Wow, I go right from reading ‘Mozart and the Whale’ to the book ‘House Rules’, by Jodi Picoult! It’s Asperger’s reading month, I guess.  I think my next book had better be something a little more light-hearted and less close to home…any suggestions??

I have never read a Jodi Picoult book before, so I can’t compare this to any of her others.  I would assume her books do not typically revolve around a character on the spectrum, however.  In ‘House Rules’, an 18 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome becomes the lone suspect in a murder case.  Proving his innocence is not an easy thing when the boy is obsessed with anything related to crime scene investigation, to the point of creating his own fake ones to try to stump his mother.  It is also said that many of the hallmark traits of a person on the spectrum–not looking a person in the eye, fidgeting, changing the subject when being questioned–can all be signs of a person who is guilty of committing a crime.  And as the book goes on we wonder….did Jacob really commit the crime??

The characters in the book are wonderful.  I could completely relate to Emma, the mom.  Emma is divorced and the writer of an advice column…she often feels like a complete sham, giving people advice when she has no idea what to do in her own life!  OK, I’m thankfully not divorced and I don’t write a column, but I certainly related to the simple yet complicated exhaustion that comes from trying to do the right thing with this overwhelming task we call parenting.  Of course having a child on the spectrum makes it all the more overwhelming.  Emma is a great advocate for Jacob and knocks herself out color-coding his daily foods and giving him supplements she can’t afford.  But like all of us moms, she is not superwoman.  She is human and in the living nightmare it would be if any of our kids were pending being charged with murder she is so fragile.

Poor Theo, Jacob’s brother, is often ignored and is forced to live his life around Jacob.  Even though he is younger, he often feels like the big brother.  I loved how Ms. Picoult made his thoughts and feelings so real–he loved Jacob but he often admitted to himself that he dreamed of a world where his brother didn’t exist.  Theo had his own ways of reacting to his situation, which only added to the drama of Jacob’s predicament.

Of course a novel wouldn’t be a novel without some kind of lovey-dovey stuff in it, and ‘House Rules’ is no exception. Both the detective and the inexperienced but lovable lawyer have the hots for Emma right off the bat.

I will admit, once I started this book I had a hard time putting it down.  I really like Jodi Picoult’s style of writing.  I laughed, I cried, and as I mentioned above, I could relate.

As much as I could relate to the emotional aspect of this book, one thing that did bug me greatly was the fact that Jacob was so much the stereotypical Asperger’s kid he could have been the poster boy.  It’s like Ms. Picoult read a book about kids the spectrum and created this character accordingly, with every trait imaginable.  As I’ve mentioned before, and as any of you with a child on the spectrum will agree with, no two kids with this diagnosis are alike.  My Scout has great eye contact.  He doesn’t have to have everything just so.  He doesn’t throw tantrums when something unexpected comes his way.  He doesn’t take everything so literally.  And so on, and so on.  I hate to think that many people who don’t know anything about autism or Asperger’s will read this and assume that anyone on the spectrum is like Jacob.  Never in the book is there any information for anyone to believe otherwise.  That’s too bad, in my opinion.  If you are going to educate people about something make sure you get all sides represented.

Another gripe is the fact that I figured out what happened to that girl about halfway through the book.  A small gripe, mind you, and it didn’t keep me from turning the pages–but one just the same.  There’s nothing better than the gasp you do at the end of a story when there is a true unexpected twist!

Great food for thought that Ms. Picoult does give us is how the justice system would treat a person like Jacob in a situation like this.  I have to believe the harshness of it all was a bit Hollywood in the book, but still.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hollywood did take this one on at some point!

So!  Despite some eye rolling about the Asperger’s card and the early on ‘I-know-who-done-it’, I would definitely read another book by Jodi Picoult.  I guess if I want something a little lighter I’d better stay away from ‘My Sister’s Keeper‘ for a while though, eh?

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