Well, here's the thing, if a book has:
*An introverted bookworm epileptic who loves learning about math, physics, astronomy, and who openly admits that his hobbies are definitely "gay" (in the high school context)
*Questions about Life and Death and the Universe
I am bound to want to pick it up. Especially with that kind of synopsis. It's one of those few synopses that are spot on. I am all about curious incidents and unexpected connections that form our world. Also, if it has:
*A hero who writes to the wrongly imprisoned
*A furry animal friend dying
Well, of course, it's going to appeal to my sensitivities. It's bound to tug at anyone's heartstrings.The Universe Versus Alex Woods is the kind of book that makes you think, compels you to reevaluate your beliefs and the lengths you're willing to take for a friend.
It starts off at the end, with 17-year old Alex held up at customs because he has 113 lbs of marijuana, and, oh, an urn containing the ashes of one Mr Peterson. How did that happen? Alex takes you back to 7 years ago, when he was struck by a meteor, and then we are treated to Alex Woods Growing Up.
Though I can't say this is a coming-of-age story, because Alex is pretty much mature for his age already. Instead, this is a story about how little incidents in our lives influence events in the future.
You will have to ask yourself, if these series of incidents didn't happen to Alex, would his life have been different? If I had chosen to take the bus instead of walking, would I be with my boyfriend right now? And similar questions, which makes life so damn confusing and yet amazing
. In a way, this book is a celebration of that.
I suppose people could easily compare this with Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and all those other books with introverted young men who are fascinated with math and sciences. Alex is introverted, but is it because he was struck by a meteor, became epileptic, held behind a grade, that he was isolated from his peers? Was Alex autistic? Personally, I don't think so. In any case, I found I liked Alex because he was such a nerd and didn't compromise his principles (such a precocious kid!) to be accepted. I also liked that he was thoughtful and yet sensitive.
The other characters (except for the bullies) are also easy to care about. I also liked that it incorporated Kurt Vonnegut and how fitting his novels are to Alex and Mr Peterson's lives. And of course, the classical music
. If a book makes you want to learn more about stuff, and makes you want to go read all of Kurt Vonnegut's books, then it can't be all bad.
Reading Alex Woods was enjoyable and thought-provoking (there's one major moral dilemma delved into here). And I love books that make me think. It makes that book stay with you for a while longer. The ultimate moral dilemma here, of course, is do we really have the right to our death? Assisted Suicide was new to me, but I found that it was not appalling at all. This part of the story was handled really well by the author. As a nurse, I've seen too many patients who suffered unnecessarily, sometimes because the family decides for them, or the elderly were too weak to decide for themselves. The only thing to do for them is to give them a dignified death. Since this was my first NetGalley ARC, I didn't know it had an expiration date, so I chose one of the ARCs I received and read it. I found I did not want to put it down.
The only thing I can really criticize about it is that sometimes Alex would be narrating too much, like detailed descriptions of what seizures are, the asteroid belt, etc. I found the dialogues are much more strongly written, and a more effective way of propelling the story forward, rather than plainly Alex telling us what he thought or learned. Aside from that, I really liked the book.*4.5 stars
A book that lingers, and made me want to start at the beginning again. A well-written debut book and a worthy read.~The ebook was provided to me through NetGalley~
I believe it's still available until July 30.