REVIEW: The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

REVIEW: The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin ExtenceThe Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Published: Redhook (2013), ARC, 416pg
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
Source: BEA 2013


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. (from Goodreads)

Buy on Amazon | Goodreads


I picked this up from BEA 2013 mostly because of the cover– also I thought it might have some sci-fi elements to it, which turned out to be wrong. However, despite the lack of scifi, I’m still glad I picked up The Universe Versus Alex Woods.

1. It has an unusual protagonist! Alex was struck on the head by a meteorite, and it’s affected his personality in interesting ways. (Or maybe he was like that before the meteorite?)
2. It has unusual (and interesting) secondary characters! Alex has a lovely, supportive, slightly hippy-dippy mother. She runs a Wiccan magic shop and she’s really awesome. Alex’s friends, including the doctor who studied his meteorite, his grumpy, elderly next door neighbor, and a emo-goth schoolmate, also bring a lot of color to an already pretty colorful book.
3. The story, while slightly annoying in that it’s almost entirely a flashback, kept me eagerly reading. I kept wondering “what’s next? How did THAT happen?” etc.
4. Potentially a crossover for YA/adult! That’s always a pro, right? Right.
5. Deals with difficult subjects (assisted suicide, for example) in a sensitive way (though there’s a LOT of details so I don’t think it’s for everyone).

1. As mentioned above, it does that thing where the first chapter is “now” and the rest of the book is “then.” And then the ending goes back to “now.” The whole thing is a flashback! I find that really irritating, personally, but I know other people have no problem with it.
2. Alex, because of his unusual personality, sometimes comes across as really weird and/or unsympathetic.
3. A book full of unusual people can be “too weird” sometimes? I didn’t really mind, though. I’d rather have a bunch of unusual people in my book than a bunch of boring ones.

Overall, I very much enjoyed reading The Universe Versus Alex Woods. It’s being published by Hachette’s new fiction imprint which focuses on amazing new writers, and I can see why Alex Woods was chosen. It’s an unique voice in a world filled with way too many vampires and not enough non-stalker/non-creepy weirdos.

Read: June 11, 2013


  1. Books can definitely be too weird, though I’d argue that at the end of the day it’s better to have a diverse, somewhat over-the-top cast as opposed to a homogenous, entirely familiar one. But that’s partially a taste thing, I suppose. Quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t be able to put up with so much “unusual-ness” myself, but it seems like an interesting read regardless.

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