The Universe Versus Alex Woods

“Alex Woods knows that he hasn’t had the most conventional start in life. He knows that growing up with a clairvoyant single mother won’t endear him to the local bullies. He also knows that even the most improbable events can happen – he’s got the scars to prove it. What he doesn’t know yet is that when he meets ill-tempered, reclusive widower Mr Peterson, he’ll make an unlikely friend. Someone who tells him that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make the best possible choices. So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at Dover customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the passenger seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he’s fairly sure he’s done the right thing”.


Carrying on from last month’s book theme of a strong senior character, Gavin Extence explores the unlikely relationship between a young teenage boy and his neighbour Mr Peterson. Alex is someone who keeps himself to himself, keeps his head down and stays out of trouble. However, this makes him more of a target and earmarks him out as different to the teenage idea of normal. Mr Peterson, with his years of wisdom and experience recognizes a boy in need of help, who is in need of remaining true to himself. He encourages him to set up a book club in the hope that he can find like minded people to befriend.  In the end it is Mr Peterson who comes to need Alex’s help and it is at this point in the story that Extence explores the controversial theme of euthanasia. Alex and Mr Petersen travel by car to Switzerland to a Centre for assisted death leaving Alex to deal with the aftermath of Mr Petersen’s decision. Extence handles this with compassion and makes us question whether we truly should have a say in whether we live or die.

This story is both funny and heartbreaking but will leave you feeling that there is a simple beauty in laughter, unlikely friendships and reason that you will now no longer take for granted.

Next month’s book: ‘The Ice Cream Girls

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