cover image The Universe Versus Alex Woods

The Universe Versus Alex Woods

Gavin Extence. Redhook, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-24657-6

Seventeen-year-old Alex Woods was a household name even before authorities discovered 113g of marijuana and the ashes of an old man in the car he drove across the English border. At the age of 10 Alex became a national celebrity after being hit by a meteorite. In his teenage years he was most comfortable with adults like his doctors and Isaac Peterson, an irascible, reclusive, pot-smoking American widower who lives nearby in Alex’s small village; Alex’s only teenage friend is an emo goth girl named Ellie. Alex’s naiveté, bookishness, and oddness make him a target for bullies and his earnest response to one instance of abuse only solidifies his reputation. His mother’s self-proclaimed powers of clairvoyance don’t help Alex’s rep, nor does the epilepsy he acquired after the accident. Peterson encourages Alex to read Vonnegut, prompting Alex to create a book club called the Secular Church of Kurt Vonnegut, giving Alex a leadership position that brings him the confidence he needs to help navigate his neighbor’s lengthy illness, albeit with major missteps along the way. Extence’s engaging coming-of-age debut skillfully balances light and dark, laughter and tears. Agent: Alice Howe, Hodder & Stoughton (U.K.). (June)