The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Monday, March 25, 2013

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd 
Format: Hardback
Rating: 3/5

Alex Wood has had an extraordinary life and things seem to get stranger and stranger as time goes on. As a child, he defied one in a billion trillion odds when he was struck on the head by a meteorite. Needless to say, this event turned him into somewhat of a mini celebrity. On the downside, it also left him with severe epilepsy. As a result, Alex felt compelled to learn more about both his condition and meteorites. In the meantime, he learnt to deal with bullies and placate his clairvoyant mother. However, Alex is forced to majorly grow up when he befriends the grouchy, grizzly, weed loving, Clint Eastwood-esque OAP, Mr Peterson. Through Mr Peterson's experience, Alex has to make a big decision- a decision that could get him in a lot of trouble.

I really liked the beginning and the end of this book but the middle, not so much. There wasn't much meat in between two slices of delicious bread. However, I appreciated that this book dealt with Issues. Yes, Issues with a capital I. I can't really write a proper review if I don't reveal this issue, so if you don't want to know, look away now. 

Ok, the issue is euthanasia - physician assisted suicide. I think the author handled the topic quite well, although I would have liked more of a debate. I don't know...if you are going to centre a whole book around such a controversial topic, shouldn't you provide both sides of the argument? Even if you come down strongly on one particular side? Or put it this way: if you have strong feelings towards a particular side, shouldn't you highlight the other side to at least strengthen your own argument? 

Another Issue dealt with was bullying - lower school teasing as opposed to severe systematic bullying, although a victim would most likely say 'bullying is bullying'. Either way, I think this was also handled quite well, as the bullies - and Alex- were shown to move on and mature as they aged and found other activities to preoccupy themselves with. I also liked the commentary on the failures of our education system and the move to teach children to pass exams rather than exploring a subject properly (I am a product of this system and could wax lyrical for days about the pitfalls of this style of teaching- although I know this is the fault of our curriculum NOT our teachers). 

However, something that got in the way of me enjoying the book even more was the number of religious profanities. Although, in reality, there was only one religion denegrated in this way - Christianity. Now, I am usually quite open when reading (or watching a film) and can overlook the odd few G-D's and such like but I have a line. This book went too far for me personally. There was a general dislike (maybe even hatred?) towards Christianity that came through now and then. Fair enough if that's what you believe but if you're an atheist or someone who strongly dislikes religion, why not treat all religions equally then? Strongly dislike them all. Better still, for the good of the world, treat everyone with a little bit of respect. Especially if you know your work is going to end up in the hands of young people. Deriding people for their beliefs- and the actual beliefs themselves- is not funny, is not intellectual and is not cool. 

Overall, I appreciated the author wanting to explore such a controversial issue. I was relieved to learn from my friend (a bookseller and giver of this gift to me) that this is a cross-over novel, as whilst reading, I was under the impression it was one hundred per cent YA. It was a big project to undertake and I think it was halfway there but it could have been refined a little more. However, it is evidently a topic close to the author's heart, so good for him for getting his point of view out there. 

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