Tuesday 17 January 2017

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

Published by Sphere on December 29, 2016

I’m really struggling to express quite how much I loved A Boy Made of Blocks. This is a really special book that touched my heart and made me think and toyed with my emotions in a way that I absolutely loved. It’s a story of a couple on the edge – Alex and Jody– who are learning about themselves, their own strengths and weaknesses and the highs and lows of parenting as they try to raise Sam, their eight year old son who has autism. It’s a sincere book, not forced or clichéd, it’s genuinely moving with its honesty and its frank writing style. It’s funny and heartwarming, yet at times some of the actions in the book are upsetting and frustrating.

The book is narrated by Sam’s dad, Alex. He’s a man with imperfections. He struggles to form a connection with his son, sometimes shirking his responsibilities as a father. He doesn’t always show his wife the love and respect she deserves. He makes many mistakes. But you know I actually loved his character and the way he told the story. Alex is a perfect character to read about because of his imperfections. These make him interesting, human. And from the beginning when we can tell he is struggling in his relationship with Sam, this makes it all the more satisfying when little bits of progress are evident.

Sam is also a wonderful character. He is a lovely boy, funny and intelligent and always switched on. This book really helps the reader develop an understanding of what it is like for parents of a child with autism. I could understand why at times both Jody and Alex envied parents with “normal” children, those who don’t need to take care at all times to avoid their child becoming inconsolable at something which for many other children would go unnoticed. Having said that, getting to know Sam is a real joy in this book and I loved watching his character grow and develop and those moments where is simply happy were so lovely to read.

When Sam gets an Xbox and a copy of Minecraft to play, things begin to change for him. Minecraft is an outlet for him to use his creativity and express himself and he tells stories of delight at his latest creation. Knowing nothing about Minecraft except how much Sam was enjoying it, I found myself cheering on Alex and his attempts to connect with Sam more when he bought himself a copy of Minecraft to see what all the fuss was about. I absolutely loved reading about how Minecraft began to help Alex form a bond with his son. Their shared moments in this book were really uplifting and they felt like real moments, like I was seeing this happen in a family that wasn’t fictional, and this was one of the many reasons I enjoyed A Boy Made of Blocks, because really this book was an extremely engaging and admirable representation of a family living with a child with autism. I loved everything about it.

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