Thursday, August 30, 2012

House RulesHouse Rules by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy Jodi Picoult,and this did not disappoint. I actually had it figured out before the end, which I don't generally do (or, I should say, I don't try to do), but I've read enough of her work to figure out what was going to happen.

I read the whole book with my Peeta Mellark District 12 bookmark, so, of course, in my imagination, every male character looks a bit like Peeta. And, don't be fooled by the boy on the cover of the book. I'm not sure why that cover was picked, because the story centers around an 18-year-old autistic kid, Jacob.

I don't know about you, but every time I read about Asperger's, I self-diagnose myself with it. I know I don't have it, but I think we've all had times when we've been in conversations that don't make sense, or hyper-focus on something, or when the world is too loud and we want to hide under a blanket until we can handle it. So at one point, (on page 456), Jacob's father says "I think maybe we've all got something in us that keeps us from connecting to people, when we want to." And Jacob thinks in response, I like the concept: that Asperger's is like a flavoring added to a person, and although my concentration is higher than those of others, if tested, everyone else would have traces of this condition, too.

There are times in the book that are really, really frustrating. I grew up babysitting a high-functioning autistic kid, and was fortunate enough to never witness a full-blown meltdown. But there were rules to be followed, and when they were, everything ran a little more smoothly. For example, I had to tell the kid, it's 7:30 now; in half an hour, at 8 o'clock, you need to put your pajamas on and brush your teeth. Inevitably, he'd get it done before then so he could go back to his show or movie or whatever, but if I didn't give him that time window, and those explicit instructions, getting him ready for bed was a hassle.

Anyway, the book is frustrating because so may people, like the detective and the prosecutor, don't understand that Jacob's mind doesn't work like a normal persons'. People with Asperger's are very literal (I'm very literal, too, but they take it a whole other step further). They don't understand idioms, (for example "raining cats and dogs" means that pets are falling out of the sky). When asked if he understood what it meant to "waive his rights," Jacob's response was to wave his right hand. There were times when I just wanted to yell at them: it doesn't work that way! He can't imagine what it would feel like to be another person. He can't feel empathy or sympathy.

I was also frustrated because I knew they weren't asking the right questions. Jacob wouldn't have lied, but they were picking the wrong things to ask him.

Picoult tells an interesting story that combines forensics with autism, and just enough family chaos to make it real.

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