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The Universe Versus Alex Woods

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  20,058 ratings  ·  2,360 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 407 pages
Published May 9th 2013 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published 2013)
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Nicole Hi Jenet, my copy actually has some discussion questions at the back (I am not entirely sure where it is, I have so many books!). Perhaps pick up a…moreHi Jenet, my copy actually has some discussion questions at the back (I am not entirely sure where it is, I have so many books!). Perhaps pick up a copy and flick to the back to see if it has them too :)(less)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  20,058 ratings  ·  2,360 reviews


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Julie
Wow. I laughed. I cried. I laughed while I cried. What a quirky, beautiful, funny, heartbreaking and overall incredibly touching book.
Melissa
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 saw 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
Annet
Extraordinary story... loved this book. A contender for best in 2013.
Erin Laidley
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
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
Nikki
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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.
...more
Fiona Robson
May 19, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
“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 ...more
Tania
Jun 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
...more
Melissa
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-favorites
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 ...more
Maya Panika
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Shelby *trains 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
Elizabeth
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So near perfect a read I can't think of any reason not to give it 5 stars. Straight to my favourites list.

I thought Alex such a wonderfully engaging, fascinating character. When I started reading the novel I thought it was headed along similar lines to Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, or maybe The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, both of whom have quirky individuals as narrators, but it quickly became its own story, delightful and charming and entirely unique.
Claire (Book Blog Bird)
This review is also on my blog: www.bookblogbird.weebly.com

When a book opens with a seventeen year old protagonist beings stopped at Dover customs in the middle of what seems to be a nervous breakdown, with a large bag of marijuana and an urn full of ashes on the passenger seat, you know there’s going to be some pretty interesting explanations coming up.

The Universe vs Alex Woods tells the story of Alex who, as a ten year old, was hit on the head by a tiny meteorite. This fantastically
...more
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
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 ...more
Elly Sands
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Marie the Librarian
I loved this book. I adored Alex. Hes such a smart kid. I love his insight and curiosity. MORE PEOPLE LIKE ALEX. And Mr. Peterson. And their friendship. its just precious. This book gave me Extremely loud and incredibly close vibes. Something about the atmosphere. I loved this book. So much. And such an important theme.
Tony
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an unexpectedly good book. Trouble is now i'm going to have to read Vonnegut and Nietzsche!
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
...more
N.E. David
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Peggy
It's always great when you read a book that you have been wanting to read for a long time, that you have high expectations for, that has been rated highly by your GR friends, to actually be a 5 star read. It's even greater to read a book that you have no expectations of, hardly heard about before you started reading it, and has no indication of greatness based on your friends ratings because no one has read it, and to find out that that book is worth 5 stars.

What a wonderful story. Alex is one
...more
Sooz
Jun 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Chris
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Kats
Shelves: uk-reads, 2016-reads
It took me a while to get into this (like more than 100 page), but stuck with it based on the fact it was recommended to me (hi Kats!), and it has a 4+ rating on GR. And I'm glad I did. I spent more than a year looking for it in new and used bookstores and finally (finally!) found it, of course, at The Strand.

I don't think I've ever met a character like Alex in literature before. This was a fun and heartbreaking read. I think it might be categorized as young adult, given Alex is a teen, but
...more
Marleen
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
L.A.
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Robert Blumenthal
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For most of its 400 plus pages, this is a simply wonderful novel. My only complaint is that it was just a tad too long. I would have edited about 25-50 pages from it. That being said, I found the young narrator to be a totally wonderful character, and this rates as an excellent British coming-of-age novel. At the age of ten, Alex is struck in the head by a meteorite and miraculously survives with no more disability than epilepsy (not to downplay the significant disability that epilepsy is, but ...more
Giulia
I'd give it 4.5 stars .

Things I liked about this book:

- I love Alex's character and how well the author portraits him through words.

- I love that the story is in first person. It seems to go into Alex's mind. We are his audience.

- The fact that a 14 years old boy loves books so much that he manages to create a book club really struck a chord with me. I loved how mature he is for his age.

- I love that this book talks about euthanasia. It is a very difficult theme to talk about and I liked the
...more
Stacey
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can understand why some people find this book endearing as I believe it falls along the lines of a comfort read for some people. The type of book they read to feel good, with a morality lesson involved. I also find that if something classifies as someone's comfort read that they tend not to mind if they've "read the story before" or any such cliches that may happen in the plot. While I certainly did not dislike this book, it wasn't the above described comfort read for me so I did find the ...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
Diane Yannick
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first book of the new year was a winner. A debut by an English writer that made me remember why I love to read. Not, IMHO, a masterpiece of literary fiction, but just a darn good read. Alex Woods is proof that strange things do happen----meteorites do hit 10 year old boys, give them epilepsy and throw them into the spotlight. Bullies can always find targets and often show no mercy. Some kids, not many, do have clairvoyant mothers who might seem disengaged as parents yet when the chips are ...more
Annette
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loved-this
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 –
...more
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330 followers
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
“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?” 88 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.” 85 likes
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