I am estranged.
– Opening sentence
A Boy Made of Blocks isn’t the usual sort of book I’m attracted to. I’m naturally drawn to darker works of fiction; stories of politics, war, discrimination etc. (that makes me sound a bit like an emo, but I’m sure there are those of you who understand).
However, after reading the synopsis of A Boy Made of Blocks – a story about a young boy with autism, and his Dad who’s a little bit lost – I was reminded of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I loved that book, and so I took up the opportunity to read A Boy Made of Blocks for this blog tour, and I wasn’t disappointed!
This is a truly heartwarming read, and one that I imagine I will read again and again whenever I am feeling down or uninspired.
It starts with Alex. A thirty-something Dad to Sam, and husband to Jody. Sam, 8, is autistic, and after years of stress and arguments, Jody is kicking Alex out. It’s a scarily honest and relatable scenario, and one that instantly pulled me into the story.
A Boy Made of Blocks is about Alex trying to get his wife back, trying to understand his son, and trying to deal with the horrors of his past (annoyingly, I’ve just made that sound really cliche – but it’s not at all).
How? Well, somewhat surprisingly, through Minecraft. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, it’s the second best selling videogame of all time, behind Tetris, selling over 106 million copies between 2011 – 2016.
It’s a simple game in its essence. You enter an vast, empty landscape with absolutely nothing. But you’re given the power and freedom to go anywhere you want and create anything you like. You start small with the basics (chopping trees for wood and crude weapons, etc.), but before long you can find yourself building a castle with a library and a treasury.
It’s this simplistic approach that made the game so popular, aided by it’s nostalgic ‘8-bit’ block theme, where everything is made up of cubes.
I, like everyone, got swept into the magic that is Minecraft. My boyfriend and I would spent countless evenings descending down dark pits, mining for treasure and fighting spiders and creepers (weird zombie-like enemies that explode on contact…I don’t know why).
That’s why I thought this book was so magical. Because it accurately depicts how we now tend to communicate; through digital media and video games. Even a detached father can learn to understand and communicate with his autistic son through a video game.
This is Keith Stuart’s debut novel, and it extremely inspiring and beautifully written. I devoured it over this weekend with tears of both sadness and joy. I’m not a parent, and I have no first-hand experience of autism, but I still loved it.
A Boy Made of Blocks is something special, and a great way to kick of a year of reading.
(5 / 5)
Then there is absolutely nothing.
– Final sentence
(I know it’s SUPER superficial of me, but my only criticism is the cover art of this paperback version. I mean, there was SO much potential and opportunity here for something cool, and yet they went with this lame stock image. THERE ISN’T EVEN A KITE IN THE BOOK!?)
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 communication that followed informed his debut novel.