It gives me great pleasure to be on the celebratory tour for a book, A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart, that I’ve adored reading. Published by Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown. A Boy Made of Blocks is available for purchase here.
A Boy Made of Blocks
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.
My Review of A Boy Made of Blocks
Sam Rowe is autistic and his parents’ separation is not aiding his progress.
I found the self deprecating and honest first person narrative in A Boy Made of Blocks totally convincing so that it felt as if I knew Alex personally. The more I read, the more he had my empathy and sympathy even though I thought he’d been selfish and unhelpful towards Jody in the time before the novel actually begins. Here is a man with flaws and struggles so many of us can relate to.
I felt Keith Stuart balanced the challenges of dealing with Sam with the use of wry humour very effectively, giving a realistic and touching narrative in which I became so immersed I forgot I was reading about characters in a book and not real people. I’m not sure if that experience for me was because Keith Stuart has lived a similar life to Alex or because the writing was so skilful and effective but either way I absolutely loved this book.
Having no experience of dealing with children like Sam, I have no idea how realistic this portrayal is, but it felt thoroughly honest, convincing and authentic to me. It also taught me to be less judgmental of other people’s children when I’m out!
The allegory of the Minecraft game works incredibly well as a device to illustrate Sam’s life as it is invariably scary and also an adventure. I appreciated the multiple meanings of the title as Sam uses blocks to create his Minecraft world and suffers blocks in his actual life – from society, school, his father and his own perceptions of what he can achieve. However, I felt actually this was not a story so much about a boy made of blocks as a man, Alex, building a wall of blocks around himself. Both narrative elements are wonderful.
I thought the plotting was so stylish as the story is really about the quotidian events many families face, but I found it held my attention so thoroughly that I couldn’t bear to put the book down to do other things. I was completely engaged by the sub-plots involving Alex’s wife Jody, his sister Emma, his best friend Dan and Alex’s mother too. This isn’t just a novel about autism, it’s a novel about humanity, relationships and our insecurities and triumphs.
I honestly adored this book. I cried, as I often do with affecting reads, but A Boy Made of Blocks had an emotional intensity for me from despair to joy that I found extremely touching. I usually pass on copies of books to others to read. I’m keeping this one as it’s too special to part with.
About Keith Stuart
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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