A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

aboymadeofblocks

Length:400 pages

Note: The cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: 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, A Boy Made of Blocks is an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism.

A Boy Made of Blocks an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism. Fans of About a Boy, Us and The Rosie Project will love this heart-warming, heart-breaking & wonderfully funny debut from an exceptionally talented new writer.

The review: When I was first offered this book I have to admit, I balked, just a little. Books with autism as the main subject matter generally hurt my head, as there’s Aspergers in my family. The idea of fiction books with autism as the subject matter generally lead to me overthinking, and, I’ll be honest, worrying. Saying that, the ones I’ve read before I’ve always ended up enjoying. This was no exception.

The book opens with us learning about Alex’s marriage with Jody, which is disintegrating. It read the way I’d imagine the screenplay of ‘The Break Up’ (Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan) did, with little snide comments, bickering and bitterness, and I have to admit I was torn between that awful fascination you experience when you’re let into someone’s private life (yes, I do know this is just a book), and not wanting to just experience argument after argument. But of course I’d jumped the gun in expecting the whole gun to be like this and anyway I’d already warmed to Mr. Stuart’s style.

We saw Alex’s job as an estate agent, met his friends and associates. We were presented with excellent descriptions and witty asides and at times a  gorgeously cynical narrative. These were mixed with Alex’s moments with Sam, as he tries to move past being nervous, afraid almost, of his own son. The book can read like an inspirational how to manual, as well as a how not to, and I loved it so much. His observations on Sam put us right there

‘He was like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas-small, funny, but at the flick of a mental switch, easily capable of extreme and demented violence’

and to be honest I highlighted so many quotes my Kindle began to give out (note to self, write post on Kindle pros and cons). I loved how they interacted, and seeing their story together develop. Everything in this book is so well balanced, and there are so many moments and realisations in this book, both for Alex, and for Jody. She wants everything done the way she way she wants it and forgets that because he isn’t there all day he couldn’t know the way things have to be.

‘She glances between us-the two men in her life, equally bewildering to her, I realise.’

A special mention for Matt and Claire, who I loved (good for anyone who’s a fan of chaotic, mom/ dad lit kind of stories) and actually pretty much all of the side characters. I should probably leave it here, and say just that this book had it spot on and how much I loved Sam and how many times I wanted to hug him or just say ‘yes!’ and well done, three dimensional etc Alex and Jody’s characters were, but instead I’m going to talk about Minecraft.

Minecraft has taken over our house for about the last two years. I had no idea of what it was about (Previous to marraige and kids I’d generally focused any gaming in my life purely on Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-man ) and my only dalliance with it had been at the start, when I was handed the controller, unaware of how the hell you armed yourself, or ate or anything else you have to do in Minecraft. After wandering in circles with an axe and listening to my six year old patiently trying to tell me that I was doing great, but I needed to do something, I chalked it down to experience, and handed it back.  I have learned so much from this book in terms of minecraft, and the lads have actually started offering up information since I’ve begun to ask questions that didn’t start with ‘so this is the box thing, right?’  Also I now know what that song on Youtube ‘don’t mine at night,’ actually means! But I suppose I should get back to the book. Yes, I cried in this book (sobbed hysterically actually), laughed out loud (properly!) got mad and caught my breath. It had hidden gem after gem of advice, put nice and diplomatically so shouty people out there can’t go on the warpath (parents aren’t always a great group at taking advice, take it from a mother of four!) and comments on autism. It was uplifting and heartwarming, life affirming and simultaneously terrifying! Definitely one to buy/ go on the wish list.

Thanks to Little, Brown Book Group and Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

 

About the Author

keithstuart

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.

He lives in Somerset.

Website: A Boy Made of Blocks

Twitter:@keefstuart

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