Every now and then a book comes along that takes you in directions that are unexpected. When differing backgrounds collide we are often surprised at the outcome. Such is the experience of reading The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence.
Alex Woods lives in an oddly disjointed world. His mother is a bit different than other mothers, and he doesn’t know his dad. He also has the distinction of having been struck by a meteor when he was 10 years old. This added to his woes growing up, leaving scars that are hard to ignore. Being very intelligent and rather bookish, he draws the ire of bullies at school.
Escaping these bullies is what brings an elderly reclusive widower, Mr. Peterson, into his life. In an effort to hide from those making his life miserable, Alex stumbles upon his garden and hothouse, where he finds safety hiding in a shed. Unwilling to let him go, those who are trying to make his life miserable vandalize the property.
When Mr. Peterson investigates the noise, he finds only Alex in the shambles of his garden. Alex knows from experience he can’t rat on those responsible, as his life will only get worse, yet he tries to convince Mr. Peterson of his innocence.
Even his mother is not a believer, so she overrides the objections from both sides and as punishment makes Alex report every day after school to help Mr. Peterson out. Little to either of them realize, they have a great deal to learn from each other. Due to the nature of Alex’s injury, he is a well-known personality, recognized everywhere he goes. Whether this is a hindrance or a help, he is not sure, but it certainly makes allowances for the strange existence he leads.
Mr. Peterson has his own problems, and since the death of his wife he wants nothing to do with the outside world. As his world collides with that of Alex, neither of them realizes the impact that such a fateful meeting will create.
The Universe Versus Alex Woods could be considered a young adult novel, yet there is a depth of meaning and perception that make it one step more. The morals and events that are threaded throughout are at times funny, yet also tragic. The story draws you in, dragging you along step by step as Alex and Mr. Peterson take on the very fundamentals of human rights, as well as the tragedy of everyday living.
If you enjoy interesting and unique experiences, you will find this to be the must-read of the summer. Not my usual reading material, I was at once charmed and enthralled. Beginning with Alex and how he developed his own personality, and moving toward a tragic and yet uplifting ending you will be hard pressed to put this work down.
The Universe Versus Alex Woods would be a great book for either a reading group or discussion group. It’s a must-have for your library, and a treat for both the young, as well as the young at heart. There is some very deep subject matter discussed, yet the end result is extraordinary. Gavin Extence is an author to watch for.