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By Mark Haddon
Mark Haddon’s novel has been compared to the likes of The Catcher in the Rye, and I can agree that it lives up to those standards.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time chronicles the story of Christopher Boone, a boy who can list for you every prime number up to 7,057 and every country’s capital.
The descriptions of Christopher make you think that he has autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, but Haddon never says those words in the book.
In Curious Incident, you look through the eyes of Christopher as he writes a book about solving the mystery of his neighbor’s dog getting killed. Along the way, he finds something his dad has kept a secret from him that changes his life forever.
It was actually quite fascinating to be able to look through Christopher’s eyes; though his disability has limited him socially, it has also given him an amazing ability to solve puzzles, problems and math equations.
I believe that Mark Haddon was trying to demonstrate to us with this novel that no matter whether you have a disability or not, that you can advocate for yourself and make things better. All it takes is problem solving. Christopher is a brilliant example of this, considering he had to overcome some of his greatest fears.
This book will make you want to cry at some points, but I was cheering for Christopher the whole way through. He was a really inspiring protagonist to me considering that he had to go through all that he did, with a disability on top of that. Anybody will get drawn into this superb novel. (It’s a good rainy day book.)
My mom found this really interesting essay written by Mark Haddon after Curious Incident came out, and she thought this would be great to add:
This was what I was trying to do in Curious Incident. To take a life that seemed horribly constrained, to write about it in the kind of book that the hero would read – a murder mystery – and hopefully show that if you viewed this life with sufficient imagination it would seem infinite.
When I was writing for children, I was writing genre fiction. It was like making a good chair. However beautiful it looked, it needed four legs of the same length, it had to be the right height and it had to be comfortable.
With Curious Incident, I was trying to do something different. The first thing I was doing was writing to entertain myself rather than the person I remember being at six, or eight. Second, yes, the book has simple language, a carefully shaped plot and invites you to enter someone else’s life. And these, I think, are the aspects of the book that appeal most to younger readers.
But the book, I hope, does something more than that. The legs aren’t quite the same length. It isn’t entirely comfortable. It’s about how little separates us from those we turn away from in the street. It’s about how badly we communicate with one another. It’s about accepting that every life is narrow and that our only escape from this is not to run away (to another country, another relationship, a slimmer, more confident self) but to learn to love the people we are and the world in which we find ourselves.
As Christopher, my main character, says: ‘People go on holidays to see new things… but I think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly.’
~ written by LitKid in 2014, with a little input from AKid@Heart
Postscript: Some of my friends got to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime on Broadway on a school trip this past spring, and they said it was really meaningful and had a unique set/design; you can read more about that in this New York Times article.
Also: Many U.S. readers are probably familiar with the distinctive red cover of the book, but if you go to Mark Haddon’s website, you can click through many different editions of the book, all of which have eye-catching cover art.