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The Universe Versus Alex Woods    by Gavin Extence order for
Universe Versus Alex Woods
by Gavin Extence
Order:  USA  Can
Redhook, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

The Universe Versus Alex Woods. The title of Gavin Extence's debut novel sets expectations high. Unfortunately, this coming-of-age novel does not deliver on all fronts.

At the age of ten, Alex Woods is hit by a meteorite while standing in his kitchen. After being in a coma for two weeks, he makes an almost full recovery. Due to seizures caused by the impact to his brain, Alex misses the next year of school. Starting secondary school is hard enough, but even more so when you are one year behind. While escaping bullies one day, Alex finds himself in the greenhouse of one Mr. Peterson, a cantankerous American Vietnam vet. Over reprimands for the damage to the greenhouse, Alex and Mr. Peterson form a lasting friendship, a friendship Alex stands by wholeheartedly five years later when Mr. Peterson asks him to undertake the most difficult task of his life.

By beginning the novel with events close to the ending, Extence starts The Universe Versus Alex Woods with a bang. Even the first few chapters (where we learn about the meteorite) are high energy and fit with the title. After that, though, the story loses steam and devolves into a normal coming-of-age tale. While the writing is good and Extence knows how to get into the head of a teenage boy, the rest of the book just does not seem to go with the title, and the meteorite seems almost like a ploy to tell the tale of a boy with a seizure disorder. Also, the universe does not have anything to do with Alex meeting Mr. Peterson, and that is the crux of the story. On a high note, Mr. Peterson is not a character anyone can soon forget.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a good coming-of-age tale, but it is nothing special. Gavin Extence shows promise writing teenaged characters though, and hopefully will release similar stories in the future.

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