A tale of an unexpected friendship, an unlikely hero, and an improbable journey, Alex's story treads the fine line between light and dark, laughter and tears. And it might just strike you as one of the funniest, most heartbreaking novels you've ever heard.
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 17, 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.…
"It's Mark Haddon meets Kurt Vonnegut" (
"An eccentric young protagonist meets his match in a compelling comic debut" ( The Bookseller)
"One of the year's most anticipated debuts" ( Time Out)
"The debate around assisted suicide is eternally controversial but, when it comes to an argument for allowing sick people of mind the right to die, The Universe Versus Alex Woods trumps any Dignitas spokesman . . . Where this novel shines is in its characterisation: the brittle outer layers of socially awkward people are unpeeled to reveal big hearts and raw emotions. The sparring between Alex and Mr Peterson is a joy to read . . . With wit and warmth, Gavin Extence shines a light on one of the darkest, most difficult subjects of our time." ( Sunday Express)
"One of the funniest and most heartbreaking double acts in ages...an exceptionally good debut novel 5*" ( Heat)
"With wit and warmth, Gavin Extence shines a light on one of the darkest, most difficult subjects of our times." ( Sunday Express)
"Extence's sad but funny novel was the subject of fierce bidding wars between publishers last year and early reviews pit it as a certain star read of 2013." ( Stylist)
"A comic tale of friendship and the nitty gritty of life" ( Shortlist)
"Alex’s story treads the fine line between light and dark, laughter and tears" ( GQ)
"This is a story that will have you smiling through your tears, a story that touches on the most potentially devastating of human dilemmas, without an ounce of sentimentality. It is also enormously uplifting. Perfectly crafted and beautifully written... The Universe vs Alex Woods may be a debut novel but it is an outstanding novel by any standards. Unforgettable." ( Red)
"Fans of quirky tales will love this debut novel" ( Bella)
"This is an extraordinary debut novel. For me Gavin Extence has produced in his narrator and hero Alex one of the most intriguing literary young people since Mark Haddon's Christopher. He's reminiscent of a better behaved Just William as an 11 year old, combining a hyper-intelligence with naiveté that's as quirky as his upbringing" ( The Bookbag)
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- Anne KK