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Literature / A Boy Made of Blocks

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A Boy Made of Blocks is a 2016 novel by Keith Stuart.
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Alex Rowe, a mortgage advisor living in Bristol, has just left his wife Jody because their constant arguments were hurting their autistic eight-year-old son, Sam. When Jody gives Sam an Xbox, Alex worries it will make him even more withdrawn than he already is. But Sam soon develops a love of Minecraft, and he and Alex bond over the game.


A Boy Made of Blocks contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Alex loses sight of Sam for a few minutes in the crowd outside the Tower of London. While searching for him, he finds his ear protectors lying on the pathway.
  • Archive Binge: In-universe example. Alex kills time at his friend Dan's flat by watching massive amounts of television. Once he watches fifteen episodes of The Simpsons in one sitting.
  • Bad to the Last Drop: The coffee Alex drinks at the Minecraft competition tastes like it was made with unfiltered Thames water.
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  • Big Brother Instinct: When Alex was a child, a Gang of Bullies attacked him on a playground. His older brother George beat up one of the bullies while the others ran away.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Alex and Jody share one at the airport when Dan and Emma fly to Rio together.
  • Blanket Fort: While Alex is babysitting Matt and Clare's kids, they and Sam create a blanket fort that they pretend is a Minecraft house.
  • The Bully: Sam is such a target for these that he cries every morning before school and sometimes fights to get away.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Dan has been in love with Alex's sister Emma for decades, and they eventually get together.
  • Childhood Friends: Jody and her friend Clare grew up together like sisters. They both moved to Bristol and had kids at about the same time, so they're still close friends.
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  • Commonality Connection: Sam gets along well with Sid, who frequents the same bar as Alex. Alex realizes that Sid is also autistic.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: A year ago, Emma ended up pregnant from a fling. Her miscarriage came as a relief, since she was living in a beach hut at the time. But it also affected her so badly that she spent two days crying and wanting her mum to take care of her.
  • Cower Power: Sam is shy around Emma and hides behind Jody's legs. He warms to her when she gives him a bag of toy airplanes.
  • Decade-Themed Party: Isobel invites Alex to a party based on The '60s. Alex wears a suit that makes him feel like Austin Powers.
  • Disappeared Dad: Alex meets Isobel, a woman whose autistic son Jamie is about Sam's age. She says that her husband left her before her son was diagnosed.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: When Alex tells Dan that he's been laid off, Dan says, "Put the controller down. We are going out and we are getting shit-faced."
  • Footsie Under the Table: Alex's married coworkers Paul and Katie play footsie under their desks while checking paperwork.
  • Groupie Brigade: Emma mentions that when they were younger, Dan had a fan club of girls following him everywhere. She compares him to Justin Timberlake.
  • Happy Place: During a camping trip, Sam gets scared when night falls. Alex tells him to close his eyes and pretend he's in Minecraft, and the two describe the imaginary landscape they explore to each other.
  • Heroic BSoD: Sam enters one after some other boys use TNT to destroy his castle in Minecraft.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: When Alex arrives in Dan's flat after leaving Jody and Sam, he almost immediately starts crying hysterically, with snot bubbling out of his nose.
  • It's Not You, It's Me: Alex says this to Isobel, and apologizes for using such a cliché line.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: Maureen the barmaid has LOVE tattooed across the knuckles of her left hand.
  • Locked in the Bathroom: Sam locks himself in the bathroom when he becomes overwhelmed by the loud music at a birthday party.
  • Love at First Sight: Alex met Jody while they were both working as apple pickers. He was in love within thirty-five seconds of talking to her.
  • Moment Killer: Alex is about to kiss Jody, but they're startled out of the moment by embers loudly crackling in the fireplace. A minute later, he tries to suggest rekindling their relationship, but they're interrupted by a phone call from Alex's mum, who is in the hospital after a fall.
  • Object Ceiling Cling: At a birthday party, Alex sees jelly dripping from the ceiling.
  • Percussive Maintenance: A barista at Alex and Sam's favorite coffee shop whacks the coffee machine like an unreliable TV set.
  • Picky Eater: There are only four meals Sam is willing to eat, and they have to be prepared in just the right way. He's also willing to eat fruit, but it has to be cut into cubes of exactly one centimeter.
  • Pirate Parrot: Alex's friend tapes a parrot to his shoulder as part of his pirate costume at his daughter Tabitha's birthday party.
  • Punch a Wall: Alex sheds a Single Tear and punches the steering wheel when he realizes Jody has spent the night with her old friend Richard.
  • Sensory Overload: When Alex leaves his family, Sam buries his face in Jody's side to try to block out the noise of Alex's car.
  • Space Marine: Alex sees advertisements for games featuring these at the Minecraft competition.
  • Spot of Tea: After Alex is laid off, the secretary Jeanette keeps trying to cheer him up by making cups of tea.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: Sam was conceived one drunken night during a cheap package holiday in Spain a year after Alex and Jody met.
  • Tears of Joy: Alex sheds these when Sam almost wins the Minecraft contest by building the cafe Alex's family visited before George's death.
  • Textual Celebrity Resemblance: Sam was born with thick brown hair and big lips that made him look like a tiny Mick Jagger.
  • Thinker Pose: Matt takes this pose during a football game.
  • Trauma Button: Alex can't stand to drive past the gates of any school because it reminds him of the day George was hit by a car and killed while they were running home from school.
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Jody was wearing short cut-offs when she and Alex first met. She kept telling him to stop staring at her ass.

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