Alternative title: The story of how I learned to research books before reading them
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the night-Time by Mark Haddon
Published: 2004 by Vintage Contemporaries
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is about Christopher Boone, a 15 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He lives with his father, have never gone further than the store at the end of the road by himself, and he hates being touched and doesn’t understand people. When the neighbor’s dog is killed, Christopher is determined to find the murderer, leading him on a journey beyond what anyone thought him capable of. (Goodeads synopsis here)
Here’s the thing. I liked the idea this book a lot. I was really glad to be recommended a book so different from what I usually read, with a character not like anyone I’ve read about before. I strongly believe in reading diversely, and this is my first ever read about someone with Asperger’s. Then, just about three minutes ago in preparation for this review, I read up on Mark Haddon, the author, and his experience with Asperger’s syndrome and autism. They’re non existent. He did no research before writing the book. None. Which made the reading experience, at least in my opinion, significantly less worth it. I’ve now also read a bit about the accuracy of the portrayal from people who have the diagnosis themselves, and it’s not good. (Note to self: Do this sort of research before reading a book.) The author has expressed regret over putting the word Asperger’s on the cover, as Christopher’s diagnosis is never mentioned in the book, and I believe the publisher has removed the word from new editions. But the damage is done. This book has become widely popular and is often marketed as an accurate portrayal of autistic people. Hell, I fell for it too.
One problem, and something that made me uncomfortable way before reading up on the bad portrayal of Asperger’s Syndrome was how Christopher is treated by everyone around him. He’s abused by his parents, both mentally and physically. This never quite gets handled, despite other adults knowing about it. Christopher is rather violent and elitist too, which aren’t symptoms for Asperger’s syndrome/autism, but from the synopsis of the book, they appear to be. With the false advertising as a book about Asperger’s this seems quite damaging. The abuse of Christopher appears justified and I believe that the way he behaves is damaging for autistic people many may take this book as a good portrayal and assume this is how autistic people are and think.
All of this being said, Christopher was a very interesting character and it was great reading from his point of view. The writing was somewhat annoying, almost every sentence started with ‘and’, but it served a purpose. This was how we got to follow Christopher’s train of thought, so it did make sense. The plot started out slow, but about halfway through it took some surprising twists and turns which made it quite enjoyable.
In all, an okay book plot-and writing wise, but the inaccurate portrayal of Asperger’s Syndrome definitely lower the rating and is what will stop me from recommending this book to anyone.
Rating: 1.5 stars (Two for the story, one for the bad rep, divide by two.)
Do you have any books with good autism representation? Please leave them for me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!