A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart
Published August 9th by Hachette
“Life is an adventure, not a walk. That’s why it’s difficult”
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.
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?
My family is a family that games together. Among other things when we got married me and my husband had Minecraft props and world of warcraft decorations etc. Years later our now three-year-old son shares our passion for Minecraft and has become utterly obsessed. Our little man is bright (I may be slightly biased okay?!) but he has some trouble communicating and expressing himself, since playing Minecraft he has opened up so much and we love to play together as a family, he showed me how to make a potion last week because apparently, I’d been doing it wrong! So when our son’s childminder recommended a book to me about a little boy who plays Minecraft with his Dad I was eager to check it out myself!
A Boy Made of Blocks, I discovered is much more than a boy playing Minecraft with his Dad. Alex said Dad starts off as a very difficult character to like and it wasn’t until over halfway through, maybe even three quarters that I had even considered that maybe I wouldn’t really dislike him by the end of the book. It felt hard to read in places because of the way Alex acts and reacts to events that happen but as a parent I felt totally hypocritical because none of us are perfect and raising a child, autistic or not, is damned hard work and it’s tiring. We make mistakes, we say and do things in the heat of the moment that are not great and we know it, we beat ourselves up for it but as this book shows it’s not just about those things it’s about what we do after and how we never stop learning and growing as we encourage our children to do. Once I grasped this concept I saw Alex for what he really was, a parent who was scared and unsure and that was something I could utterly relate to the more I read. Alex, for all his faults, in-fact maybe because of them actually is one of the most real characters I have ever read and that really helps to bring home the entire story for me.
Alex goes through a lot of bad stuff that comes his way and so this book addresses that as well because let’s face it bad stuff almost always likes company and it added to the feeling of total overwhelming and crushing misery that drives him to a point where he realises he has to change. There are a great cast of supporting characters, Alex’s sister and mother, his best friend, his wife and of course their son Sam who are all written wonderfully, each with their own quirks, stories and baggage. I loved that they didn’t feel just shoved in to bloat out the story, they were all integral and important parts as well as each being likeable in their own way, even when they, like Alex, were doing some pretty unlikeable things.
I will admit, this isn’t my usual kind of read at all and I did find it a little slow to start, “When do we get to the Minecraft parts?” I kept thinking to myself and I was ecstatic when they finally did happen and it was an absolute joy to read the way Sam began to enjoy the game and open up more, especially when I recognised a lot of the responses and reactions as the same way my son interacts with the game, how he loves to commentate what we’re doing, how he teaches us and loves to show us things he’s made and more. It was at that point I knew I was hooked.
As the story progressed I got more and more addicted, unable to put the book down I finished the last third in one long sitting because I just had to know what happened and I was in no way disappointed. I was completely blown away, I literally gasped out loud a few times, my son even got out of bed to come and sit with me while I read and I’m so glad he fell back to sleep so I didn’t have to explain why I was sobbing at my book. This book is an absolute gem and I’m so grateful to have read it, I genuinely think it’s helped me to take a better perspective of my life and it’s really helped me to understand my son a little better, to be more patient and I think (I hope!) it’s made me a better parent for reading it. One thing I will say is that they totally missed out on a better cover for this edition, the cover for the initial hardback release and kindle edition covers are lovely but I love the Bulgarian one!
Regardless of the cover though, A Boy Made of Blocks has been a joy to read and an inspiring roller coaster of emotions. A great read for parents or any other guardian, especially those who have children that do play Minecraft and maybe don’t understand much about the game or what about it appeals to their children. Thank you so much, Jo, if you’re reading for recommending it to me!