This is Gavin Extence's first novel and boy, what a start! The Universe Versus Alex Woods is first and foremost the story of an unlikely friendship, between the seventeen year old epileptic misfit Alex Woods and a curmudgeonly old widower named Mr. Peterson. The two meet by chance one afternoon when Mr. Peterson finds Alex hiding in his backyard, having been chased there by a group of bullies. Alex's mother, a fortune teller, is adamant that Alex make restitution for the property destroyed in the case, and offers up Alex's services around the house. And so the friendship begins between the logic driven and astronomy obsessed Alex and the Vonnegut-loving, pot-smoking Mr. Peterson. This is one of those novels where it's almost better to start reading knowing little to nothing about the plot, so I'm not going to give you too much more.
Perhaps you've already figured this out, but Extence's novel is quirky. The characters and situations are all a little outer-worldly. That being said, who doesn't love a good misfit? I found Alex to be a bit of a cross between Harry Potter and a character out of a John Green novel. The fact that the novel is set in England is not the only thing making me point to "The Boy Who Lived," but, not wanting to give away too much of Alex's background, I'll leave you pick up the book and figure out why JK Rowling's protagonist might feel familiar. We've talked about John Green before in this post, but you might already know that for the most part, his main characters fit solidly in the "quirky but lovable" category. Alex fits this build completely.
I really enjoyed this book. It's a bit on the longer side, running a bit over 400 pages, but the story moved very quickly. The novel ran the gamut in terms of emotions - it's sad at times, funny at others, poignant, and exciting. Additionally, for reasons I won't illuminate on so as not to ruin the book for anyone, this could easily be a book club choice given some of the moral and ethical choices made by the characters. I would highly recommend this one, and am definitely keeping an ear to the ground for news on Extence's next novel!