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House Rules: A Novel

House Rules - Jodi Picoult When I first began reading the book, I thought that it would be primarily about Autism but I soon realized that it was also a mystery and romance novel. Autism was the central theme used to create the plot and move the tale along its path. This novel illustrates how being different can cause tremendous hardship and can disrupt ordinary family life; it is a tale of how dysfunction affects each member of the family in a different way; it is a tale about how hard it is to attempt to function in a normal world when everything about you and your world is not the norm.
The story is told in the voices of the five main characters.
1-Jacob is the main character. The author gets inside his head and really shows what it is like to have Asperger's, to be locked out of the normal world and to live in a space where all outside stimuli are larger than life. She has captured what it feels like to be an outsider, always looking in, trying to belong but never being accepted because the necessary skills are absent.
Jacob’s inability to function normally in the world has had devastating effects on the life of his entire family. He cannot read the clues people send out and he often misinterprets behavior and makes inappropriate responses. The family is preoccupied with preventing an outburst from too much sensory stimulation.
He is an exceptionally bright senior in high school. His hobby is forensics and he uses a police scanner to learn about crime scenes, offering advice to the trained detectives.
2-Emma, Jacob’s mom, is very devoted to him, often leaving her other son to fend for himself. She works from home writing an advice column, which is ironic since she has a hard time dealing with her own problems, let alone those of strangers. Money is always tight because Jacob needs an enormous amount of intervention in order to be mainstreamed so he can function somewhat, in the real world.
Her marriage has ended in divorce because Henry cannot cope with Jacob and his effect on their daily and married life. Emma is often preoccupied with Jacob and neglects, of necessity, everyone else. Although Henry supports them financially, he is emotionally and physically absent from the family.
3-Theo is Jacob's brother. Because of Jacob's bizarre abnormal reactions to normal situations, Theo's needs are often ignored. Although Theo is not autistic, he also exhibits some anti-social behavior as a result of his loneliness and feelings of neglect. He wants a normal home life.
While Jacob has no friends because his mental problems keep people away from him, Theo has no friends because when his brother appears on the scene, they shun him too. The stain of his brother’s Asperger’s colors him as well.
4- Jess is Jacob's social skills tutor who is writing a paper on Autism. She has helped him when it comes to interacting in the world in ordinary social situations. He really relates well to her and likes being with her because she makes him feel comfortable. When she is found murdered, Jacob is accused and arrested. His arrest sets the story in motion.
5-Oliver is the lawyer who represents Jacob in the murder trial. He relates well to Jacob and is helpful to Emma. The relationship that develops between them makes the story a bit contrived. It seems convenient and not very plausible. He is 28 and she is the mother of an 18 year old.
Once you become drawn into the story, however, the harder it becomes to put the book down. It is upsetting because of the injustice of the way society treats people who march to a different drummer, but it is also very exciting and keeps you guessing as to the ultimate outcome.