Dr. Temple Grandin once said that; “the most interesting people you’ll find are ones that don’t fit into your average cardboard box. They’ll make what they need, they’ll make their own boxes.”
Mark Haddon’s, Curious incident of the dog in the nighttime explores prevalent topics among today’s teen society. A fictional story in essence, narrated by the protagonist; a fifteen-year-old boy with Autism spectrum disorder, who certainly doesn’t fit into any average box of any kind. The Curious incident novel provides insight into the mind of narrator Christopher Boone. Christopher is a relatively high-functioning atypical teenager despite his level of Autism. He does, as the story develops, learn to overcome social and emotional obstacles in order to be accepted. Christopher’s character has a photographic memory and a logical way of thinking, giving him the ability to understand and comprehend different ideas and topics regarding his interests, however, Christopher struggles with social cues; finding difficulty in understanding other human beings, emotions, behaviours and reasoning.
Haddon’s novel explores themes and subjects which are unfortunately prominent among the world in which we live and specifically relevant to teenagers, including topics such as divorce, abandonment and betrayal. The introduction of this novel to high-school students, allows teen audiences to hopefully develop an understanding of the life and mind of someone who lives with Autism, as well as reaching outside of the typical monotonous teenage romance, science fiction and apocalyptic fictional stories which are common themes in reading lists for young, adolescent minds.
The story begins when one night, Christopher comes across his neighbour’s dead dog, and is picked up by police where he is wrongly accused of killing the dog and is held at the police station until his father can pick him up. Later, Christopher decides to write a book about the uncovering who in fact killed the dog. This book becomes the Curious incident of the dog in the nighttime. Although Christopher’s father, Ed Boone, a single parent after the death of his mother, opposes this idea, Christopher continues to investigate. Along the way Christopher uncovers some unknown family secrets, where the story takes a turn.
“I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking. It has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful, and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.” This quote from the book shows how Christopher sees the simplicity of a dog’s life, as well as some of the struggles of which he needs to overcome in order to be socially accepted. The words; “You always know what a dog is thinking” portray how Christopher encounters many difficulties with reading peoples’ emotions. Through the study of this novel, students are able to sympathise with peers who may also be on the spectrum and may allow them the opportunity to respond more appropriately in the face of diversity to frustrations that come with interacting with someone with differences. This allows them to develop more tolerance and a broader perspective. However, Christopher is able to detect to some extent situations where he could be percieved as being ill-mannered. This is portrayed in this quote; “other children at my school are stupid. Except I’m not meant to call them stupid, even though this is what they are.”
The novel is written in a journal format, allowing the reader to engage with Christopher through what he writes. Haddon uses literary techniques, someone like Christopher may use. For example, in the way that the chapters are ordered in prime numbers, rather than from one, two and so on, allowing the reader to grasp an outlook on Christopher’s logical way of thinking. The novel is written through the perspective of Christopher and is an insight into exactly what he is thinking at any given time, it often alternates from topic to topic. In this ADD, ADHD and anxiety-stricken generation, typical students can empathise and likely relate to Christopher’s leaps of logic. Making it an ideal selection for schools. This is shown in the following quote. “I think I would make a very good astronaut. To be a good astronaut you have to be intelligent and I’m intelligent. You also have to understand how machines work and I’m good at understanding how machines work.” This is an instance where Christopher goes from discussing why he liked order to talking about being an astronaut.
Curious incident of the dog in the nighttime is a must read for anyone, who’s ever met anyone, who’s a little bit different. It’s appropriate for a wide-range of audiences from high-school students to adults. It delves into the mind of a not so ordinary fifteen-year-old boy who in a world of complexity, finds comfort in order. If it does anything at all for the young reader, it may make them think twice before treating someone like Christopher recklessly. It is an eye-opening novel, which will benefit young adolescent minds through the focus on issues surrounding today’s world, rather than creating a false reality.