I received a free copy of A Boy Made of Blocks from the publisher in return for an honest review.
I haven't had any personal experience with autism, I've never known anyone who has been diagnosed with autism, or anyone who has personal experience of the struggles and emotions that come along with it. The author does an outstanding job of getting across to the reader just how difficult this disorder is to live with, and despite my lack of personal experience, and as a parent, I could relate to how difficult a journey it must be.
Even though I did enjoy it and found myself picking it up every spare minute I had free to read, there were a few things that cropped up which prevented me from giving it a higher rating than 3 stars.
There were times where I felt things dragged a little and that some of the outer family drama really wasn't needed. The relationship between these outer characters just didn't feel right, they came across forced and unnatural at times. I feel that some, if not all, could have been weeded out. The growing relationship and the journey of Sam and his father was enough on its own, the rest felt like padding and it distracted from the main story.
There were situations where Sam seemed to jump ahead in his abilities to cope that felt unrealistic. He liked routine and structure but then was able to cope with things that were very spur of the moment and unplanned. Like I said before, I have no experience with autism but this just didn't sit right with me.
I have played Minecraft with my own children for many years (since before the official release when it was still in the late alpha/early beta stages and we still play together even now) so I have a decent knowledge of the game. There were quite a few inconsistencies and mistakes made when referring to the game itself. The book clearly states they are in peaceful mode because Sam is scared of the monsters but, within less than a page later a creeper appears. They eat for health which in peaceful mode isn't possible, or necessary. They also spend time opening multiple chests and finding treasures in them when in the village, where actually there is only one chest to be found per village. Sam builds machines with pistons and batteries, there are no batteries in Minecraft. Granted these aren't things that will ruin the story and aren't really important at all but, given the fact that the author states in the acknowledgements "I write about video games for a living, so our house is full of games and games consoles." I'm surprised to see these kinds of inconsistencies and mistakes.
Despite the above, I really did enjoy the book. It's a wonderful story that will bring both smiles and tears. It was insightful, thought-provoking and an emotional read, and I will admit to reaching for the tissues several times. You'd have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by this story.