Book Review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavine Extince

the universe Publication Date: June 25th 2013

Disclaimer: All opinions are honest and my own. To know how I rate my books, please go here


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.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Review:

Extince begins the novel with an eccentric beginning. Alex, the main character, is stopped by a customs officer at the border, and he was later questioned at the police station. What makes this a 5 out of 5 stars novel is the psychological aspect and the narration.

When Alex begins to tell you his story, he mentions in the beginning that 1) he has sleeping disorders which makes me oddly suspicious of his character and 2) he has epileptic caused by the meteorite incident from when he was 10 years old. Now, Gavine Extince chose a very interesting event to start with in the beginning. Extince could have measly chose to begin the story with Alex’s meteorite incident which could have made the plot  unimpressive and overly predictable, but he chose to start the story with Alex being questioned at the police station.

The chapter then transitions to the next chapter in which Alex wakes up from a month long coma which rings another bell that this might be a narration from an unreliable narrator. Unreliable narrators could be tricky because they are untrustworthy and their story should be not trusted quiet so easily. As Alex is telling us the events that happened that leads up to the police questioning, he meets another unreliable character: Mr. Peterson. Mr. Peterson is a widower who fought in the Vietnam War. The first thing that the reader might presumably think when a soldier comes into the question is: How reliable is this narrator? I have worked with Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried, and one of the topics that is present when researching upon this novel is the unreliable narrator. This leads to my second question when I was reading this novel: Why would Extince pair a young boy that has been hit with a meteorite and later on developed epileptic with an older man who is a veteran from the Vietnam war, both of whom are unreliable narrators?

I have never really ventured further out into my genre preference (which is normally historical fiction and more darker, action packed books) but this novel is essentially quite different and unique for the young adult genre. I must admit that there are times when I just want to put the book down because Alex, after all, is telling us about the life events that leads up to the police questioning Alex. So, why did I decide to continue reading this book? The first reason I’ve noted above: the psychological aspect. The second reason is the narration. Alex’s voice is very distinctive from any other characters from the young adult genre. His voice adds life, purity, innocence, and humor to the narration. There are just times when I have some laugh out loud moments at Alex’s dry humor and sarcasm. If you aren’t the type that don’t understand either of these two, you might not find it not so funny.

This story is told in first person which essentially means that Alex is telling us his story. However, another aspect that makes this story so unique is that Alex would sometimes use the second person narration, ‘you.’ It makes me question whether he is telling it to us, telling it to a peer, telling it to his children….Who is he addressing? Sometimes I would be so intrigued in this book that I feel like I’m sitting there right next to Alex and he’s telling me the story.

Overall, this is a beautifully written book with a unique, distinctive narrator and it has memorable, down-t0-earth characters. A definite must read if you’re looking for a light, refreshing read for the young adult genre.




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