Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Completely different than anything I've ever read, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is told in the perspective of an autistic boy. I didn't know it was a young adult book until a participant in my book club last night mentioned it, and honestly I'm not sure how much a teen would get out of this book.

I, however, was impressed by the way the author was able to completely portray the life of an autistic--although, highly functional autistic--boy. The main character, Christopher, is fifteen and two of his main interests are dogs and "maths", so when he finds his neighbor's dog murdered, he decides he has to solve the mystery and find the killer. The story is then a first person narrative of his experience with this great mystery, as well as a story of his overall day-to-day life.

Christopher is very logical and matter-of-fact and has a difficult time understanding emotions. He doesn't like to be touched, therefore his mother and father can't even hug him without a screaming episode. This makes a reader wonder whether Christopher can really experience love at all. He seems to connect most with his teacher, Siobhan, and is always remembering advice she has given him.

There is much more to the story then the mystery of the dog's killer and I won't ruin that here. Although I haven't been exposed to anyone that has autism, I feel like I have been now. I was intrgued with the clever pieces of the plot Haddon was able to work in to make this book believable.

And did I mention the book has pictures? And it ends with a math problem. Talk about unique.

----------------------------------------------------------- review (if you're interested):

Mark Haddon's bitterly funny debut novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a murder mystery of sorts--one told by an autistic version of Adrian Mole. Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child's quirks. He takes everything that he sees (or is told) at face value, and is unable to sort out the strange behavior of his elders and peers.
Late one night, Christopher comes across his neighbor's poodle, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork. Wellington's owner finds him cradling her dead dog in his arms, and has him arrested. After spending a night in jail, Christopher resolves--against the objection of his father and neighbors--to discover just who has murdered Wellington. He is encouraged by Siobhan, a social worker at his school, to write a book about his investigations, and the result--quirkily illustrated, with each chapter given its own prime number--is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Haddon's novel is a startling performance. This is the sort of book that could turn condescending, or exploitative, or overly sentimental, or grossly tasteless very easily, but Haddon navigates those dangers with a sureness of touch that is extremely rare among first-time novelists. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is original, clever, and genuinely moving: this one is a must-read. --Jack Illingworth,



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