The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t even remember how I came to read Gavin Extence’s debut novel “The Universe Versus Alex Woods” in the first place but while having forgotten over lots of books since, “Alex” has stayed with me because this is more than a coming-of-age story.

The main character, Alex Woods, was struck by a meteorite as a young boy and left with a permanent scar on his head. From this moment on, Alex’s life takes an unexpected turn as he becomes an outcast in his small town and develops an interest in science and philosophy. His journey is heartwarming and inspiring, as he navigates the challenges of growing up and finding his place in the world.

The characters are all incredibly well-developed, and their struggles and triumphs feel real and relatable. I found myself rooting for Alex and his unlikely friendship with Mr. Peterson, an elderly man with a passion for Kurt Vonnegut and a terminal illness. Their bond is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, and their conversations about life, death, and the universe are both thought-provoking and poignant. The unlikely friendship between those two was brilliantly portrayed: The elderly Peterson, smoking weed against his chronic pain, who only hesitatingly and grudgingly opens up to Alex to, eventually, putting the ultimate trust in him.
Alex himself is growing and rising to the task that Peterson puts him to – it’s a very remarkable literary journey.

Another thing that sets this book apart is its exploration of important themes such as friendship, love, death, and the meaning of life. The author tackles these weighty topics with sensitivity and grace, never resorting to clichés or easy answers.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed “The Universe Versus Alex Woods” a lot. It is a beautifully written and emotionally resonant novel that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. Gavin Extence has created a truly memorable character in Alex Woods.

I was about to declare Extence a one-hit-wonder because his second novel, published in 2015, was by far less of a success (I haven’t read it either). When I now looked into it, though, Extence has since published two further novels that I had never heard about and which seem to languish in obscurity (around 1000 and 300 ratings respectively on GR right now) so if you feel inclined to give the author of the unforgettable “Alex Woods” another spin, here’s your chance!

Five stars out of five.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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