Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Universe Versus Alex Woods

by Gavin Extence
409 pgs

Gavin Extence's first book The Universe Versus Alex Woods was an unexpected and very rewarding surprise. It's a funny and heartwarming story told by Alex Woods himself, the second known person to ever be injured by a meteorite.

The book begins with 17 year-old Alex driving off the ferry in Dover, England. He's stopped by the authorities, who discover an urn containing human remains in the passenger seat and a large bag of marijuana in the glove box. From there the story goes back in time and Alex recounts the peculiar set of circumstances that led up to that point in his life.

Alex gained widespread notoriety at the age of ten when a small meteorite crashed through the roof of his and his mother's home and hit him in the head. Already possessed of a less-than-normal childhood--his mother, a tarot-card-reading spiritualist conceived Alex with a stranger near Stonehenge--the additional notoriety and brain injury that resulted from said meteorite led to what he describes as less-than-ideal interactions and relationships with his peers growing up. It was while being chased by bullies from his school that Alex first meets Isaac Peterson, an old man who would leave an indelible impact on the rest of Alex's life.

The story becomes more and more gratifying as Alex eventually wins over Mr. Peterson and forms a relationship with him. It's a relationship that demonstrates mankind's most vulnerable and humane qualities.

I highly recommend this book. It reminded me of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Reif Larsen's The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. All three books are told from the perspective of a young narrator who doesn't fit the traditional mold, and who gives you an insight into what most of us should aspire to be more like.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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