A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS BY KEITH STUART
PUBLISHED BY SPHERE
REVIEW BY BECK BORONA
From the publishers of J.K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, A Boy Made of Blocks opens a door to a discussion about autism and gaming. The perspective comes from bewildered father and husband, Alex, who is on a trial separation from his wife Jody. Their issues stem from a lack of communication regarding their 8-year-old son Sam who is autistic.
Jody seems unable to cope and engage with her son, and Alex, still healing from a childhood trauma, cannot bond with Sam nor deal with his personality, his ticks and his meltdowns.
During the separation and living with his single friend Dan, Alex struggles with the fact he feels somewhat free from his son, yet still misses his family terribly. Being made redundant and already alone, he has too much time to think about his own past.
Sam begins to play Minecraft online, which worries Alex as he already has difficulties socialising. However, as he can talk to his son via the game from their separate houses, Alex gives it a chance seeing as though it’s the only thing his son responds to. What comes next is a lovely experience of a man healing, opening up and growing into the father Sam deserves. I even shed a few tears at the end.
At first I found Alex to be a little frustrating; he has a little boy who needs him, and he can’t move on from his own anxieties. He grew on me eventually and displays the frustration parents go through trying to communicate effectively with their autistic children, not to mention the trials they face with people who don’t understand.
I enjoyed how the gameplay was written into the story. Their shared experiences were displayed through their Minecraft avatars; building castles and searching for treasure. Even Alex’s emptiness sometimes reflected in his lone avatar staring out into the green, blocky hills.
This book should be read by anyone with children, or young adults who may have autistic peers at school or in their community. The book gives knowledge and traction to the autism community, and keeps the awareness circulating in a new way.
Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.