‘Odd’ boy at cen­tre of in­ter­est­ing first novel

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

Wa griz­zled Viet­nam vet who be­comes an un­likely served a greater pur­pose in de­scrib­ing the lens friend. of its hero’s world-view. Like­wise, a two-sen­tence

Alex was prob­a­bly a lit­tle odd be­fore he got hit by syn­op­sis makes The Uni­verse Ver­sus Alex Woods a ra­dioac­tive piece of iron-nickel space rock. Now, sound like it might be a bit of whimsy or a tall tale, how­ever, there’s no ques­tion. But a kid who fits in but that, too, is win­dow-dress­ing. prob­a­bly wouldn’t be as in­ter­est­ing to read about as At their core, both are com­ing-of-age tales, he is. bil­dungsro­mans, in the tra­di­tion of Amer­i­can great Ex­tence’s pub­lish­ing de­but re­ally doesn’t read J.D. Salinger. HEN Alexan­der like a first novel. All the ma­jor play­ers in his story Ex­tence deals with some heavy themes in his Mor­gan Woods was 10 are liv­ing, breath­ing, fully re­al­ized char­ac­ters, book. He tack­les the in­evitabil­ity of death and the years old, he was hit in­clud­ing Alex him­self, who tells his tale in the first fragility of hu­man rights; he si­mul­ta­ne­ously ar­gues ono the head by a me­te­orite. It per­son. against pur­pose in the uni­verse and for mean­ing in pass­edlife.through his roof as if The nar­ra­tive voice per­fectly cap­tures a young it were pa­pier-mâché and split man who is both older and younger than his years: The ten­sion is pal­pa­ble and the emo­tion is raw. openo his skull like it was a pre­co­cious yet naive; so­cially awkward but earnHe could have taken th­ese ideas to a much darker soft-boiled egg. But that’s not est and strong. The plot moves for­ward eas­ily, place, but then it would be a very dif­fer­ent kind of thet most im­por­tant part of the pro­pelled by es­tab­lished char­ac­ter mo­ti­va­tion and book. story. What mat­ters is what plau­si­ble ac­ci­dents of cir­cum­stance. Bil­dungsro­mans are ul­ti­mately op­ti­mistic. They camec af­ter. The jacket copy aptly com­pares this book to ar­gue that the tran­si­tion to adult­hood may not be

Af­ter is what The Uni­verse vet­eran and fel­low U.K. writer Mark Had­don’s 2003 easy, but one way or an­other, ev­ery­body will fig­ure Ver­susV Alex Woods — the Whit­bread Award win­ner, The Cu­ri­ous In­ci­dent of it out in the end. com­pul­sively read­able de­but novel of U.K. writer the Dog in the Night-Time, which uti­lized the nar­raAt the close of Catcher in the Rye, there are a lot Gavin Ex­tence — is all about. tive de­vice of an autis­tic young man in­ves­ti­gat­ing of un­knowns float­ing in the air, but we know that

Com­ing to grips with tem­po­ral lobe epilepsy, a an an­i­mal death and record­ing his re­sults in a journow, fi­nally, Holden Caulfield will be OK. sou­venir of his brain’s un­likely en­counter with the nal. Each story is thus nar­rated by a teenage boy So will Alex Woods. Even with pieces of me­te­orite wider uni­verse, Alex still has to deal with all the with a dis­abil­ity and a pen­chant for sci­en­tific thinkin his head. usual con­cerns of grow­ing up, and sev­eral more un­ing, but this isn’t the main point of com­mon­al­ity. usual ones: bul­lies; the un­fath­omable so­cial rules of Had­don wrote some­thing that al­most spoofed the high school; a clair­voy­ant, free-spir­ited mother; and mys­tery genre, though all the Sher­lock­ian trap­pings

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