Tuesday, March 20, 2007

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

I am embarrassed that it took me four years to get my eyes on this book. Now that I’ve read it, I can say that yes, it was worthy of all the hype. It actually crossed over from the Young Adult category and repackages as commercial fiction. It may be about a teenage boy but it’s so interesting that a wide audience can appreciate it. It’s no wonder it’s become a huge crossover success since it’s publication in 2003.

Our odd hero, Christopher, is autistic, although now that I’ve read it I can’t remember if it’s ever stated so plainly. He’s brilliant with numbers and science, but can’t understand facial expressions. Facts give him comfort, jokes confuse him. He does not want surprises but instead takes comfort in schedules.

He sees absolutely everything in every detail and that’s why sometimes when he’s overwhelmed, which is often, he has to shut his eyes and groan to block everything out. The colours yellow and brown almost make him physically ill, and he’ll scream if he’s touched. He doesn’t cry when other people do. But he does like dogs.

Now imagine how things go when he discovers the body of his neighbour’s dog when he’s out on a night walk, and decides to solve the mystery of Who Killed Wellington.

He’s going to write a book, and not one of those novels with things called metaphors which make no sense. He’s going to write a book about the facts of his detecting.

His detective work uncovers some very unexpected facts and ends up taking him on a journey that he never would have taken before the Incident.

The amazing thing about this book is that Christopher’s voice is captured so perfectly. This book never breaks character! We really are inside his head.

It’s so realistically written that even while one part of you is thinking how irritating it must be to have to deal with a kid like him, you’re feeling an affection for his total honesty, and you’re really cheering for him.

Suddenly it’s perfectly understandable that you’d have times when you must tune a radio between stations and hold it up to your ear to drown out all the stimulation in the world. And of course you would scream if another human touched you. Clearly it would be better to live in a world where nobody said silly things that required no answer, and nobody ever looked at each other’s faces.

In fact, being someone who struggles with anxiety disorder, I had a very hard time reading about Christopher’s lone trip on the Brit rail. I really felt his pain. It made we wish that I was good at complex mathematical equations as a way of calming myself...

It may have been written for a teen audience, but anybody can read it, appreciate it, and maybe even get a better understanding of how a difficult young man’s mind works. Mark Haddon completely deserves the praise he got for this book.

I highly recommend a read of it and I give it FIVE OUT OF FIVE JOHN DEERE TRACTORS.


Marni said...

I LOVED this book. It was one of those books I kept seeing at the bookstore and I would think "I really should get that". One day it was on sale and I grabbed it. The only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. (is that a word?)

It is a great book and makes you look at people with autism a little bit differently.

Nicole Brackett said...

I agree, Marni. I waited to long to read this as well, and when I did I love, love, loved it. While there is apparently some controversy surrounding TCIOTDITNT in the autistic spectrum community, for "neurotypical" readers lik myself this book seemed like an accurate and excellent window into the mind of an autistic teen. Haddon has set the standard for this kind of lit, in my opinion.

Nicole Brackett said...

And I can spell. Really, I can.


millhousethecat said...

I bought and devoured this book the week it came out. It's in my five favorite books of all time list.

Glad you liked it!

My ten year old just read it and he and I had great discussions surrounding the characters, the humor and the real life aspects of it all.

Tyto Alba said...

I, too, thought this book gave a very interesting look at what autism might be like. At first I was sort of hesitant to get it from the library because I thought it might be boring or just too weird, but I ended up reading almost the entire thing in one day! I'd highly recommend it.