Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time isn't your typical murder mystery, because in this book the murder victim is Wellington. Wellington is a poodle, a poodle belonging to Mrs. Shears. Mrs. Shears is the neighbor of the narrator, Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher isn't your typical protagonist either. Christopher is autistic and takes everything literally. He doesn't understand emotions, sarcasm, or even jokes, and that is why there are no jokes in this book.

When Christopher is accused of killing Wellington, he takes it upon himself to investigate in order to find the real killer. Prompted by his teacher, Siobhan, he writes down what he learns in the form of a murder-mystery novel. Along the way, Christopher's investigation leads him to some unexpected information about his own family and the end of his parents' marriage.

Christopher is also a mathematical genius, and he is working on passing his A-levels in mathematics (the British version of American high school Advanced Placement tests). Christopher often explains the way he thinks about things by describing math puzzles, so there are a lot of diagrams and drawings in the book. While I listened to the audio version and liked it very much, I do feel like I missed out by not reading the book.

Mark Haddon chooses a curious narrator for his curious book. He explores human emotion through a character who cannot experience emotion himself. As we follow along with Christopher we learn about the daily struggles he faces that make his investigation even more difficult. For example, seeing 5 red cars in a row makes it a Super Good Day, but 4 yellow cars in a row makes it a Black Day.

Despite Christopher's assertion that there are no jokes, the book is both funny and illuminating. At no point does the reader feel as though they are laughing at Christopher, but at themselves. Christopher's dry observations about things he doesn't understand, shows the reader how very silly we are sometimes. Haddon himself worked with autistic children as a young man and is able to give the reader a glimpse into what like is like for teens like Christopher, handling the subject with grace.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is also a great book for Young Adults, having made the Top Ten List of Best Books for Young Adults in 2004 and winning an Alex Award (adult books with appeal for teens) the same year. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, is a book written for young adults in which Marcelo, a high-functioning, autistic, 17-year-old, is pushed out of his comfort zone and into the mailroom of his father's law firm.

If you'd like a rather non-traditional memoir, try Episodes: My Life as I See It by Blaze Ginsberg, a high-functioning, autistic young man who tells the story of his life as episodes in the format of the Internet Movie Database.

For a parent's perspective, try Louder than Words by Jenny McCarthy or Making Peace with Autism by Susan Senator.

1 comment:

Taylorstales-Genealogy said...

Thank's to your great review Tori, I am going to request this book--on audio! I'll let you know what I think about it when I finish it.