I also don’t mind telling you that actually I was a tiny bit unsure that I would, at first. I don’t really know why that is, because let’s be real here: look at the blurb. It is entirely up my street. But I was dubious. I think perhaps it was the title? I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter really because I read it and I liked it a whole lot and that’s the best ever isn’t it? When you love something that you kind of really didn’t think you would?
‘Daddy, what are you doing?’‘What do you mean?’‘Sometimes I am stuck on a thought and I can’t get off it, not for a long time. It stays and stays. Are you stuck on a thought?’ I stop walking.
It’s OK, don’t mind me, there’s just a branch in my eye. Keep on doing your thing.
It’s just…it’s so damn lovely OK? It’s really kind of special. And it’s a bit of a thing isn’t it, Autism. There’s a lot of people writing a lot of books with a protagonist the places somewhere on the spectrum and it’s important – of course it is – but it’s also important not to get samey, not to write about something just because it’s ‘of the moment’ you know?
Too much relevance can make a thing irrelevant. Does that make any sense? It makes all the sense in my head. It’s about bandwagons and not jumping on them, about not making something into a trope.
Which this book does not, in case you wondered if that’s where I was going. I’m absolutely not going there. I am going in the other direction entirely. A direction where there is not a bandwagon in sight. A bandwagon free zone, as it were.
This book is refreshing and honest and all kinds of wonderful, actually. And it left me with ALL THE FEELS. Here I am, feeling all the things and wanting to do it justice and write an intelligent and thought provoking review but unable to come up with much other than THIS BOOK MADE ME MELTY AND I WANNA PLAY MINECRAFT WITH ALEX AND SAM.
OK, let’s back up. Let’s at least try to write a proper review here.
Actually no. Let’s not. I’m just not really that person I'm sorry. I just want to tell you how much I liked it so that’s what I’m going to do, okay?
I LIKED IT.
I LIKED IT SO HARD.
In a nutshell it’s about this guy called Alex (thirtysomething, like me. High five Alex,) and his relationship with both his wife Jody and his 8 year old son Sam, who is Autistic.
Alex is estranged from his wife which is super sad times because he loves her and he doesn’t really get Sam, doesn’t know how to relate to him, and actually if we’re going to be blunt here is pretty much shit scared of the kid. Also super sad times because he loves him.
The thing about leaving (or being pushed from) the family home and becoming a ‘weekend Dad’ is that he’s kind of forced to deal with Sam on a deeper level; he has to handle the things that Jody would usually deal with. He has to actually see past the epic meltdowns and work out who Sam actually is and watching him do that, watching him learn about this little boy who lives in a world that is sometimes so overwhelming that he doesn’t know how to do anything other than hide from it, it’s all kind of tortuous and wonderful. I swear, watching these two play Minecraft together in separate houses, these two people who love each other so fucking fiercely but have never had the ability to show it, finding a way to actually really communicate is simultaneously the most wonderful and most heart-hurty thing I have read this year. It’s lush writing, absolutely lush.
(& it really makes you want to play Minecraft.)
Heart-hurty. That’s what this book was. It made my chest so tight so many times but in the most wonderful and uplifting of ways. Happysad. Which is totally an actual emotion. This book made me so very happysad. & I loved that it’s based on Keith Stuart’s own experiences with his own children, with Autism (and with Minecraft.) It shone through the pages, that love; that frustration; that whole extreme of feeling, from joy at each milestone to agony when you just can’t reach past the walls.
It felt honest to me, and whilst I wanted to reach into the pages to hug Sam and Alex SO FREAKING HARD YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW, I also wanted to reach past them to hug Keith. Not out of pity but out of….I dunno. Solidarity? No. That’s not right? Maybe not for any reason other than to say ‘thank-you, for this.’
I have absolutely no expectations that he’ll ever read this review but just in case he does: thank-you Mr Stuart for putting your heart on your proverbial sleeve and sending this book out into the world.
A Boy Made of Blocks is a delight. It’s an absolute delight and I LIKED IT.