Meet Alex Woods, a not-so-ordinary 17-year-old boy with an extraordinary story. A story of meteors and tarot readings, life, death, science and the Universe. A story that is actually so farfetched, I’m not sure you’d believe it if it wasn’t relayed to you by one of the most engaging voices one could hope to encounter.
Our opening scene sees Alex hurled in front of the police at Dover Customs, the glove compartment of his (borrowed) car bursting with home-grown marijuana and the remains of his neighbour on the passenger seat. In terms of first impressions, Alex generally doesn’t do so well. But no sooner than a chapter in, I found myself siding with the good-intentioned, hilarious and completely socially inept Alex Woods.
Extence creates a world not far from our own in a sleepy Somerset town neighbouring Glastonbury. In Lower Godley coming of age is a tricky business, especially for the not-so-ordinary. Alex suffers the same fate as many fantastically original beings – he doesn’t quite fit in. This isn’t helped by his overbearing, spiritualist mother, or his tendency to say the wrong thing, or the fact that he targeted by a flying meteorite at the age of 10, making him the talk of the town for years to come.
Much of the first half of the novel sees Alex at odds with the universe, neither luck nor the local bullies on his side. To the delight of the reader, our protagonist cannot, and will not, stay out of trouble.
Alex’s social immaturity lands him in all manners of scrapes, but it is his relationship with local widower and war veteran Mr Peterson that thrusts him into a moral dilemma even the bravest of characters might shy away from. In Alex and Isaac Peterson’s journey, Extence addresses one of the most important issues of our time.
By the time Alex has relayed his series of unfortunate events and arrives back at Dover, you’ve already fallen so head over heels in love that you’d dive into the pages yourself just to defend him. Extence presented me with a character that I rooted for in a way that I’ve not done since Christopher in Mark Haddon’s brilliant The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time.
Mostly, I was impressed with the way that Extence striped away the usual makeup for a hero, presenting us with bravery so fierce, it cannot fail to move. Heart-breaking, of course, but ultimately an inspiring and uplifting tale that champions the socially awkward and celebrates finding courage in the most unlikely places.
This is the kind of novel that will take you by surprise and, if you’re not careful, leaves you bawling on a sun lounger, fellow holidaymakers probably fearing for your mental health.
In other words, an unforgettable read.