Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon Book Review and Intense Criticism

Up next on my Great American Read TBR list we have the much acclaimed book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. I've come to the point where I'm starting to really wonder how PBS came up with this list of America's 100 most loved novels. I know they've said that "readers" voted for these books, but I'd love to know how, where and when. I'm on my third negative review in a row and I'm starting to get incredibly discouraged. 

Oh, this book... I had SO MANY issues with it. If you're a big fan of Curious Incident you may want to look away because I'm about to really blast it with criticism. I'm just glad I only paid $1 for this one at my local library's book sale. Feel free to add your comments below my review. 

Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone discovers his neighbor’s dead dog Wellington one night while he’s roaming the streets of his town. He decides to find out who murdered the dog and simultaneously sets out to write a book about his detective work.

Okay, we all know the idea behind this story. Although there is never any specific mention of Christopher being on the Autism spectrum within the story, readers are led to the conclusion that Christopher is indeed Autistic and most likely has Asperger’s Syndrome (an earlier book cover specifically mentions Asperger’s). And here in lies one of the biggest issues I had with this book.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) varies greatly in severity, skill set, behavioral characteristics, disability levels, etc. I couldn’t help but feel the author grabbed a hodgepodge of symptoms and decided that Christopher should have every one of them. In fact, Asperger’s, in particular, is one of the mildest forms of the disorder and hence symptoms are not nearly as pronounced as Christopher’s are in this book.

Interestingly, one of the first pages states, “As a young man, Haddon worked with autistic individuals”, which is a rather vague statement. Yet the author himself admits in a 2009 post on his blog that he “knows little about the subject”  and that he read some newspaper articles before writing the book. In this same post he goes on to state that he regrets the earlier “Asperger’s” mention on the original book cover. Apparently, he was backtracking several years after the book's publication. As a reader, I really had to wonder why that was.

If the author really wished to dispel the idea that this story is not about a boy with autism who sets out to solve the murder of a neighbor's dog and discovers unexpected truths about himself and the world,” as the Amazon book description states and is instead “a novel whose central character describes himself as ‘a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties,” as he’s posted on his blog he might want to change the original Amazon page info. I’m sure he’s already made plenty of money from this endeavor. He also seems to have convinced an awful lot of people that Christopher is an accurate portrayal of someone with Autism. 

Although the book has been praised by many and has even been turned into a Broadway hit, with an autistic actor playing the lead, the consensus among people who have not gotten their ASD information from a newspaper article is that this book is gimmicky and does not at all portray ASD accurately. All one needs to do is read the dozens and dozens of one star reviews, many of which were written by people either on the spectrum or related to someone with the disorder.

Then we have the problem with narration. Yes, we get it that Christopher is Autistic and struggles with everyday tasks. But do we really want to read the 200+ pages of his rambling account of, well, everything? And by everything, I mean tons of passages filled with asides, graphics, charts and figures that lend absolutely nothing to the story. The minutia was painful for me to slog through. 

Lastly, and I really have to wonder why few people even bother to mention this, the adults in this book are truly psychotic. Christopher’s parents are abusive, terrible psychopaths. How in the world can anyone call this a heartwarming and funny tale? The ending was a ridiculous copout with no real resolution. It was like the author either didn’t know how to end the story or he’d had enough of it as much as I had.

It goes to show that if you have a gimmick you can sell anything to the masses. If it weren’t for the fact that I feel the author does a real disservice to anyone with ASD or loves someone with ASD I’d say more power to him. He made his money off an often-misunderstood disability and in my opinion that’s shameful.

1 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton, DIY Mom Blog

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