Goodreads Reviews

The Goodreads review system is a pain to sort through, so I’ve gathered all the one-star reviews written by autistic authors here, alongside some of the more entertaining ones written by people who get it. Note that I endorse the sentiment of these reviews, not their terminology.

Pixiexw
I, as a person who has Asperger’s syndrome, found this book very very insulting. Some things certainly did NOT help me put my diagnosis into perspective at all. No person with aspergers would admit to having a special food box and no person I’ve ever met with aspergers has gone to a special school or been so irrational to go on the colours of the cars they pass on the way to school.

It is very inaccurate that Christopher’s mum left, normally its dad who refuses to even try and cope with an autistic child.

I also found that it is a very typical book of the understanding of a professional- they have their facts about aspergers but they don’t actually experience it! Good grief by the time we are fifteen we have all learned against the strange things he does- he is a very odd character and not true to life in the slightest.

A child with aspergers would be too clever to believe their mum died! I found out my sister was my half-sister all on my own without any of my family even noticing.

It is a very bad book and proves that writing about aspergers should be left to the real experts- those with it!

Kaelan Rhywiol
Someone I know asked me to take a look at this book to see what I thought about the representations of autistic people.

I was horrified by page three and I got about a 1/4 of the way through the book before deciding I didn’t need to torture myself anymore.

It’s freaking terrible. This is NOT how autistic people think, feel, or react, none of it. I know that because I AM autistic. I even had my husband, who is also autistic, look at it and he said the exact same things (with some very colorful language that had me laughing hard enough to cry!)

No. Just no. This is NOT autistic rep and this is why even someone who works with autistics can’t write an autistic character. Period.

The only thing I CAN say about this is that the author has voice. But he should keep that to murder mysteries that aren’t speaking for a group of people who are already harmed by the way non-autistics think of autistic people.

Kim B
I read this book when I was 16 and hated it because I hated how stereotypical and gimmicky the main character was (I’m aware that autism is a spectrum and we aren’t all “the same” but Christopher didn’t feel remotely real to me nonetheless), and how the rest of the novel outside of that didn’t meet enough of my criteria of “good literature” beyond that (every character was unlikable, the plot fell apart halfway through). I deleted my old review on the grounds that it was not up to my current standards of good writing, but my opinion hasn’t changed. Maybe it’s not a full-on one star book anymore, as time and maturity on my part makes it seem slightly better, but I just didn’t think this was a particularly good book, though I am open to rereading it one day I guess.

Lorna
It’s been a long time since I read this, but I’ve never actually spoken as to why I hate this book so much.

You may not know, so I’ll tell you now – I have autism. I, along with many of us, are very sick to death of our only representation in media being that of people like Sheldon Cooper, The Rain Man and books like this one. Intelligent, weird white teenage boys. If I told you they fell under the minority of the autistic spectrum and not the majority, you wouldn’t believe me. It’s because of ridiculous representations like this one that lead people to not believe me when I say I am autistic. I’m not that weird, I’m not a teenager, I’m not a boy.

If you have a book where the autistic person really is presented as something that doesn’t push us further away from society, let me know.

Willa
I have some serious concerns about the representation of the inner working mind of an autistic boy. Haddon is not autistic and though he may have some experience interacting with autistic individuals, he has little right to speak for them. The only thing he has a right to represent and to speak of in his novels is his own experience of the nature of autism. Thus, I would find his depiction of the towns peoples and his parents to acceptable. He should not have the right or be applauded for this novel and for the reinforcement of negative stereotypes of autistic people. Haddon, in writing this book, claims that he can speak for an intimate knowledge of how a high functioning autistic person thinks.

I am not saying that authors cannot taking the POV of people that they are not. A black author may write about the experiences of a white person and an author may write about the experience of an amputee. A man can write about the working mind of a woman and a woman may do the same for a man. However, the author must conduct some kind of research that is based on the direct words (written, spoken, or otherwise) of those they are representing. Haddon may have experienced an autistic kid hit him when he touched them, but he does not know. He cannot know, unless explicitly told (which I highly doubt) the motivations of that individual. I believe this to be the case because of his consistent representation of the stereotypes perpetrated about autistic individuals.

Also, I hate how he justified Christopher as just like you or me, but with a different set of rules (i.e. seeing 4 yellow cars in a row is just the same as if I woke up to a rainy day). And not only is he just the same as you and me, he is highly intelligent and can do all of this math! Which leave me to say F*** you, Haddon.

Tom Bomp
People think this book has anything to do with autistic people. It doesn’t. Please stop using it that way, it sucks.

One thing I remember quite strongly with this is that he (badly) explains the Monty Hall problem and then says that this is proof that “maths is complicated because there aren’t single answers” or something vaguely like that when the whole point of that problem is that it has 1 true answer and our own intuition leads us astray. And it was so absurd to read.

