The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence


“This story reminds us that even very low probability events can, and indeed do, occur.”

Title: The Universe Versus Alex Woods
Author: Gavin Extence
Why you should read this book: Because I am sure you will like it: space, friendship, life.

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

“When I read these books, I no longer felt like I was confined to a very tiny world. I no longer felt housebound and bedbound. Really, I told myself, I was just brainbound. And this was not such a sorry state of affairs. My brain, with a little help from other people’s brains, could take me to some pretty interesting places, and create all kinds of wonderful things. Despite its faults, my brain, I decided, was not the worst place in the world to be.”

I have to admit that I chose this book because of its cover that I loved at first sight and the title was captivating. I didn’t even know the plot when I started reading it or if I read it I think I didn’t understand it because everything that happened came as a surprise and I think it was best that way. I wasn’t expecting anything in particular and I got a lot in exchange.

Alex is the perfect narrator. He is sweet, straightforward, has lots of morals; he is curious and very smart. He is, of course, the kind of boy the bullies target and, this goes without saying, they targeted him and I hated it. I just wished we lived in an utopic world where being different was not seen as something to be ashamed of. Alex was not ashamed of who he was and it bothered me that this realization came with the certainty that he was going to be 100% bullied.

I don’t want to tell you about this book in details because I loved that I didn’t know much when I started it and maybe someone else might enjoy that too. It is a journey. It begins with the end and it takes you to the beginning of everything, to how Alex’s life took a different turn the moment something very improbable happened to him.

“Lucy’s out cat.”
“Cute name.”
“It’s short for Lucifer.”
“Of course it is.”

Alex is a peculiar boy and everything about him made me love him even more. The way he approaches everything that happens to him is inspiring. He makes mistakes: if he realizes what he did is wrong he does everything in his power to make amends. But if he knows what people think is wrong is indeed the right thing to do, then Alex will stand by his opinion even if he is the only one thinking it is the right one.

There are frustrating parts and they always involve bullies or grownups that refuse to see the truth because a boy tells it. It is so wrong not to listen and jump straight to your own conclusions. Hear their side of the story; believe them or in the future they will only tell lies because they are certain they won’t be believed anyway. If I punch someone and I usually don’t it, listen to my reasons. What I did was wrong, of course, but that is not the only truth. I had reasons and my reasons have to be heard and understood, then you can proceed with the adequate punishment. This made me so mad; nobody was willing to listen and to understand Alex so he felt the need to take action.

Leaving my anger aside, this book was lovely and it takes dark turns with hard themes I wasn’t really expecting. It felt true and it felt genuine. Nothing was forced, everything felt natural. The course the story took was sad and it made me cry but everything was explained with such details that, yes, you were sad and felt the world was unfair, but you knew that was the right thing and you were happy to be part of their journey.

“I love you,” I said. “I love you and I’m going to miss you.”

Alex looked like he didn’t have any friends but he did, they just weren’t his age. Mr. Peterson, at first reluctant, became his best friend even with the huge age gap. The librarians were delighted by Alex and they willingly participate in his book club. His doctors because charmed by his curiosity and intelligence. Ellie, one year older than him and a foul mouth made fun of him but it was clear as the sun she cared about him. Everyone knew how special Alex was, how he devoted himself to what he thought was right, and if boys and girls his age didn’t see that, well, that was their loss.

I am going to miss his conversations with Mr. Peterson; their peculiar friendship warmed my heart. I’m so happy fate made them meet and they shared part of their time on Earth together.

Do I recommend it? Yes, it is a different story but nonetheless a very interesting one.
Rate: 4/5