Under Cover Book 2: A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart
March began the same as February, with a ‘mystery book’. The second book from Amy was harder to get into than Girl in Snow but was still read within one day. I also had an inkling that this was a memoir that Amy had mentioned some time previously. However, with no detriment to the Under-Cover series of which this was part, I could remember neither the title nor the author. Furthermore, the central clues were revealed in the first pages.
As mentioned, I struggled to become engrossed. Honestly, I was not in the mood for this kind of book, and there was a distinct feeling of resentment. Thankfully that passed somewhat, and I settled down and began to leave myself to Sam and Alex. Whilst described as a novel, I would describe it more as a memoir and, upon unwrapping, it became clear that this was based on the Author’s lived experiences. I find books like this hard to comment on; how unfair of me to disparage a character based on the Author’s own person. So, it is with a profound sense of awkwardness that I admit that Alex was my biggest problem.
This is at its core a story about family, about being a father and a husband. These roles, I am sure, have their own challenges but being the father of a child with Autism will not only compound said challenges but bring its own. As the story progressed my frustration with Alex – similar to those felt by his wife – began to diminish. He was struggling with some painful feelings: grief, guilt, frustration and self-worth and as we spent more time with him it started to become clear that yes, sometimes, his actions were a little selfish, but he loved his son and many of his earlier actions and decisions (or lack of them) were motivated by a distinct feeling of being in the deep end of a swimming pool with only a basic knowledge of how to swim. He was just as confused and lost as Sam often felt.
Many describe this novel as sharing the tone and style of Nick Hornby or David Nicholls. I cannot comment on this as I have yet to read anything by the acclaimed Hornby and the only work of Nicholls I have encountered is One Day. One Day and I failed to strike even the smallest of rapport. However, reviews of either of these authors speak of warmth, humility with easy and accessible prose; this attributes I found, and enjoyed, in A boy made of blocks.
Possibly a reflection of how little Sam could communicate, I was left wanting to know more about him. He was by far the most likeable and interesting character, and I found myself skimming the parts about the other characters in the hopes of reading more about the eight-year-old. His development was incredibly emotional, and this book would have been more favourable had I felt as though we could have been able to explore that – maybe instead of the details of Minecraft. Computer games and technology such as this blocky landscape were a passion of Keith Stuart before it became a channel of communication, but for those of us with little interest in the subject – such as myself – this sometimes became a bore.
I am glad that Amy chose this as the second of the three books that build my half of the Under Cover series. Despite my interest in mental health, Autism has never been a subject that I’ve voluntarily read about. It is not a disability that hugely interests me, and as such, I can almost guarantee I would have neglected this book for a different subject. By requiring me to read this novel, I have been persuaded me that this was not only narrow-minded of me but that I have been missing out.
Rating given on Goodreads: 3/5
Head over to Amy’s Blog to read about how and why she chose this book for me 🙂
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