This review is part of the blog tour for Keith Stuart’s A Boy Made of Blocks. Thank you to the team at Little, Brown Book Group for sending me a copy and inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.
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 themselves and each other… When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
Sam is a human being, separate from me, separate even from Jody. He’s not a problem to be solved, a dink in my scheduling, another worrying element of my daily ‘to-do’ list. He’s a person, and somewhere in his head are his own ideas, his own priorities, his own ambitions for the future. It’s amazing how easy it has been to overlook all that, amid everything else going on, amid the struggles with autism… He’s a person – he wants things, he wants to understand his place in the world. And what I should do is help him.
Where to begin? I absolutely adored A Boy Made of Blocks. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It’s one of those rare gems where you’ll find yourself laughing one moment and then crying your eyes out the next – but they’re mostly happy tears, I promise!
I was immediately drawn in by Alex and how easy it was to root for and relate to him. At the begin, he can be frustrating and you just want to grab him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. However, he slowly learns how to adapt his approach to his autistic son and understand his fears. Alex is such a well-fleshed out character with impeccable development and it was just so lovely and heartwarming to follow his journey. I felt as though I was really there every step of the way. I actually whooped with triumph and felt the urge to clap during the Minecraft competition when it was revealed what Sam had created.
I was initially sceptical about how Minecraft was going to be incorporated. Not knowing much about the game myself, I was worried about whether I’d struggle. However, Keith Stuart kept any explanation simple, engaging and it was rather interesting to learn about the game. To be honest, I was thrilled to see video games being painted in a positive light as they do get an unfair rep these days. A Boy Made of Blocks showcases the positive aspects of video games like Minecraft and the amazing effects they can have. Minecraft in the novel not only paves a way for Alex to bond with his son, but it helps to encourage Sam to be more open in social interaction and communicating with others as well as a chance to explore his creativity.
Alex makes an analogy in the novel in regards to how Minecraft bringing about this confident change in Sam is similar to how George VI overcame his stutter by listening to music while he spoke and that was something I had picked up on myself while reading. This book really is like a modern day The King’s Speech and it’s every bit as captivating.
On the whole, I’m flabbergasted by how truly outstanding A Boy Made of Blocks is. Stuart’s writing was incredibly engaging and thoughtful. In fact, there were several extracts from the novel I wanted to share because I just really loved how well-written and introspective they were. There were quite a few moments where Alex reflects on the death of his brother George when he was a young boy that made me sob uncontrollably.
When you lose someone, the grief comes back at you like a flash flood, tearing through all your carefully constructed defences. You have to do what you can; you use whatever is available to get through.”
It seems like a lifetime ago that we first created Sam and Daddy’s world together; that space we shared while apart. That connection between us. While everything else was chaos in our lives, we had somewhere that we could escape to and explore – a place that had logic and rules and definite borders. We knew where we were. We were safe and could make anything we wanted.”
It’s amazing how little control we have over our own lives, when you think about it. In theory, I could keep driving, back into the city, then up the M32, the M5, the M6. I could be in Scotland by the evening. But obviously that won’t happen. Family, responsibilities, fear, the awful reality of service station food. The easiest thing is to accept your role as a passenger, staring out of the window at the rolling scenery. The years pass like traffic”
Grief never really goes away. Time doesn’t heal. Not fully. After awhile – a few months, a few years maybe – grief retreats into the darkest corners of your mind, but it will lurk there indefinitely. It will leak into everything else you do or feel; it will lurch forward when you don’t expect it. It will haunt you when you sleep.”
A Boy Made of Blocks is unique in the best way. It’s beautiful, funny and gives an extraordinary look at autism and how it has effected this family. Family is the core heart of the novel and there are quite a few supporting characters with their own stories which I found equally as intriguing and heartbreaking slash heartwarming. It made my heart swell with pride and emotions when they all came together to support Sam in the Minecraft competition. From Alex’s sister Emma to his mate Dan, who might I add is THE man (even if he doesn’t initially seem like it!).
Beautifully insightful and charming, A Boy Made of Blocks is an extraordinary story of family and love inspired by the author’s own experiences with his autistic son.
Visit the other blogs on today’s tour stop to find out what they thought of A Boy Made of Blocks