Author: Mark Haddon
Look for it in: Mystery
Christopher is shocked to discover the body of his neighbor's dog, Wellington, impaled on a pitchfork. He takes it upon himself to investigate, but Christopher is no ordinary detective. He has autism, and he sees the world differently from the people around him. As he delves into the facts behind Wellington's death, he becomes entangled in a web of lies surrounding a cheating husband, his dead mother, and his own trusted father.
The story starts quickly with the discovery of Wellington's corpse, but after the first few chapters the mystery becomes a bit of a red herring. The real purpose of the novel is to introduce Christopher. The climactic battle is more tense in his mind than it would be to an outside observer, and overall Haddon includes just enough plot to keep the story moving from point A to point B.
Character - 5/5:
This is where the novel shines. Haddon does a great job depicting both Christopher's unusual behavior and the reasoning behind his idiosyncrasies. His perspective is both enlightening and frustrating, and I am curious how well individuals with autism would say it matches their experiences.
Themes - 4/5:
Readers with patience for the slow plot will almost certainly gain empathy toward others who see the world differently. At the same time the book is not all rainbows and roses. Haddon declines to pull punches when it comes to depicting the challenges of caring for or teaching someone with severe autism, and his ability to do so without departing from Christopher's perspective is particularly impressive. His digressions on religion feel forced at points, but overall the novel is thought-provoking and authentic.
Interest - 3/5:
You'll like this book if you enjoy exploring the perspectives of diverse characters. The slow-moving plot is not enough to sustain fans of more traditional mysteries, but the book is highly regarded and your English teacher will respect you for reading it.
Presentation - 3/5:
Length and text size are both moderate, and Christopher sometimes breaks up the prose with illustrations to convey his points. On the flip side, there many British cultural references and vocabulary words, which may be a challenge for readers who have never been to England.
Bottom Line - 17/25:
More of an educational read than a pleasurable one. Use it as a choice book in English - you could make a really cool poster or presentation contrasting how a typical reader and Christopher might see similar situations differently.