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Thursday, March 22, 2012

"House Rules" - Book Review

Lisa Huang

Every family has their own “house rules.” These are the regulations everyone in the family need to obey. “House Rules” is the 2010 suspense novel written by Judi Picoult.

Image (c) Simon & Schuster;
There are three main characters in the story. The first is Jacob Hunt, a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition that prevents him from correctly reading social cues and expressing his feelings. If he doesn’t know how to express his feelings using his own words, he will repeat some words or sentences which he has heard from TV or other media. Little things might make Asperger’s sufferers go crazy, such as seeing the color orange or encountering something unexpected. Despite all of these difficulties, Jacob still has some positive characteristics.  He has a terrific memory and is able to concentrate on things that he is interested in. Jacob likes to study forensic analysis very much.

The second character is Emma Hunt. She is Jacob’s mom. She works for a newspaper as an advice columnist.  However, in her own life, she has no idea how to deal with Jacob’s condition. The last main character is Theo, Jacob’s younger brother. Although he is younger than Jacob, he always helps his mom to take care of his brother.

In the story, Jacob is suspected of being involved in a murder. Because Jacob is super interested in forensic analysis, he often breaks into crime scenes to investigate crimes and helps the police to solve cases. However, in this case, he is suspected of being the killer not only because he knew too many details about the crime but also because he behaves strangely. His Asperger’s Syndrome causes some unusual behaviors, like avoiding eye contact, and that makes people think he is guilty. Hence, a trial is opened to figure out whether Jacob is responsible for the crime or not.

Asperger’s Syndrome is the focal-point of the book. This book shows how this syndrome influences people, giving us a better understanding of the condition. Fearing eye contact, being unable to read social cues, easily losing control and needing to live by a fix schedule are characteristics that most “Aspies” have. These characteristics are often misunderstood because Asperger’s Syndrome is not widely known by society. If a person has Asperger’s Syndrome, how can we fairly judge if he/she is responsible for something or not? It is a question worth thinking about.

This book is popular because of its real-life situation. We all might know someone like Jacob. For this reason, the story becomes very realistic and makes Jacob very real to us. Judi Picoult wrote this book because she has a cousin who’s autistic. She saw how her aunt had to take care of her cousin and deal with the meltdowns and the problems while others couldn’t understand what was happening. That made Judi think about how the legal system works well when you use a certain way to communicate – when you play by the rules, but if you don’t use that way to communicate, everything just might go wrong.

“House Rules” gives us more insight into the lives of those who are afflicted with unusual conditions, and helps us to see the world through their eyes. If you know someone like Jacob, don’t hesitate to read this book; it will help you understand your friend better. On the other hand, if you don’t know anyone like Jacob, you can still read this book and learn something about Asperger’s Syndrome. Then, the next time you meet someone like Jacob, you won’t be surprised.

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