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

Publication Date: July 31, 2003

Christopher Boone is brilliant at maths and science. He dreams of one day being an astronaut and traveling to space with his pet rat, Toby. He also loves making friends with the neighborhood dogs.

One night, he finds the neighbor's dog murdered. The police don't have any answers, so Christopher decides to solve the murder mystery by himself. Though math comes easily, human interaction does not. And this mystery will prove to challenge him in ways he's never been before.

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Date Read: January 2, 2019

A friend of mine from high school read this as part of her book club and loved it so much that she told me to read it. Over three years later, I finally did.

I didn't know a whole lot about this before I started the book, so I found that I needed some time to get used to the writer's style and Christopher's voice. That being said, I don't feel like I ever fully got used to either of those two things. The tone of voice that I got throughout the book felt very stiff and overpowering. It was like listening to a pretentious white man explain pretty much anything.

At first, I thought that my problem with the voice of the narrator was simply because I don't identify as neurodiverse. But after a lot of thought and having finished the book with the same feeling, I think it's more on the author that I struggled so much with the voice. I've read other books that feature neurodiverse characters, and I didn't have as much of a problem with those books as I did with this. It felt too much like I was being mansplained to the entire time.

I did like the mystery and how Christopher went about trying to solve it. That felt very realistic to me, and I thought that it was done quite well. The portrayal of neurodiversity in this manner felt accurate to what I knew of neurodiverse people, though I can't speak to the portrayal completely because I don't identify that way.

One thing that I really struggled with was understanding the point of the plot. Yes, there was a mystery to solve, but I didn't really feel like the plot had a huge plot outside of that. The effects of the mystery might have been the point of the plot, but if that was the case, I think this could have been done a lot better. I wanted something more than the book was giving me, and it felt like a let-down.

The mystery honestly had me quite stumped, but I think that was because there wasn't a whole lot of investigating that Christopher could actually do. It was different to see how this came together, especially because so many of the characters were unnecessarily mean to Christopher about what was going on. I suppose that it was a realistic portrayal of people not understanding how to treat neurodiverse people, but it was really off-putting to see how they were treating Christopher while he was just trying to understand why his neighbour's dog died.

I felt really conflicted about this book the entire time because I felt like I was a bad person for not enjoying the voice of Christopher. It wasn't his fault though, it was the way he was written. He sounded mean a lot of the time, and there was the matter of how the author used Christopher to push his own opinions. Something I found out while reading the book is that the author is incredibly atheistic - which he pushed into this novel by making Christopher declare several times that God is stupid and people who believe in him are stupid. Now, I have mixed feelings about this declaration for two reasons. 1). Christopher gives very little evidential reasoning to why he thinks God and those who believe in him are stupid, and 2). I'm a Christian and felt quite offended at outrightly being called stupid for what I believe in.

This can lead to a much bigger conversation about how Christianity is portrayed in books and how I feel about those portrayals as a Christian, but I'm not going to go into that. I just felt very shocked that Christopher was making such a strong statement as a result of the author's own beliefs, especially when Christopher means "carrier of Christ." For the number of times that it was declared that God and those who believed in him were stupid, I felt more intentional hostility than I think was intended. This isn't meant to make it sound like I'm super easily offended when other people don't believe what I believe. I just think that this was unnecessarily hostile considering the context of the book had absolutely nothing to do with religion.

I did really enjoy the mathematical aspect of the book and how each chapter was a prime number. It took awhile for me to get it, but once I did, I thought it was quite a charming addition to the book. It really made the story unique to Christopher, who is portrayed as the writer of the book.

Another thing that I thought was well done was the portrayal of how messy family life can be and the mistakes that happen when people get hurt. Naturally, with a child like Christopher in the house, it's not always as easy to navigate family life, and this book does a really good job of how it tackles that side of being a family. Watching his father try to explain things to him and try to be a fair and understanding parent made the book feel very real and made it more emotional.

Something that I also had mixed feelings about was the fact that I didn't feel like any of the characters had any development at all. After 226 pages, I felt like none of the characters went through character development or improvement. I wanted them to change more and grow more, but they just stayed the same. Especially for Christopher, I didn't feel like he changed at all. It was really disappointing to go through everything with all these characters and then not get any growth from them.

Lastly, I think the end of the book fell really flat for me. My friend mentioned that she cried a lot at the end of the book, but I didn't feel emotional at all. I wanted something more emotionally grounding than what I got, and this just failed to meet those expectations. The end felt like it needed more of a conclusion.

I don't think I can say that I liked Christopher very much. I know that he's not meant to be the most likable main character, but my problem with him was mostly that he had no growth and he felt very far from what I know of people who are neurodiverse. I've read other books that feature neurodiverse MCs and those felt closer to my own experiences with people who are neurodiverse. I wanted to see more from him that what I felt like I got, which was a selfish boy who cared nothing for other people.

Christopher's father felt the most real to me. He was well-written and I think that his emotional arc was the most compelling out of all the characters in this book. I wanted to see more of him in Christopher's daily life, but I just didn't get it.

3.5 stars. It's okay. I was let down by the story, but I think that it just wasn't for me. It's definitely the kind of book that's either hit-or-miss, so do your research before picking this up.

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