The late Siobhan Dowd brought what is, to me, a novel that transcends the boundaries of age. I am, as far as I have been told, too old to be reading this book. To that I say “rubbish!”, because this book should be compulsory reading not just for the children aged 9 to 11 at whom it is aimed, but for everyone.
A fact about me is that I love mystery novels. I love Sherlock Holmes with a passion, and true crime is as oddly comforting to me as any fairy tale. This story is a mystery novel aimed toward children (but, as I have mentioned, thoroughly enjoyable to those above the target age group) concerning the disappearance of Salim, who has gone up in a pod on the London Eye and has failed to come back down again.
The narrator, Ted, is a 12 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, who is fascinated by the weather. When his cousin Salim goes missing in an unusual turn of events seeming to directly contradict Newton’s 2nd Law, Ted wants to help solve the mystery, and comes up with his own list of possible theories, including his (and, admittedly, my) favourite theory: Salim has spontaneously combusted. Ted is truly one of the most interesting portrayals of Asperger’s I have come across. And, (apologies for the following controversial opinion) it felt like a far better written and more realistic version of The Curious Incident. Sorry, guys. Just what I think.
“‘It’s like my brain is a computer,’ I said. ‘But mine works on a dofferent operating system from other people’s. And my wiring’s different too.'” – Siobhan Dowd ~ The London Eye Mystery
Throughout the novel, Ted’s Asperger’s is referred to as his “syndrome”, and the way it is represented is very realistic. A feature not often shown in novels – particularly children’s novels – about neurological or mental disorders is the way these affect the family of the person with them. Ted is shown to be both infuriating in his pedantry, and brilliant. A lot of the time, we only focus on one or the other. But, as with anyone, people with ASD are usually a mixture of good and bad traits, and Dowd’s portrayal of this makes Ted a real, 3D character, rather than the flat plot device neuroatypical people are often shown to be. Manic pixie dream girls, anyone? What a waste of amazing potential in characters.
“She put down the lilac sheet of paper and ruffled the top of my head, a thing she does sometimes that makes my hand shake itself out.” – Siobhan Dowd ~ The London Eye Mystery
I personally love this book. I’m reading it now, and it’s marvellous. I can’t guess what’s going to happen, but I also feel I’m being given a fair shot to come along with Ted on his investigation and try and work it out for myself. For a while, I’ve been terribly unmotivated to read, and I needed a book like this to get me hooked again, and remind me why I love my endless shelves so much.
If you happen to have/be an older child with Asperger’s, I highly recommend this book. Or if you want to know more about the condition, and the different ways it brings strengths and weaknesses to the fore, I’d also highly recommend this book to you!
Stay safe, friends. x