My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was an interesting book and one I now understand why there has been so much hype about and why it is firmly in the canon of ‘must-read’ books.
I should say, for anyone who has not yet read the book, that this is not a mystery book at all. The mystery plotline is simply a vehicle for the far more interesting reason for the book – exploring what it means to have Asperger’s. Haddon has done an impressive job of helping us enter the mind of a young teenager, Christopher Boone, and learning what life is like for an autistic person. Bar the odd exception where I think the author slips up a little, Mark Haddon’s portrayal rings true.
All that said, this is not a book I’d recommend for children – at least not young children. There’s a lot of swearing (especially of the ‘f’ word) and I think younger children would struggle to really understand why the main character behaves the way he does. If this is meant for teenager or young adults, however, I think the book reads too childishly. This makes it a hard book to place and, in that sense, I think it fails.
On a more personal note, I struggled with the book, for though it tries to portray the main characters realistically and give an authentic view on modern-day life for children, I found all the characters too ugly, to flawed, for comfort. I think it is important for us as readers to feel empathy with the main players, even through or because of their flaws, but I think Haddon misses the mark here when the opportunity was so readily available.
But I appreciate that this is a personal thought and what I feel is too ugly, too wrong, might read as gripping realism for the next person. At least one of the stars I’ve NOT given in rating this book then, can be considered for this reason and if raw characterisation is your kind of thing you should consider this a 4/5 rating instead.
I did enjoy the book as an exploration of what it feels like to live with Asperger’s and thought the plot ended well. But I’m not sure I would buy anything else this author has written. There would have to be compelling reason to do so.