It’s time for another blog tour! (You’re probably sick of reading that. This month is packed full of blog tours.) For my stop on this tour, I’m reviewing the heart-wrenching and wonderful A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart. I LOVED this book! Let’s get straight to the review!
MEET THIRTY SOMETHING DAD, ALEX… He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
MEET EIGHT-YEAR- OLD SAM… To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.
When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other… When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
A Boy Made of Blocks is a beautiful, funny and heartwarming story of family and love inspired by the author’s own experiences with his autistic son.
A Boy Made of Blocks: Review
As an avid player of Minecraft throughout my late teens (I still dabble in it a bit now), I was intrigued when I read the synopsis of this book. I’d never read a synopsis quite like it: a young autistic boy and his dad bond over playing Minecraft together. I thought it’d be an interesting read – but it was far more than that.
The depiction of autism was so honest and so sincere that I could tell it was written partly from experience. I’ve never had any experience with autism, so it’s something I don’t know an awful lot about. Reading about Sam’s autism made me realise the reality of it, and how difficult it would be to live with. The characters were all so well-written, too. It was hard to believe that I was reading a fictional story because it all seemed so real.
I completely related to the protagonist, Alex, in that he was terrified to spend a long time with Sam. He was scared that Sam would have a meltdown and he wouldn’t know how to stop it. He also talked about how he was genuinely awkward around children anyway, and didn’t know what to do around them. This is me, 100%. The smallest amount of time I have to spend around small children, the better!
“The humour contrasted with the more emotional parts of the story, and made for a huge rollercoaster of feelings!”
It helped, too, that the story was set so close to where I live. The whole story is set in Bristol, which is only over the river from me! (Okay, it’s just under an hour’s drive, but still.) There were so many jokes that actually made me laugh out loud – a lot of them to do with how British people are. He talked about pubs that serve food that’s probably less fresh than swallowing a mouthful of the Avon river. The humour contrasted with the more emotional parts of the story, and made for a huge rollercoaster of feelings! (It actually almost made me cry, and it’s RARE that something will make me cry. The last time I cried at a book was The Book Thief. Man, that book turned me into a sobbing mess.)
Finally, I loved the familiarity of Minecraft. I’ve seen a couple of Goodreads reviewers complaining that the game was described in too much detail, but I completely disagree. The thing I loved was that Alex and Sam’s shared Minecraft world became more than just a game world – it became their world. The colours, and textures and the sounds were described in enough detail that I could imagine every detail of their world. I was fascinated by the descriptions of their buildings, and I can imagine them building them together.
“By the end, he was building huge structures, dragging Alex off to explore dark caverns, and building bridges over pools of lava.”
There were such great parallels between their Minecraft world and Sam’s real life. When they began playing the game together, Sam was too afraid to move away from the familiar; too terrified to explore after dark because of the scary sounds. As Sam got older and his confidence increased, his skills progressed in the same. By the end, he was building huge structures, dragging Alex off to explore dark caverns, and building bridges over pools of lava. If that isn’t symbolic of his increasing strength, I don’t know what is!
A Boy Made of Blocks is a book for everyone. It’s for those who need a pick-up when they’re down, and those who want to feel like they can overcome anything. It’s a crazy, emotional journey through the eyes of a dad coming to terms with his child’s autism. And it’s incredibly uplifting, motivational, and I’d recommend it to anybody.
About the Author
In 2012 one of Keith Stuart’s two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together – especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.
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