediately engaging start through to its finish. It's about (and narrated by) Alex Woods, a quirky, bookish, misfit teen who has suffered from epilepsy since he was hit by a meteor at the age of 10. He befriends an older man, Mr Peterson, and among other things, they bond over a love of Kurt Vonnegut novels. We know from the opening paragraph that Mr Peterson will die, but the bo...more
Peggy
Thank you, Gavin Extence, you interesting bewildering brain of a man, for bringing me Alex Woods and Mr Peterson. They, and the entire list of characters in The Universe Versus Alex Woods, were suitably unique, weird and complex enough to become real for me. Their behaviours and dialogue kept them so fully formed that I recognised each voice as I read.

I didn't find this book comical, though a couple of scenes were too good to be true (in a believable kind of way) and I found myself cheering sile...more
Shelby *wants some flying monkeys*
The book starts out with Alex being arrested for having a stash of pot, cash and Mr Peterson's remains in his car. I thought..okay so this is going to be one weird book. Then Alex Woods tells his story.
The story involved is Alex from age 10 until 17. Alex is such a fresh, vibrant voice. I LOVED his character. He is smart, questions lifes mystery's and is somewhat brain damaged from a rogue comet that hit him in the head.
This book just kept suprising me. It makes you wonder how far would you go...more
Elly Sands
I'll never find the right words to express how I felt about this book other than "I LOVED IT"! The author must be very sensitive and aware of the human condition. This story of a young boy being hit on the head by a meteorite and his ensuing experience is so imaginative, creative, clever, funny,poignant, full of questioning morality, science, love, dedication, quirky characters and twisting plot makes for a very compelling and can't put down read. I fell in love with the young boy as well as the...more
Tony
What an unexpectedly good book. Trouble is now i'm going to have to read Vonnegut and Nietzsche!
Alana
I really enjoyed this tale of friendship, choices and moral ambiguity. I loved that it didn't read like a hallmark card when it would have been so easy to stray into the overly sentimental. I like that it used Kurt Vonnegut's work as a vehicle to say so much about the characters themselves and that his novels were incorporated into the story in such a clever way. I'm not sure what else there is to say but that I think fans of Steven Chbosky, Matthew Quick and John Green will love this book.

One o...more
Nina
I knew nothing about this book when I bought it a couple of days ago following an Amazon recommendation and good reviews. It started out really interestingly, then for a short while I feared the story was losing momentum, but just in time it picked up again and from there it was simply an amazing journey. It's probably a very subjective thing but I just love authors who are able to write with such a great deal of compassion.
The book refers to the works of Kurt Vonnegut quite a lot, of whom I've...more
Strugglingwriter
I feel like anything I write here won't do this book justice.

Hmm. I will say that this book turned out to not be the book I thought it was going to be after reading the first 1/4th of text, in a good way.

I will also say that the protagonist is so unique, and so well written. It was a joy to spend a novel length story with him. He is an atheist, and I am not, but I could very much identify with how he processes the world and those around him.

And yes, this book is heartbreaking but also heartwarmi...more
Mona
INHALT
Alex Woods ist ein 10-jähriger Junge aus England und erzählt in diesem Buch seine ganz außergewöhnliche Geschichte bis hin zu seinem 18. Lebensjahr. Er ist nicht wie andere Kinder in seinem Alter, interessiert sich für außergewöhnliche Dinge und ist einfach irgendwie anders. Dass anders sein in der Schule nicht gerade gut ankommt muss Alex schon früh erfahren, und dass er auch noch von einem Meteoriten am Kopf getroffen und verletzt wird macht die Sache auch nicht besser. Nach langen Krank...more
Leo
The most important things that happen to us in our lives, mostly come when we least expect it. And at the time we don’t even realize that they are going to change us. So, when Alex is chased by some bullies, he hides in Mr. Peterson's shed and the bullies destroy its windows, he is blamed of the crime and has to do penance. And that's how he meets Mr. Peterson, how will become a friend and how will transform his life and him. I don’t want to go into detail because then I may spoil a few things,...more
Liz

This was a lovely Young Adult book about a young man who doesn’t quite fit in and is coming of age in a series of unusual events. Our main character Alex is quirky and smart; his single mother is alternative and runs a shop that sells tarot cards and crystals just when he can’t become any more ostracised at the age of 10 yrs he is hit on the head by a meteorite and so begins our story. The beginning of this book is fantastic and will grip the reader from the start. I am not sure if it was due t...more
Tim Roast
I was expecting big things from this book as it had been hyped up as a book to look out for in 2013. Alas I was disappointed.

At times the book read more like a non-fiction book than a novel. If I wanted to find out about meteors and meteorites I would have bought an astrology book and if I wanted to know the road layout of Zurich I would have bought a map. The theory of everything and chaos theory also got mentions in sections I glossed over. But the reason for all the detail into various topics...more
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Gavin Extence was born in 1982 and grew up in the interestingly named village of Swineshead, Lincolnshire. From the ages of 5-11, he enjoyed a brief but illustrious career as a chess player, winning numerous national championships and travelling to Moscow and St Petersburg to pit his wits against the finest young minds in Russia. He won only one game.

Gavin is currently working on his second novel....more
More about Gavin Extence...
Fragmentos literarios Otoño 2013 (Spanish Edition)

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“If you had to relive your life exactly as it was – same successes and failures, same happiness, same miseries, same mixture of comedy and tragedy – would you want to? Was it worth it?” 45 likes
“When I read these books, I no longer felt like I was confined to a very tiny world. I no longer felt housebound and bedbound. Really, I told myself, I was just brainbound. And this was not such a sorry state of affairs. My brain, with a little help from other people's brains, could take me to some pretty interesting places, and create all kinds of wonderful things. Despite its faults, my brain, I decided, was not the worst place in the world to be.” 35 likes
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