Overall I just found it completely unconvincing and the behaviour of everyone involved is inconsistent and horrible.

Ro Prufrock
if you rated this books w/ 5 stars because “it taught you something about autism” then i will probably never ever trust you.

if you rated this book w/ 5 stars because you like the style or story or whatever, but are aware of the fact that this is a very very horrible & badly researched portrayal of autism then i just kinda mistrust your taste.

i’m giving it one star not for the quality of the writing (i mean it can be nice when you are into that sort of style, i guess) but for what it did to the way autistic people are seen. (you don’t even need to search for a long time before stumbling over the first reviews stating stuff like “this book taught me that i really hate autistic children” & i’m like: bro, stop, you don’t; you just hate a walking stereotype written by somebody who does not seem to care at all.)

this is just a place holder, because the mere existence of this book is bothering me so much that i cannot stand it anymore to simply have it marked as “read”.

maybe i’ll write a real detailled review or blog-entry some day (when i actually have the motivation to re-read the book) but for now i just highly recommend checking out other “bad” reviews or blog entries where autistic people & people working w/ autistic people talk about this book.

Y
Not a single allistic person should review this book without the opinion of an autistic person. Not a single fucking one.

Glossary of terms I’m going to use here:
Neurotypical: The quality of having no mental illnesses or disorders.
Neurodivergent: The quality of having mental illnesses or disorders.
Autistic: A person who has autism.
Allistic: A person who does not have autism.

Now, let me explain the above statement.

If a white person wrote a book about a black person with no research into the lives of real black people and it contained harmful stereotypes, should white people review it?

Fuck no.

I am reviewing this only after consulting with actual autistic people and reading several viewpoints by them.

Curious Incident is a book about a boy named Christopher Boone. He has many “behavioural problems,” and you can probably find all of them under the Google search “Asperger’s Symptoms.”

I recently posted on tumblr about how bad this was, so let’s just copy-paste. Spoiler’d for length. All real spoilers will be marked within.

The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime is one of the worst books ever. It misrepresents/appropriates autism/aspergers and has a terrible portrayal of child abuse.

Examples:

2. Christopher is never taught that his father is abusing him [by grabbing/hitting him.] I completely understand that some people are never told this, and I sympathize with you- but you cannot end the book with him still not knowing that, or clarifying it in some way. It framed the whole thing as a mistake or something uncontrollable, and as someone who has suffered emotional/physical abuse, I hated it.

Now onto the misrepresentation of autism.

I had a bad feeling from the beginning of this book about the portrayal of autism by a neurotypical writer. Autistic people, when young, often have a bit more difficulty than allistics relaying their thoughts to other people, which leads to bad POV/an uninteresting story. [Therefore, the author must have changed the way a typical autistic kid would sound to write the book, which is already pretty bad.] Please keep in mind that everything I say about autistic people here is coming from autistic people who read/reviewed the book.

From what I saw, autistic people are split about 90/10 on the whole “it’s so terrible”/”this fit me well” thing. Most autistic people (feel free to look this up to check) were upset. And Mark Haddon, hearing this, posted an absolutely terrible series of excuses to his blog.

As it turns out, Christopher does not have Asperger’s, or any form of autism. An early book jacket said this, but Haddon has never stated it [himself or in the book.] He says outright [in the blog post] that he did, quote, “no research” (unquote.) He doesn’t seem to understand why so many autistic people were upset by this extremely unfair portrayal by an allistic.

Yes, every autistic person is different. But almost nobody is as extreme as Christopher, and many other disorders/phobias/behavioural problems are lumped in with the “autism.”

There are also certain things that autistic readers saw as extremely infantilizing and harmful to society’s perception of autistic people.

Imagine a black person in a book. They are uneducated, illiterate, and cater to white people at all times.

Is this good representation?

Most black people would say not (though obviously, as a white person, I understand I may be wrong and would be glad to hear about other opinions on this.)

As I am neurotypical and allistic, I will listen to the autistic people on this one.

And they are telling me, very clearly, that this was not a good book.

A couple of quotes if you’d like them (sources at the bottom):

1) “But the fact remains: Haddon did write an Asperger’s character, he did take advantage of the words “Asperger’s Syndrome” in his marketing campaign, and knowingly or not, he did create a negative stereotype.”

2) “There are numerous places in the story where a non-autistic character would feel or show empathy, and Christopher does neither (apart from one instance where he suggests bringing food and a card to his mother when she is in the hospital). This contrasts heavily with my own experience and that of most autistic people I know and have read about, and it reinforces the harmful (and inaccurate) stereotype that autistic people don’t have empathy.”

