Reviewed by Kimi
Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is an eye-opening
novel detailing the coming-of-age of a fifteen year old boy, Christopher John Francis Boone, who has a form of autism. Although incredibly gifted at math and science, the protagonist has trouble understanding other people and the complex emotions he feels as his already confusing life grows even more chaotic. For instance, Christopher says he, “know[s] all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,057” (Haddon 2). But, Christopher only understands the two most basic emotions: happiness and sadness. The book begins when Christopher finds his neighbor’s dog lying dead in the yard, stabbed with a pitchfork. Inspired by his favorite character, Sherlock Holmes, Christopher makes it his goal to figure out who killed the dog and why. He acts as a detective and even goes against his father who demands him to stop. But this quest to learn about his neighbor’s dog soon transforms into a quest for his mother, whom he originally believed to be dead. Christopher finds clues that reveal things about the dog’s death, and more importantly the deep secrets of his parents and neighbors.
Haddon does a fantastic job of portraying Christopher’s confusion about emotions and
other people. As a person without autism, it was difficult to grasp the idea that emotions could be confusing to someone because they come so naturally to me. Reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time , I surprisingly had no trouble understanding Christopher’s perspective. I put myself in Christopher’s shoes and felt tears in my eyes, especially at the part when he reads his mom’s letters and discovers the secret his dad was hiding. One of the ways Haddon helped me understand how Christopher thinks is through his writing style. For instance, he writes, “I do not tell lies. Mother used to say that this was because I was a good person. But it is not because I am a good person. It is because I can’t tell lies” (19). Clearly, Christopher is very matter-of-fact,
and never clearly interprets or explains how he feels about what he is writing, similar to his perspective on the world. He is able to observe everything around him, but cannot understand it. Christopher’s writing style bored and exhausted me at first (especially when he says, “This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes”) (8) but as I continued reading, I realized that it was necessary to help me view the world through Christopher’s eyes.
I would give this book a five out of five stars because it truly opened my eyes and moved me in a way no other story has. A unique thing I especially enjoyed about the novel was the math and science excerpts and charts created by Christopher. From maps to sketches of emotions, Christopher includes many different diagrams to explain his thoughts. For example, Christopher describes his love of prime numbers and then draws a chart explaining how to find them. Although these excerpts could sometimes be confusing, overall they helped me understand Christopher’s scientific, rather than emotional, view of his environment. For anyone in search of a book that can make you laugh and then cry, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is the book for you.