Published by Redhook; June 25, 2013
Hardcover, 416 pages
Received from publisher through NetGalley - thanks!
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.
- Description from Goodreads.com
The Universe Versus Alex Woods starts off with a bang. A very confusing, incredibly bizarre bang. Nevertheless, it draws you in. It makes you want to continue. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that the beginning to this book was one of the best I've read - and a great start to an equally bizarre book.
The first thing we learn about Alex once he starts on his story is that he was hit by a meteorite as a child. At first, this seemed slightly random and superfluous but as I read, it became clear to me just how important the meteorite was to the development of Alex. Without that occurring, would Alex have still developed his signature cautiousness? His awkwardness? Would he still be as lovably naive and innocent? These are all the things I loved about Alex's character and without the bed-ridden (and hospital-ridden) part of his childhood, I don't think we would have been able to see that. Heck, he might have ended up like Decker and Asbo!
It's also these characteristics that makes Alex's relationship with Mr. Peterson so interesting to read about. And while they're both very different, I think it's their shared awkwardness that brings them together. It was such a joy to watch them both develop throughout the book. Everything progressed very organically and it felt authentic (which is kind of my favourite thing in a book). I loved their conversations - the constant clash of naivete and innocence with sarcasm was brilliant. On occasion, Alex and Mr. Peterson share a deeper conversation and that was always a breath of fresh air. It provided me with new insight and really made me think.
As strong as The Universe Versus Alex Woods does start off though, the narration becomes rather dull towards the end and with the conversations between Mr. Peterson and Alex getting fewer and fewer, there wasn't much for me to look forward to.
However, the ending was great. I thought it wrapped the story up nicely. And while I did shed a tear here and there, by the end, I - like Alex - felt nothing but happiness. It took a while after I had finished for me to grasp just how much I enjoyed this book. As I'm writing this review, memories of my favourite scenes and quotes are flooding back. I'm thinking about all the wonderful things I've learned while reading this and that is truly not something that happens often after finishing a book. Simply amazing.