But I didn’t.
I don’t entirely love it either. Repeated references to the autism scale, what is that? Spectrum, not scale. It isn’t linear. High functioning and low functioning are terminologies the autism community (yes, we have an active and broad ranging community built across social media) is rejecting. Along with the idea that it’s a disorder, or that we suffer from it.
But along the grounds that if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person, I figure there probably are children kind of like Sam, fighting their way through an unforgiving world. And parents like Alex, wallowing in a pit of despair about the whole thing. And there has to be room for their stories too. The difficulty we all experience comes when they are the only stories told, as that reinforces the damaging stereotypes and stigmas that surround autism.
I’ve met a lot more than one autistic person. I am one, I live with at least a couple more, I’ve (lots of) autistic friends, have worked in care and support roles with adults and teenagers. There are some parts of this story that ring very true, but I struggled with how long the book takes to get to the interactions between Alex and Sam. The back story/ current situation is laid out with painful self indulgence it felt – it just took so very long to get to any point. Perhaps that’s intended to feed into Alex’s characterisation but I just wasn’t taken with it. It felt like hard work.
However, the second half of the book is much better, and I’m pleased I persevered. We get to spend much more time with Alex and Sam together, and as we get to discover Sam, it feels like Alex does too. There are some lovely moments of insight and character development in Sam, largely based around the Minecraft referred to in the title Blocks. (If you don’t know much about Minecraft prepare for a crash course, it will probably be good for you.) Keith’s expertise in games and tech shows through in the understanding he has of the value of games like Minecraft, and the positive environment they can provide for children.
And, although some parts of the ending are kind of predictable, I totally admit that I was swept up in the emotions, and may have shed a tear or two (or even a few more) at what felt like the big climax at the end. (Turns out it goes on a bit after that, but loose ends irritate, so I’ll forgive the tidy up.)
All in all, I’m glad I read this one. Hope my perspective is useful 🙂
Available now at Amazon (affiliate link). Disclosure: I was supplied a copy for review.