Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

“Everyone has learning difficulties, because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult.”
― Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time  

Book Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Publication Date: 2004
Genres: YA Fiction, Mental Disabilities
Goodreads Rating: 3.71 Stars 
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, fifteen-year-old Christopher is autistic and everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favorite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.

First let me say that I’ve been eying this book for years (YEARS!) simply because the cover is so eye-catching. Bright red and an upside down poodle? Marketing gold. Finally, when I went to B&N and found it on sale, I figured why not? I had no idea what the book was about, but I have been in a reading slump after Allegiant tore my heart out, so I was hoping this would be a quirky read to bring me back into the groove of things.
I was right. It was definitely quirky and different and interesting in quite a few different ways. For one, I’ve never read a book written in first person point of view from the head of someone with autism. The effect is dizzying. There is rambling, there is fixation, there is lists and charts. Also, the chapters are numbered by prime numbers (which really threw me off, considering the first chapter was number 2).
The book begins with the murder of Wellington, the neighborhood dog, and, of course, Chris wants to find out who did it. From there, though, the story spirals through complex emotions and plot twists that I, as a reader who tends to let the story unfold rather than try to figure it out, did not see coming. The beginning started off strongly, with great character development and interesting plot twists. However, as the book went on, some of that interesting plot structure vanished, and I’d say the book took a downhill turn. It ended well, but pretty predictably without a major climax. Of course, this is all coming from Chris’s perspective, and, as you can see below in the quotes, he tends to simplify and rationalize everything, so he is not easily excited, which may be why at the end of the novel, I wasn’t exactly excited either.
What I loved most about the book was the quirks. His obsession with Sherlock Holmes. His fascination with science. His determination to go to college and get a physics degree. His hatred of the color yellow. His easy acceptance of death and loss. All of these things made him a fascinating character to read, and a fascinating lens through which to view the world. These quirks are what kept me reading.

“Sometimes we get sad about things and we don’t like to tell other people that we are sad about them. We like to keep it a secret. Or sometimes, we are sad but we really don’t know why we are sad, so we say we aren’t sad but we really are.”
 “I think people believe in heaven because they don’t like the idea of dying, because they want to carry on living and they don’t like the idea that other people will move into their house and put their things into the rubbish.”
“And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery…and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.”
“Metaphors are lies.”
“Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.”
“But I don’t feel sad about it. Because Mother is dead. And because Mr. Shears isn’t around anymore. So I would be feeling sad about something that isn’t real and doesn’t exist. And that would be stupid.”

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