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The Universe Versus Alex Woods

by Gavin Extence

Debut Books of the Month eBooks of the Month Family Drama Modern and Classic Literary Fiction

LoveReading View on The Universe Versus Alex Woods

One of our Books of the Year 2013.

We meet a 17-year old Alex as he is stopped by customs at Dover with a glove compartment full of marijuana and Mr Peterson's urn of ashes on the passenger seat beside him.  I'm hooked.  [We then go back to the start of that unlikely friendship when a bullied 12-year Alex, escaping his tormenters, bursts into Mr Peterson's garden and appears to destroy his greenhouse.  As penance his mother makes young Alex help Mr Peterson and so a wonderful friendship emerges, based initially around an introduction to Kurt Vonnegut.]  Alex has had a very strange childhood and seems to collect disasters but in his deadpan narrative relates much of the extraordinary incidents of his young years as nothing to get too excited about.  But I did.  I got excited all the way through.  Couldn't leave the book alone and certainly dub it one of my all time favourites.  A wonderful tale.


The Lovereading view...

Sad, funny, entertaining and profound The Universe versus Alex Woods is a tale of an unexpected friendship, an unlikely hero and an improbable journey which we join as Alex is stopped at Dover customs with 113 grams of marijuana and an urn full of ashes on the passenger seat. This debut which treads the fine line between light and dark, laughter and tears has already been snapped up by lots of international publishers and could be the next Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.


Click here to read Alex's recommended reads.

Sarah Broadhurst

The Universe Versus Alex Woods Synopsis

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 original and compelling account of Alex's life and the strange series of events that brought him here.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods Press Reviews

'This is a story that will have you smiling through your tears, a story that touches on the most potentially devastating of human dilemmas, without an ounce of sentimentality. It is also enormously uplifting. Perfectly crafted and beautifully written, the voice of this novel is true and clear and brings to life the human condition with insight, tenderness and humour. Which is to say the quality of style matches the quality of content. The Universe versus Alex Woods may be a debut novel but it is an outstanding novel by any standards. Unforgettable.'

'It's Mark Haddon meets Kurt Vonnegut'

'An eccentric young protagonist meets his match in a compelling comic debut'
The Bookseller

'One of the year's most anticipated debuts'
Time Out

'One of the funniest and most heartbreaking double acts in ages ... an exceptionally good debut novel 5*'

'Fans of quirky tales will love this debut novel'

'This is an extraordinary debut novel. For me, Gavin Extence has produced in his narrator and hero Alex one of the most intriguing literary young people since Mark Haddon's Christopher. He's reminiscent of a better behaved Just William as an 11-year-old, combining a hyper-intelligence with naivet? that's as quirky as his upbringing'
The Bookbag

'The debate around assisted suicide is eternally controversial but, when it comes to an argument for allowing sick people of mind the right to die, The Universe Versus Alex Woods trumps any Dignitas spokesman ... Where this novel shines is in its characterisation: the brittle outer layers of socially awkward people are unpeeled to reveal big hearts and raw emotions. The sparring between Alex and Mr Peterson is a joy to read ... With wit and warmth, Gavin Extence shines a light on one of the darkest, most difficult subjects of our time.'
Sunday Express

'Warm and funny and tragic and uplifting all in one. Extence should be on everyone's radar'
Jasper Fforde

'Extence's plotting is astute, and he handles the theme of euthanasia with an affecting delicacy'
Financial Times

'This funny, touching first novel... Extence unfolds his offbeat tale with skill but his real triumph lies in providing such a memorable voice'
Sunday Times

'Extence masters the difficult combination of comedy and tragedy and his lovingly drawn central characters provoke deep-thought. Like his mother's colleague, emo-esque Ellie, readers will become increasingly fond of Alex, the na?ve - yet insightful - narrator. Here's hoping Extence plans a sequel'
We Love This Book

'Sensitive, intelligent and articulate'
Joe Thomas, from The Inbetweeners

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781444765892
Publication date: 09/05/2013
Publisher: Hodder Paperback an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781444765885
Publication date: 31/01/2013
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781444765892
Publication date: 9th May 2013
Author: Gavin Extence
Publisher: Hodder Paperback an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 432 pages
Genres: Debuts of the Month, eBook Favourites, Family Drama, Literary Fiction,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About Gavin Extence

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.   Author photo © Alix Extence

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