Funny, sad, heartbreakingly poignant, (and when was the last time you could say THAT about something you have read?), this life-bites-you-in-the-butt story is told in a first-person narrative of 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone, autistic, terrified of social situations, other people, who are truly hell for him, being touched, and having to use bathrooms that strangers have used before him.
On the plus side, he knows all the countries of the world and their capitals, and every prime number up to 7,057. I’m not even sure what a prime number is. He is a genius with numbers, and is preparing to sit for his A Levels in Maths, which is a really big deal. He plans on being an astronaut. And he relates well to animals, like his pet white rate Toby, and his neighbor’s dog, Wellington.
Christopher lives with his dad in Swinton, England, his mother having died ten years ago. Dad does his best to deal with Christopher’s eccentricities, like his food can’t touch other food on his plate, and he won’t eat anything yellow or brown, or have anything to do with anything yellow or brown, and like how he screams when touched, so they use fingertip touch of one hand as a stand-in for a hug, and like how when he is overwhelmed, Christopher puts his head in his hands, and groans, and sometimes curls into a fetal position and groans.
He likes to roam around outdoors at night, looking at the stars, and on one of his nighttime rambles, he comes across Mrs. Shearer’s dog, Wellington, dead, having been stabbed by a garden fork. He decides to do some detective work and learn who killed the dog. This leads to his deciding to write a book about it. A detective mystery.
As he gets further into his investigation, he finds out things he would rather not have known, and something he is glad to know. And throughout his investigation and book authorship, he serves up an ongoing stream-of-consciousness airing of the thoughts in his mind about the cosmos, about how life and social niceties work, about advanced math, about school, about animals, about whatever comes to his mind.
It is a delightful mashup of what goes through the head of an autistic person and how they cope. I am sure there will be plenty of autistic people who will criticize the handling of the material, but I found it wonderful and engaging. Christopher is reaching for the stars, and I have no doubt he will reach them.