Tuesday, July 28, 2015

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

I'm on a reading stand alone fiction books kick lately. I similarly found this book like Reservation Blues and another teacher encouraged me to read it. When she summed it up, a boy with Asperger's tries to solve the case of who killed a neighbor's dog, I figured I would give it a go.

I read this book in two sittings. I'm moving next week and the more free books that I can give away/give to goodwill, the better. I also couldn't put it down. When I went to check out my opinion of the book with goodreads, well... some of the reviewers REALLY hated the book. Like, absolutely hated the book/would never ever attempt to give it to another person/never sell it/wish it on some poor smuck. Some people really liked it, but most found it so-so. 

I'm firmly in the camp of so-so. It's very post-modern type of novel. It's told in the POV of Christopher, a teenage book who is on the spectrum. He lives with his father in England and goes to a Special Needs school, though he is very good at mathematics. With encouragement of his teacher, he decides to write a novel but since can't imagine unreal things, decided to write about something true that he considers a mystery. Christopher found a neighbor's dog with a gardening fork (the big ones) in him. The dog was dead. Christopher picked him up to hold him and the neighbor caught him then accuses him of killing the dog. 

He goes around to investigates who killed Wellington, the dog. Through his investigation, Christopher reveals his backstory and the way he thinks. His mother is dead, even though the way that Christopher tells the story of his mother in the hospital makes the reader think there is more to the story than her dying. He reveals his method of thinking, such as his favorite colors, his least favorite colors, his enjoyment of math, his hopes of becoming an astronaut (and reasons why he can never be is heartbreaking), and his befuddlement of people. 

His father tells him to stay away from the death of Wellington case, but Christopher, who connects more with dogs than with people, does not. After an epic blowout with him and his father, the story changes from a boy with autism writing a mystery to solving the mystery of his family. 

The book starts you off on one adventure but then completely changes gears halfway through the book. Christopher's emotions are real, but he processed them very differently than other people. There are emotions of other individuals in the story, but that is lost through the eyes of Christopher. Maybe the subtly is supposed to be lost. I'm not sure, but the mystery of who killed the dog ends rather lamely after Christopher went through the work of talking to strangers and making maps of what could have possibly happened. 

Christopher's declaration that he "can never tell a lie" is an interesting characterization point and when I was reading it, it made me uncomfortable. He states that it is nearly impossible for him to do so, because the unpredictability of what could be there instead of what is there is too much for him and he gets confused and overwhelmed on what to choose. During the book, he definitely does lie, omit facts and tells white lies. I'm sure this is an active choice by the author to say that he can never lie, but in fact, Christopher does and has no insight to what he does to other people. This leads into how he can trust others and his wariness of people.

His mother, in fact, is not dead, but left her husband. She moved to London with the husband of the neighbor whose dog was killed. Chris' father, angry and sad, tells Christopher that she died and hides the letters that she written to him for a year. When it is revealed who killed Wellington, Christopher decides he is no longer safe with his father and decides to move in with his mother in London. For a boy, with autism, who never went anywhere on his own describing his tale of going to London, was a part of the novel that I couldn't stop reading. He even takes his rat with him!

The book ended on a happy note, which made me go, 'aw.' I worked with students with autism for many years and this year also had a few students with autism in my classes. Christopher had a lot of the same characteristics: concrete thinkers and they have the ability to be overstimulated very easily. Everything needs to be scheduled and make sense and I laughed when Christopher discussed his timetable and how when they went to France, he made his parents tell him everything they were going to do that day so he could feel better.

Overall, it's a quick read. I wouldn't go out and buy the book, however, but it's a good way to pass the time.

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