A Boy Made of Blocks is Keith Stuart’s debut novel about an autistic boy who discovers a whole new world and way of communicating when he starts playing Minecraft. A positive look at autism without becoming unrealistic, this is a novel that I hugely enjoyed reading.
It would be easy to say that this is Shtum lite (review here). And it is, in a way – again, this focuses upon a father (Alex) who has found himself become increasingly distant from his wife and autistic son (Sam), and it explores what he will do in order to change that situation. Unlike Shtum, however, A Boy Made of Blocks finds a more permanent solution to Alex and Sam’s lack of understanding – Minecraft.
I am not a Minecraft person, myself – I have a basic understanding from my friends who play it, but nothing more than that. In some ways, I thought this was the best possible understanding I could have. I wasn’t confused by the references to pickaxes, apples, and emeralds, and it also allowed Sam and Alex’s ‘world’ to really come alive for me in a way that I hadn’t expected. I could completely understand how this self-constructed world would appeal to an autistic child, as everything fits together and makes sense. It was quite magical, in its own way.
It was obvious that this is the author’s first novel – the writing was a bit uneven, and it didn’t quite flow as well as it could have. However, this did not put me off the book at all. Accessible, positive, and insightful, this gave me unprecedented insight into Sam’s particular understanding of the world.