Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Book Review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods

Alex Woods Versus the Universe
By Gavin Extence

Upon receiving this book and reading the blurb, i instantly wanted this book. Despite giving you all the information you needed to become interested, i had no idea what to expect from it or what it would entail. The way the story was introduced did a fantastic job at grabbing my attention and curiosity. The very first chapter had me eager to carry on. I loved the way the story was set out from Alex being such a young age. It allowed me to see his experiences and the type of person he was directly from his perspective. He is a socially awkward young boy who is beyond his age in so many ways. He's intelligent, has good morals & values and a kind heart. Alex was not a popular kid at school, as I'm sure we've all experienced at some point or another. Several of his earlier experiences had me laughing out loud. He even goes as far as to describe the social hierarchy of school and the hardships of being a boy. This was funny, witty and so accurate it had me in stitches. 

I liked Alex's character and warmed to him straight away. He goes through experiences most people can relate to. His friendship with Mr Peterson is a touching one. Although living independently, it is quickly established that Mr Peterson depends more on Alex's presence (and later friendship) more than he likes to let on. This stubbornness in Mr Peterson is often funny. The fact that he is a long-term, marijuana smoker makes him even funnier.

As mentioned before, i had no idea where he story would go. We are told the ultimate outcome at the very beginning and this kept me guessing all the way through the book. The events that unfolded however were very touching at the same time as being lighthearted. It showed two very different ways of dealing with a life-changing event in which one eventually pays the ultimate price. The trials and tribulations they are faced with both individually and together were heart-breaking. It also made me reflect on the way in which we sometimes need someone to be our crutch. And the grace of being selfless, kind and honest towards others. 

The secondary characters, namely Alex's mother and Ellie, were lovely additions to the book and complimented the story well. Having mainly these two secondary characters kept the story simple But they worked well at re-enforcing the emotional bonds and ties we develop with those close to us. With just as much as a ditzy mother, i related with Alex's mother well and felt sympathetic to her throughout the story. As for Ellie? Well... that's future a story left un-told. 

In reflection of this book, the moments i thought that were less involving i now seem some of the most important parts of the book. The little things in which very precious moments and memories were created, such as the book club.
  "As lives go, i think mine was mostly a good one. I enjoyed the uneventful parts especially." (Mr Peterson)
For is it not the little things that sometimes end up being the biggest? During my book break-up (when you've finished your book but aren't ready to let go yet) i though about these things for a good while. It reminded me of a quote form 13 reasons why by Jay Asher which reads "No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue." The times in which Mr Peterson had his 'moments' were the most endearing parts of the book for me. Most noticeably the end moment he shared with Alex. I made the most of this scene and upon Mr Peterson's request, i opened up Spotify and put on Mozart's Piano Concerto No.21 in C Major whilst reading. It was certainly a moving reading experience for me!

Alex Woods Versus the universe was a sweet and touching book that i enjoyed reading. The story was simple yet well written and thought out with a touching bitter-sweet ending. The subject at hand is also one i have not read in a novel yet. This book would be perfect for a younger audience, but just as suitable to anyone who likes a good personal read. It is funny, yet endearing. It also made me think about the precious moments in life, the quiet moments and the appreciation of the simple things and small gestures. Things like honesty, hugs, friendship and cake! 

Quotes from the book:

"Sometimes chance and circumstance can seem like the most appalling injustice, but we just have to adapt."

"Understanding and accepting that you have a permanent illness does not mean being a slave to it. Its the first step you have to take so that you can go on living your life."

"Laughter, irreverence, absurdity - as often as not, these things have their roots buried deep in despair."

"Grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and wisdom always to tell the difference."

"Time has different values for different people in different circumstances. His life had become simple and uncluttered, and when you're living like that, i think time can seem to stretch out forever. The more stuff you try to force into it, the less accommodating time becomes."

'"Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck with time. Billy has gone to sleep as a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day... When a person dies, he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. Its just an illusion that we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever."'

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