Tag Archives: Mark Haddon

Boom! – Review

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Boom! by Mark Haddon

Age: Teen

Paranoid by his older sister’s taunts and teasing, Jim and his best friend Charlie spy on the teacher’s meeting one afternoon to see if they are indeed talking about expelling Jim from school. What they discover is a very huge and dangerous secret about two of their teachers, that soon changes their lives and sends the two friends on an adventure that is well…out of this world.

Boom! is a mix of My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. All in all, I found the book to be rather medicore, especially in comparison to Haddon’s other works; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and A Spot of Bother. I went into this book expecting more. The book started off strong but then dwindled during the last half. The characters weren’t very original; an angsty older sister dating a punk, a lazy younger brother with a troublesome best friend). The dialog is full of quips and nods to contemporary pop culture references. This book is written for a much younger audience than his first two books, and is more accessible and relatable for the preteens and teens, although it is quite British, so some of the terminology might be a comprehension barrier.

It is a rather quick read/listen, with only three discs on audio. The narrator was well paced, comical with a variety of tones for the different characters. I would recommend this book for any reluctant boy readers that just want something funny and out of the ordinary to read.

Boom!
by Mark Haddon
Read by Julian Rhind-Tutt
Random House/Listening Library Audio, 2010
ISBN 0739381377
3 discs (3 hours, 46 minutes)

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A Spot of Bother – Review

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A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Location: London

After having read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon my expectations for his second novel, A Spot of Bother, where quite high. I am happy to say that I was not in the least bit disappointed with this book.

George Hall is out shopping for pants one day when he sees a slight discoloration on his leg, the “spot of bother” which somehow starts the downward fall of George’s sanity. George is 61 and newly retired, with quite the dysfunctional family that seems to be unable to communicate even with the simplest generic conversation topics. His daughter Katie announces that she will be marrying Ray, a man her parents do not approve of. Jaime, his homosexual son, keeps minimum contact with his family. Jean, George’s wife, seems to find her life at a standstill and finds comfort in the arms of another man, David. Each chapter is told through the eyes of a different character, so we able to see how they misunderstand each other’s intentions and never properly explain themselves or their actions.

At the heart of the story is George. A quiet, elderly man who tries to “go insane politely” as the back cover synopsis so cleverly put it. George keeps the lesion on his leg a secret from his family for as long as possible, even keeping his mental breakdown a secret. This is not a difficult task to accomplish as each member of the family is wrapped up in their own troubles and tend to forget about their ailing father/husband.

“His mind was malfunctioning. He had to bring it under control. He had it done it before. He had shared a house with his daughter for eighteen years without coming to blows, for starters. When his mother died he went back into the office the following morning to make sure the Glasgow deal did not fall through.” This glimpse into the early stages of George’s mind highlight his determination to not let his family or friends know that there was anything wrong with him. To help himself cope, George started taking long walks, drinking much more regularly and talking more than ever to his wife. George’s newfound dependence on wife ultimately becomes the major snap in his brain when he finds her in bed with David after a particularly troubling mental experience at the train station.

Haddon somehow manages to interject a stealthy sense of humor in what would otherwise be a completely tragic story. Jaime, however detached from his family, seems to be glue that keeps his family from completely shattering. The family moves together in an ebb and flow of drama as their individual lives collapse at the same time. There were a few squeamish moments of the book, particularly centering on George’s final mental snap in the family bathroom. Haddon has a steady pace, keeping most chapters under 5 pages and keeping a steady rhythm of alternating between characters. Haddon’s wit keeps this book from falling under the Hallmark or Lifetime style of a cheesy family melodrama. It is neither cheesy nor superficial, but a touching and comic tale of family trying to keep it together.

FINAL GRADE: A

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By Mark Haddon
Vintage Books, 2006
ISBN: 9780307278869
354 pages

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time – Review

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

Age: Adult

Talk about a breath of fresh air in the world of literature. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon is an incredibly engrossing story told through the eyes of a 15 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Mr. Jeavons, the psychologist at the school, once asked me why 4 red cars in a row made it a Good Day, and 3 red cars in a row made is a Quite Good Day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a Super Good Day, and why 4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don’t my lunch and Take No Risks. He said that I was clearly a very logical person, so he was surprised that I should think like this because it wasn’t very logical”

This book is a murder mystery. Christopher Boone finds his neighbors dog stabbed through the body with a garden fork. He then begins an investigation to find out who the murderer is. As he looks for the murderer, he writes a book, a sort of journal, detailing his search, his findings, his observations and feelings. The more complicated the investigation gets, the more Christopher has to pull himself out of his comfort zone and be brave. He is clever and very observant of all details. There is lots of drama with his family and neighbors. A lot of inadvertant jokes, made on his behalf and some made by him, and plenty of sentimentallity. Haddon’s ability to communicate to the rest of the world through a dissociated mind is an incredible take on the world of literature.

Just a warning, the setting, characters, all take place in England, so be prepared for some England-English terminology that you might not be familiar with. Other than that, its a quick and entertaining read. The pace is even and the writing clever, even when Christopher goes on tangents to explain variations on the quadratic formula.

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