When it comes to novels, Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” can’t help but stand out.
It arrived onto the literary scene with a bang in mid-2003, apparently with “First Britain, later the world” as a motto. After winning several awards in Haddon’s native country, the book became part of many an American high school’s required reading list.
It is especially popular at Wilson Central High School, and I read it as a freshman. Its themes of isolation and forgiveness really spoke to me at the time, and anyway I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age tale.
The novel weaves a tale of murder, deception and redemption as told by 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher, a self-proclaimed “mathematician with some behavioral difficulties,” is a young man who is implied to be somewhere on the autism spectrum.
His high intelligence ensures he feels awkward around other individuals due to his inability to relate to them despite clearly caring for certain individuals, such as his father and one of his teachers.
His father clearly has trouble understanding his son’s behavioral “ticks” and further frustrates Christopher by babying him, leaving the two slightly at odds. Christopher’s mother, according to Christopher, is dead, leaving only the two of them.
The novel’s plot kicks into gear when Christopher discovers the impaled body of his neighbor’s pet poodle, Wellington.
Christopher calls the police, which suspect him after he hits an officer who attempted to touch him. He is given a warning and decides to hunt for Wellington’s killer on his own, excited at the prospect of a real-life murder mystery.
What follows is a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, always intriguing and touching story that covers both a murder mystery and Christopher’s quest for self-sufficiency and independence.
Hannah Barger is a recent Wilson Central High School graduate and plans to major in journalism at Tennessee Tech University in the fall.