The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone is a math genius with a few behavioral problems. He lives with his father in England as his mother died a couple of years ago. One day, Christopher discovers his neighbor’s dog dead with a garden fork sticking out of him. As Christopher is standing there, the neighbor, Mrs. Shears, sees Christopher by the dog and calls the police.
Christopher is released from the police, and decides to investigate the mystery much to the chagrin of his father. As he investigates, he is severely hampered by the fact that he also has an autism spectrum disorder (which is never stated, but there are clues to this fact throughout the novel; example: every chapter number is a prime number, something that he is comfortable with). While investigating, he also keeps a journal of his investigation, which he uses to turn into a book at the end.
His investigation leads to many “secrets” that he uncovers (I’m purposely not giving those away!) and also helps the reader see the difficulty that having an autism spectrum can have on dealing with various people and situations. Being that the story is told in first-person, the reader is able to come to an understanding that autism spectrum disorder can create.
One of the main parts of this book that I really enjoyed was not only the fact that I think it did a pretty decent job of showing a person with autism spectrum disorder and the way they see and interpret the world, it also showed that they are also very capable as is the case with Christopher going to take the advanced math test that is given to very few students. Although I wouldn’t put this book at the top of my most favorite, I enjoyed reading it and liked the fact that it showed what it is like to have a social disability and how the world looks different to those afflicted with this and other disorders like it.
The only caution that I have with this book, is the fact that it does contain quiet a few “f-words”. They are used in the context of the story where you would expect a character saying it, but I do think that it would be a caution for younger students to read.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Powerful. Emotional. Love. Guilt. One of the most intriguing books I have ever read. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a story split into three separate parts. (**may contain spoilers**) In the first part, we are introduced to Amir, a Pashtun boy living a good life in Kabul, Afghanistan, along with his father, Baba, his fathers servant, Ali, and Ali’s son Hassan. Ali and Hassan are Hazara, considered the lower-class in Afghanistan. Amir’s father loves both boys, Amir and Hassan, but Amir never feels that he is good enough for his father. Amir and Hassan also spend their time kite flying, with Hassan being one of the best kite runners in all of Kabul. One day during a kite flying competition, Hassan runs to retrieve Amir’s kite and finds himself in an alley blocked by a sadistic bully named Assef. They had run-ins before, but at this point Hassan is trapped. Assaf severely harms Hassan, as Amir watches in the shadows. Amir’s guilt leads him to set Hassan up for stealing, which leads to Ali and Hassan leaving Baba’s house/employment much to the horror and sorrow of Baba.
Part two takes place five years later, when the Soviets intervene in Afghanistan. Baba and Amir have to flee Kabul to Pakistan and then finally arrive in California, where they begin a new life. The guilt of what Amir did to Hassan follows him closely, as we learn about the new lives of Amir and Baba in America. Baba eventually becomes ill and dies of cancer; Amir finds love and marries. Fifteen years after Amir’s wedding, he receives a call from his father’s best friend, Rahim Khan, in Pakistan who begs Amir to come back because he is dying and tells Amir, “There is a way to be good again”. Intrigued, Amir heads back to Pakistan.
The third part is all about the reason Rahim Khan called Amir back to his homeland. Amir learns that there is a way for him to partially right the wrong that he did as a child to the one person that would have given his life for him – Hassan. (I’m purposely leaving out a lot of information as not to spoil too much of this amazing book!)
I became so emotionally invested in this book that it was like loosing a loved one once I had finished. Hosseini has written characters that emotionally connect to the reader in a profound way. I think this is a book that high-schoolers through adults should read. It not only has the character development that is extremely engaging, but the historical context the old Afghanistan and the Afghanistan that the Taliban controlled is a powerful portrayal of destruction.