Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Reviewed by Jackie Marchant

This is classed as an adult book, yet, as I read it, I found myself wondering why.  It’s told from the point of view of 17 year old Alex, who has just been arrested while trying to enter the country at Dover with the remains of Mr Peterson plus some cannabis in his car.  He hasn’t improved his situation by ignoring officers banging on his door while playing loud music and then calmly informing them that he shouldn’t be driving.  Oh, and the fact that the whole country has been on the alert for him . . .

But Alex’s deadpan delivery of his story is both humourous and endearing as he goes back to when he was aged ten and struck by a meteor.  That led to a series of events, which culminated in the unlikely friendship that ended up with him brining Mr Peterson’s remains into the county.  We go with him through his fraught relationship with his unconventional mother, phantom father, school bullies and the tricky situations he finds himself in. 

So why isn’t this a teen book?  It could well be, but it is slightly long for that category and it takes us through several years of Alex’s life.  Also, he does at times seem to be recounting this from an older age and looking back.  But that aside, I think that teens would love this book if they thought to give it a try.  Perhaps there should be the reverse of the ‘cross-over’ genre, ie books that are written for adults, but are perfect for teens as well?  It’s a great book and would be a shame for teen readers to miss out.



Stroppy Author said...

I haven't read it, but my guess would be gatekeeper issues. Not many school librarians are going to approve a book in which the protagonist does drugs and carts a dead body around. It's easier to sell it as adult and wait for teen readers to find it. (Lots of books fall into the category of reverse crossover - Pride and Prejudice, for a start.)

C.J.Busby said...

Indeed - and teens love them all the more for not being marketed at them. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Catch 22 spring to mind.

Unknown said...

I am a School Librarian and I'd be happy to have this in my library. I'm sure plenty of older readers would enjoy it and find it thought-provoking. Alex transports ashes rather than 'carting a dead body around' doesn't do drugs himself but recognizes the contribution they make towards pain relief for his terminally ill friend. It is a challenging subject but nicely done.

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