curious incidents

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

So it appears that the internet and I (or more specifically WordPress and I) are friends again. Which is good, because I don’t think I could handle a break-up that big…

I’m only kidding. Don’t worry…

Let’s get to this thing. For starters, I love titles like this: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. It just makes you so intrigued. So you find the book, and you read it, and you discover that it’s a solid book worthy of enjoyment. Then you go to write a blog about it and realize that you’ll be typing that title over, and over, and over, and over again. And then you, like me, grow to hate the title of that book and wish the author had been slightly less inventive. Then a bit of guilt sets in because you realize that’s making negative wishes toward another creative AND diminishing the book you previously so greatly enjoyed. It’s a vicious cycle. This is why you should all be glad that I review books for you and you don’t have to do it yourself (wink).

I met this book last semester in my Young Adult Fiction class. Part of learning how to write for YA Lit is learning how to market for YA Lit. And this cover has all the elements of crossover fiction. It’s bright orange but simple in design. An adult wouldn’t feel silly walking around with this cover. For comparison, here’s a less “crossover friendly” cover –

alternate cover

This cover just seems a bit more juvenile. And that dog doesn’t look like a poodle, so it’s not very accurate either. But it does have the garden fork part correct. If you run a Google search of the cover images you’ll find a couple more options as well. There’s one that even looks like it would belong straight up in the Children’s section of a bookstore, which in regards to content would not be appropriate. But that’s enough analyzation of the cover.

The story is about a kid name Christopher John Francis Boone (apparently Haddon likes really long titles/names) who discovers his neighbor’s poodle stabbed with a garden fork late one evening. As he begins to  obsessively investigate the murder of the poodle (here comes the cliche mystery tag line) he gets way more than he bargained for.

What makes this story interesting beyond it’s murder mystery plot-line is that Christopher has an autistic spectrum condition. He is very, very intelligent and sequentially logical, but he has a lot of trouble deciphering human interaction. When we meet him he’s living with his father only. Christopher tells us that his mother died two years before. The novel itself is parts murder-mystery and coming-of-age adventure as well as an interesting window into an entirely different perspective.

Christopher is easily underestimated by both the other characters and the reader because of his simplistic thought processes. It doesn’t make sense to the reader that seeing five red cars in a row would portend a wonderful day or that brown is an icky colour and means everything is going to be bad… these seem far too simplistic beliefs for a person who can turn right around and explain complex mathematical functions.

The book received a lot of positive critical feedback. I’m thinking that at some point it will replace The Sound & The Fury in high school English classes. The Wikipedia page states that a film option written and directed by Steve Kloves (the guy who did all the Harry Potter screenplays) is planned. But The Perks of Being a Wallflower sat around forever before production finally began (and there still isn’t a trailer).

TCIotDitNT is an interesting little story. It reminded me a bit of my earlier reading of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady. That novel featured two autistic adolescents whose narration styles were the best parts of the book. If you like YA Lit or definitive narrators go ahead and check it out. It’s a pretty quick read.

 

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2 thoughts on “curious incidents

  1. You should know that Mark Haddon denies Christopher Boone was ever intended to be autistic. His uncapitalized confession is at http://www.markhaddon.com/aspergers-and-autism.

    Curious Incident is widely hated by autistic people for perpetuating some of the most harmful myths about the condition. Christopher is violent, unempathic, and his very existence unravels his parents’ marriage. How the chapter where he fantasises about the extinction of mankind got past the editors still escapes me. Check out this review for a clear view of the book: http://disabilityinkidlit.com/2015/04/04/review-the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time-by-mark-haddon/

    If you want to read a book about autism, get the Rosie Project – it’s implausible but at least I don’t hate any of the characters. Garth Nix has a book called Clariel, the protagonist of which reminds me of most how many autistic women describe themselvess online. And if you want to know what autism feels like, read Kafka, particularly the stories The Top, The Burrow, and the novel Amerika.

    1. Hey thanks! I originally wrote this post some years ago and haven’t really kept up with it. I can definitely see how the book (and probably my review) are insensitive. I appreciate the recommendations. I can update this whole thing 🙂

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