About the book
Published: 1st September 2016 (Sphere)
Discover a unique, funny and moving debut that will make you laugh, cry and smile.
Meet thirtysomething 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
Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.
But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . . .
Can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
Inspired by the author’s experiences with his own son, which he wrote about in this article for the Guardian, A Boy Made of Blocks is an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism.
I am so pleased that I was approached by the publishers to receive a copy of A Boy Made of Blocks to review as it is a beautiful, eloquently written novel that makes the reader both laugh and cry. Stuart has shared both the reality of living with autism and that it isn’t the terrifying diagnosis that it is often portrayed.
From the very first pages, I knew I was reading a book that was very special, I was completely immersed in the story and felt like part of the family. Stuart drew me into the narrative through his dry humour and realistic, likeable characters.
Alex and Jody have a eight year old, Sam, who is on the higher functioning end of the autistic spectrum. Alex is a workaholic, to provide for his family but also as an escape from Sam as he doesn’t know how to interact with him, especially when Sam is having a meltdown. As a result, he is no support to Jody so she has initiated a trial separation because all they seem to be doing is arguing and it’s just gotten to be too much.
Alex moves in with his best friend, Dan and other than going to work, shuts himself away from the world, until he is made redundant. Whilst Alex has lost his job, Jody has found one which forces Alex to spend more one-on-one time with Sam which he approaches with trepidation, until they discover Minecraft.
Throughout this book I was both laughing out loud and holding tears back. I loved Sam, such a wonderful little boy, and the interaction between Alex and Sam through Minecraft is brilliant. In today’s society, it is difficult to acknowledge that looking after children is hard work so Stuart was very brave in recognising this alongside the different challenges that autism brings, both for the individual and those around them. The journey that Alex and Sam goes on is truly heartwarming – they truly bring out the best in one another.
A Boy Made of Blocks isn’t just about autism, it’s also about love, relationships, family and grief. Alex avoids spending time with Sam partly due to his autism but also because of his own demons from losing his brother in a tragic accident when they were both young. As such, the Rowe family is fractured; Emma, Alex’s sister, has spent the last 10 years travelling as an escape whereas their mother lives in Cornwall which is a 4 hour journey from Alex and his family.
One of my favourite books of 2016, if not of all time! I wholeheartedly recommend this book, I loved it and was disappointed to have finished. I know nothing about Minecraft but this did not put me off, if anything I now want to give Minecraft a try!
About Keith Stuart
Keith Stuart is games editor at the Guardian. He started out as writer and features editor on the highly influential magazine Edge before going freelance in 2000 to cover games culture for publications such as The Official PlayStation Magazine, PC Gamer and T3, as well as investigating digital and interactive art for Frieze. He also writes about music, film and media for the Guardian and is a regular on the Tech Weekly podcast.
He is married with two sons and lives with his family in Somerset.