Every once in a while, a book comes along that is just absolutely glorious. Extence’s debut is an absolute stunner, so full of heart and so beautiful that it’s a very strong contender for My Best Book of 2013.
When he’s ten years old, Alex is struck by a meteorite and becomes the second person in recorded history to survive such a freak accident. He’s left with a minor celebrity status and severe epilepsy, which makes him socially awkward, to say the very least. His mum does tarot readings and runs an “occult” shop, so he is something of a target for bullies. When escaping from bullies causes him to cross paths with gruff widower Isaac Peterson, an unlikely friendship develops. In the opening chapter of the novel, Alex is stopped at Dover with 113 grams of marijuana in the glove compartment and Mr Peterson’s ashes in an urn on the front seat.
The bulk of the rest of the book tells us how he ended up in that situation. Alex narrates the seven years of his life, from meteorite strike to arrest at customs in the most wonderful voice. There are shades of Christopher Boone about him, but that is a high compliment. And it is only shades. Alex sees the world a little differently and isn’t afraid to say so. If the chapter where he finds the “apposite word” to describe a school bully to a headmaster doesn’t have you absolutely howling with laughter, then you have no soul.
Similarly, the developing friendship between the surly old man and the intelligent bookworm teenage epileptic is just so sweet and charming and moreover, entirely believable (take note, Sue Townsend) that when it takes a turn for the less pleasant, your heart has been so thoroughly warmed, you don’t mind that it’s being so comprehensively broken. And furthermore, you won’t for one single second think Alex has done the wrong thing.
Extence takes you on a heck of a journey and in Alex Woods, has created one of the most arresting and unusual, witty and charming characters in a very long time. So do yourselves a favour. Read this book. Immediately.