Jun 20, 2012

#TheList, No. 982: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

This is a book that I am constantly seeing referenced in "top recommended books" lists, top "to read" lists, and school reading lists.  I've gather that people either really love this book or love saying that they love this book.

Okay, so what is this book about? Christopher a boy with an unnamed cognitive disorder, is writing a book that details his adventures and includes how he stumbled onto a mystery: who killed his neighbor's dog?  Sidenote, we find out this dog was murdered on page one, so I'm not spoiling anything when I say that this is another piece of evidence to my theory that if there's a dog on the cover, it's going to die.  Anyway, Christopher decides he's going to solve this mystery, but in the process, ends up uncovering unflattering truths about his own family.  The remainder of "his" book shows how he handled this information, along with how he lives each day and approaches various tasks that we readers probably don't think about. 

Now that I've finally read The Curious Incident, I can see its appeal.  In a time when research is focusing more and more on behavioral disorders and understanding people who have them, I think it's incredibly important to see these characters in children's and young adult media.  However, it's often difficult to fully capture them without giving them that Hollywood spin.  In  Francisco Stork's novel Marcelo in the Real World, the main character also has an unnamed cognitive disorder who dislikes when things are wrong and/or unethical, and by the book's end, realizes that he has the strength to make it in the real world.  I really loved that novel, but it irked me how Marcelo seemed to be characterized as almost Christlike in his ways.  But it's been awhile since I read it, so maybe I'm remembering it wrong.  Regardless, in The Curious Incident, Christopher exhibits similar truth telling and hatred of untrustworthy people, however, he's also written with consistent flaws, which makes me like it all the more.

The thing I liked best about this book is the fact that Christopher's disorder is never named.  A lot of readers assume that it is Asperger's, but it doesn't matter what disorder he has; it's the story he's telling us. If you knew the disorder, would you read the story differently?  Perhaps.  That's why it's best to just read his story and accept that he's being honest about his behavior, rather than second guessing his explanations and attributing his behavior to specific symptoms.   

Who would I recommend this to?  A young adult looking for contemporary, realistic fiction or an unconventional narrator.  Even though the novel has some dark humor in there, I wouldn't give this to someone who's looking for a comedy, unless they were a fan of dramedies.  But it's definitely the type of book that makes you think, so if you're looking for light reading, maybe pick this one up at a later date. 


  1. Your picture of Five On A Treasure Island has a dog on it, but apart from being doped once (can't remember which book, sorry, but it involved a circus coming to Kirrin and a girl called Jo who looked more like a boy than George did), Timmy makes it through all 21 books and never dies once! Although the cook's name varies quite a bit. I wouldn't want to work for that family if that's how they treat the domestics.

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