3) “Christopher is abandoned, deceived, abused, gaslit, and insulted, often by authority figures. Most other characters overlook or actively attempt to justify this. Equally disturbing is that on many occasions Christopher has no apparent emotional or physical reaction to abuse or insults. This particularly bothers me because it suggests that abuse and insults don’t harm autistic people, although they do, sometimes very greatly.”
(view spoiler)

5) “The author kept basically completely mum on the subject for six years, until enough people got mad at him for his shitty portrayal of autism that he published a poorly worded blog post, where he claimed that he never even ‘meant’ to write an autistic character at all!

Then, he admitted that he did “no research” at all for the book beyond reading a few magazine articles and one essay, because he claimed that “imagination trumps research”. He also argued that, well, technically he ’never used the word autism or aspergers’ in the book, that he ’slightly regrets’ the fact that all of the book covers said that it was about a character with aspergers, despite having never once tried to make any statement to the contrary before that, and that “treating real people with dignity is always about peeling the labels off.””

6) (on a page about writing autism) “Don’t combine every possible experience or stereotype you have ever heard into one person. Each person’s experience is going to be different. They can’t all fit into one person. That’s the mistake made by the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. He combined every possible autistic experience and ended up making an unrealistic character because he didn’t understand how each experience fitted together. I’m not talking about combining traits of so called LFA and HFA, which does really happen. I am talking about cobbling together every surface trait he had ever heard of with no clue what lies under the surface or why they cannot fit together in the pattern he put them in.”

Thanks for reading if you did.

[sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-ol… (1)

http://disabilityinkidlit.com/2015/04… (2, 3, 4)

http://dubiousculturalartifact.tumblr… (5)

http://fucknoableistfandoms.tumblr.co… (6)

http://iautistic.com/autism-myths-the… (good for getting another autistic perspective on the book)]

Yeah. It sucks.

Rebecca McNutt
I’ll be frank; I hated this book and don’t even pretend to understand its popularity. The plot was intriguing, but Haddon writes like a three-year-old. His excuse for this is that Christopher, the main character, is autistic. This honestly makes no sense, I know several kids, most of them teenagers, with ASD, and none of them ever talk or act the way Christopher does. I’m not an expert, and I realize that there are various levels and types of autism on the spectrum, but from experience I’ve never known anyone, autistic or otherwise, who talks like Christopher.

Haddon has a rather off-putting and disturbing fixation on writing about Christopher going to the bathroom, graphically describing the conditions of public toilets in London, how Christopher wipes himself after going and making Christopher say the word “poo” a lot. This kind of crass, weird and out-of-place stuff really wasn’t necessary and I’d rather not even think about why the hell Haddon would dwell so much on it. Ewww.

The choppy sentences and math equations randomly inserted in the text only made this book even more of a chore to read than it should’ve been, which is sad because I think if this book were developed a lot more, it has the potential to be much more insightful and intelligent.

Rachel
I read this book as part of an English Literature course last year. It is without a doubt the worst book I’ve ever read and I’ve read some appalling books. This book has so many flaws it’s a joke but the worst of them is Haddon’s claim he did no research for this book. None. He doesn’t know about Autism clearly, but you don’t need me to tell you that, you’ve read the book.

Haddon is quite clearly an imbecile, that’s obvious from the start. The book promises to be a mystery novel but as you read on you realise that actually it’s just the ramblings of a sad little boy and somewhere along the way Haddon slots in the solution to the dog murderer, daddy did it. The worst part of the novel is easily Christopher’s decision to go to London. Swindon may be “the arsehole of the world” but why would an autistic boy, who follows a meticulous routine everyday without fail, decide one day to just hope on a train and visit his estranged mother. He wouldn’t, Christopher is one of the most one dimensional literary characters every created, others include Mother, Father, Siobhan and Mr Jeavons; sometimes I think Toby the rat has been given more development than the narrator.

Aside from being an imbecile, Haddon is also very lazy. You can see this by the fact he has basically written a picture book. If he wants to draw pictures, fine but don’t draw pictures and then call it autism if you haven’t done any research. Haddon’s narration is lazy too, he uses a simplistic narrative to emulate the thought and speech on an autistic person and frankly it’s insulting. Haddon infers that sufferers of severe Aspergers lack common sense, tact and are inelegant with language. Why does Christopher have to be so bloody simplistic, the plot I admit has the potential to be exciting if Haddon didn’t fill with silly stories about A-level maths and Siobhan’s glasses.

In total, this book was horrific. It’s incredibly easy to write in the same simplistic style as Haddon and it’s not going to take any more than two brain cells to think up a more exciting plot. If you really want to read a book with a protagonist who has high functioning Aspergers and likes to solve crimes, read Sherlock Holmes because at least Doyle wasn’t a complete blithering fool who believes they’re too high and mighty to do any proper research. The only thing this book is good for is times when you run out of toilet roll.

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