Premise: Christopher is a fifteen year old autistic kid who lives alone with his father after his mother died of a heart attack. Christopher discovers a murdered dog, gets blamed for it, and vows to find the real killer through his own investigation. He is also encouraged by his teacher to document his findings by encouraging him to write a book, and this novel is supposed to be the result. After we learn who the killer is, Christopher goes on a mission to find his mother. His discoveries only lead him to disappointment and confusion.
Being autistic, the protagonist has his own way of looking at things that is straightforward yet unique. No one is allowed to touch him, he doesn’t like crowds or loud noises, and everything must have order or at least make sense to him. For example, all of the chapters are prime numbers because they “are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away.” He sees things in patterns and associates them in his own way as to how things work in life, such as when he sees red cars and yellow cars on his way to school, which define how well his day will go.
Themes: At first this book comes across as a murder mystery, but it soon becomes apparent that it is more than that. It is a book about relationships: relationships with his father, his mother, his teacher, his neighbors, and with strangers. Christoper lives with his father, with not much said about his mother at first other than that she died two years earlier. His father does his best to keep order to Christopher’s life after his mother is gone, but as the story progresses we learn about keeping secrets and lies and the damage that can do to a relationship.
This is also a book of learning and self-discovery. One of the things Christopher aspires to is being an astronaut. He is good at math, but soon learns that he will never become an astronaut because of his limitations. He goes on a trek across London and soon learns the challenges he has are bigger than he thought when he encounters the crowds of people on the train.
Pros: One of the rare things in books is distinct author voice. This book is one of those that the reader gets the feeling that the protagonist really is the person doing the writing. The end of the book truly brought me back to reality and cried out for empathy for the kid without wrapping things up in a neat little bow with everyone singing and holding hands.
Cons: When it comes down to it, there wasn’t much of a plot to this story. The title of the book gives it away, though there was also the learning and self-discovery aspect of it.
Recommendations: Not what I expected, but pleasantly surprised. This may come off as boring to some people, but I thought it was something different and a quick read with a payoff worth the time. With my limited experience, it was a good insight into the mind of an autistic kid.
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