HOUSE RULES is about Jacob Hunt, a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject – in his case, forensic analysis.
He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do…and he’s usually right. But then one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s – not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate affect – can look a heck of a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel -- and suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder. HOUSE RULES looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way – but lousy for those who don’t.
Picoult does it once again for me, by taking another controversial subject to view from different perspectives. Jacob Hunt is the young man with Aspberger's Syndrome in the story and we get a glimpse as to how this disease has affected his family as different chapters are narrated by various characters within the novel.
I loved the chapters that were narrated by Jacob. All that I really know about Aspberger's is what I have learned on television, so it was fascinating to see things from Jacob's logical viewpoint. I think because of the disease I found myself looking at Jacob as if he were a child, but at eighteen years old he is more of a young man. Jacob's lack of social skills obviously keep him in a childlike state and although he will be able to minimally function in society, he will more than likely need care for the rest of his life.
Currently, the care provider role falls upon his mother Emma's shoulders. When Jacob was diagnosed with Aspberger's at an early age, his father admitted defeat and walked out on his family, leaving Emma with all the responsibilities of raising two young boys, one needing exceptional care. After much research about the disease, Emma hones her schedules and menus to keep things as smoothly flowing for Jacob as possible. Being a single parent, you can only imagine how difficult it would be under these circumstances to be sure that you are offering adequate parental love and guidance to the child that does not have any medical issues.
Theo is Jacob's younger brother who longs to live a normal family life. He doesn't want to worry about eating certain colored foods on specific days, or making sure that Jacob is home at 4:30 to watch his favorite television show. While Theo acts out in his own way in search of the perfect family life, he also worries about when the day will come when he will be expected to be his brothers care provider.
Everything within this novel spins out of control when Jacob's social skills tutor is found dead. When suspicion is turned towards Jacob, the organized world that he knows comes to an end. While Emma knows how these changes will negatively affect Jacob, she finds herself having to think of ways to keep some order and logic to his world.
I truly enjoyed this novel that had us take a close look at how the legal system would deal with a similar situation under such unfortunate circumstances. With themes of honesty, justice, Aspberger's, and family this book made a great book club selection and I'm sure it would be a great novel to pick up for leisure reading also.
My Rating: 4/5
Disclosure: I purchased this book on my Kindle for my own entertainment and as a book club selection.