Clever, quirky, convincing, and captivating.
Fifteen years old, Christopher Boone, finds a dead dog. It’s a dog he likes, his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, killed with a garden tool. Christopher decides to find the killer. He begins an investigation a la Sherlock Holmes and decides to write a book about it. The book we are reading is the book Christopher is writing. Thus, begins a journey that will take Christopher farther out of his comfort zone than he ever imagined.
“I do not like people shouting at me. It makes me scared that they are going to hit me or touch me and I do not know what is going to happen.”
Christopher’s mother is deceased, so he lives alone with his father. The boy prefers to stay home, loves quiet places, orange crush, licorice, math, and animals (especially his pet rat, Toby). He never tells lies, other than white lies, which he says are half-truths or misleading truths. He has trouble expressing his feelings and often screams in frustration. He hates informational overload, new places, crowds, doesn’t trust people, and especially hates being touched by anyone to the point that he will lash out at anyone who touches him.
Christopher is a genius (his knowledge, memory, and math skills are phenomenal) but he is also autistic.
“My name is Christopher John Francis Boone. I know all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,507.”
After finding Wellington’s body, Christopher is accused by the dog’s owner, Mrs. Shears, of killing it. He punches the policeman who makes the mistake of touching the boy while questioning him about the dog. That gets Christopher arrested and taken to the police station, where he is released into his father’s custody. Christopher’s father tells him to stop his investigation and to “keep his nose out of other people’s business.” Unfortunately, the boy’s curiosity about Wellington’s death leads him to something even more disturbing. A neighbor tells him his mother had an affair with Mr. Shears before she died. This does not bother Christopher because his mother is dead, and he records it in the book. For Christopher, it is just another detail in the investigation into the death of Wellington. A short time later the boy’s father finds the book and is so upset he flies into a rage, gets into a fight with his son, demands that Christopher totally stop his investigation, and throws the book into the trash.
A few days later Christopher looks for his book. It is no longer in the trash, so he searches the house for it and discovers some letters addressed to him from his mother. He realizes he has been lied to, that she is alive and living in London with Mr. Shears. Christopher runs away and heads to London to be with his mother. He must do things he’s never done before: go to a train station, buy a ticket, ride a train, go underground to a subway station, and ride the tube.
“And then the next train came I wasn’t so scared any more because the sign said TRAIN APPROACHING so I knew it was going to happen.”
Mark Haddon’s portrayal of the thoughts and actions of an autistic person is impressive. If I’d been told it was written by an autistic child I would have believed it. Christopher’s autism was presented in a way that allowed the reader to appreciate his quirky, sometimes logically illogical behavior, but also his attempts to overcome his issues and solve the mysteries confronting him. A couple things I especially liked: Christopher numbers his chapters with prime numbers (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, etc.) which confused me at first because I thought I’d skipped the first chapter. Also there was Christopher’s variation on the ‘show, don’t tell‘ writer’s directive. Christopher often adds to his story by including drawings of things he has seen, maps he has created or discovered, and charts explaining his reasoning as well as some of the actual math problems that are part of his story.
All-in-all I loved this book and want to know how Christopher fares with his plans for his future.