The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, was the first pick for a tween/teen book club I am moderating at our local homeschool co-op. I remembered reading a lot about it when it first came out, and now there is the play, of course, but I had not yet gotten around to reading it. Necessity prevailed though!
The book is not a young adult book, though it has a teen narrator–it is full-on adult fiction. However, other than language and some “adult situations,” there isn’t really anything that should steer teens, or even mature tweens, away from the novel.
One of the reasons to recommend the book is the narrator, Christopher, who is autistic. Many of the reviews praise Haddon’s insight and the honesty with which he portrays Christopher. This might provide valuable insight for a classmate, sibling, or companion–or a parent, teacher, or other care-giver. Being able to see the world through Christopher’s eyes is revealing and educational.
There is swearing–quite a bit of it–though little, if any, of it originates with Christopher. Because he looks at the world literally, and he has no filter, what he hears, we read–completely unvarnished. So if characters swear in his hearing or at him, then we get it exactly as he hears it. It is perhaps telling that these other characters don’t filter themselves in his presence–maybe they think he doesn’t understand as much as he does, or they assume that because he doesn’t process emotions the way other people do, that he can’t be hurt or offended.
Dark themes are also present. It isn’t spoiling anything to state that the catalyst for the events of the story is the murder of a neighborhood dog, which Christopher is determined to solve, just like Sherlock Holmes, a favorite character of his. It is in the process of unravelling the crime that Christopher’s life also unravels, and he uncovers all sorts of sordid family secrets. The dog, Wellington, is killed off-stage, but it is described–Christopher finds the body–and he refers back to it over the course of the story. There are also other adult issues which I won’t go into because that would be too much of a spoiler. In the end, there are plenty of opportunities for discussion regarding this story.
I really enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I would probably never pick up this book just on my own, but I am really glad I read it. Seeing things from Christopher’s perspective was interesing, and he has quite an amazing journey in this story.
There was nothing that I didn’t like about the book, but there was a lot of swearing. However, as I get older, I understand that the books I read are going to potentially have swearing in them, so that is something that I just have to accept!