Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review of House Rules by Jodi Picoult

From JG-TC Online (Illinois) --

Book Review: 'House Rules,' By Jodi Picoult --

By: Juanita Sherwood --
April 12, 2010 --

Many of Jodi Picoult’s recent books have featured societal issues. This one is no different: it deals with a form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a higher functioning form on the autism spectrum.

Jacob Hunt is the young man who has Aspergers; he is 18 years old, a senior in high school.

Jacob has suffered from autistic difficulties since he was a toddler. His mother has videos that show him as a normal youngster, but then he suddenly changed. She feels that these changes came about near the time he received some of his vaccinations, although neither she nor medical science could prove this theory.

He is a brilliant young man who has intensely focused on various subjects over the years. When he was younger it was dogs, then dinosaurs, and now it is crime scene investigation.

Jacob’s family consists of his mother and his younger brother, Theo. His parents divorced when Jacob began manifesting signs of autism around the age of 3, shortly after Theo was born.

Since he left, his father has had little to do with the boys and their mother except to send monthly support checks.

Emma, the mother, has learned techniques for dealing with Jacob both at home and in public when he has a “meltdown.” He is now the size of an adult, and sometimes physical restraint, which she used to employ when he was younger, is difficult, but she frequently is still able to apply it.

Jacob has difficulty expressing himself verbally in terms that most people use daily. He takes things literally, not understanding idioms or visual clues from others. He needs routine, and what that is disrupted, he can have a “meltdown.”

He has an IEP, an individual education plan, at school. Part of that plan is that he and other autistic teens have a timeout room that they can go to when their senses are overloaded. There he calmed himself using techniques that he had been taught.

Since he has difficulty interacting with his peers, his mother has hired Jess Ogilvy, a graduate student, to tutor him regarding social skills. Jess has been working with Jacob for several months, and he has made progress, albeit slowly. He has not been cured by any means, but he is gaining a few skills.

Jess is housesitting for a professor from her university when she turns up missing. Her boyfriend, Mark Macguire, is suspected of foul play at first, but he is “unarrested” when the police finally discover her body, and the blame turns to Jacob.

When he is arrested for Jess’s murder, he is stupefied by all of the things surrounding the arrest: being questioned by police, being held in jail, being restrained, and being separated from his family. He knows he didn’t do it, but he can’t convince the authorities of that fact.

He eventually goes to trial for Jess’s murder, and his attorney wants to use an insanity defense, feeling that that is the only hope Jacob has of being found not guilty.

Accommodations are made for Jacob’s disability in the courtroom, but the trial is difficult for all involved, especially the judge and prosecutor….

This book gives an empathetic picture of a family dealing with autism, even those with a less severe diagnosis.

At times, it seems that Picoult has overdone illustrating the effects of Asperger’s, making the book drag a bit. The chapters, narrated by characters in the story, are quite short, but it is not a fast read.

Whether or not dealing directly with autism, both parents and educators might want to give this book consideration.

No comments:

Post a Comment