House Rules

This is Jodi Picoult’s latest offering. House Rules is about Jacob and his family. Jacob is not your neurotypical kid. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Thus, while Jacob’s IQ is in the top one percent, it doesn’t necessarily show in his work, lives in a literal world and struggles socially. 18 year old Jacob lives with his mother Emma and his younger brother Theo. Their father walked out on them when Theo was just a baby because he could apparently not handle Jacob’s diagnosis. Like most children with AS, Jacob has fixed interests…at one time it was dogs, at another it was dinosaurs. At this stage in life, he is obsessed with forensics. Not just the crime shows but the intricacies such as fingerprints and tests and other clues. Jacob also has other quirks. He has his days colour-coded. For instance, he has ‘Blue Fridays’ where clothes he wears are blue, the food he eats has to be blue. If not, he will have a meltdown. To assist with his social skills, Jacob receives tutoring from a university student Jess.

The family are getting on with their life in their own way…Emma taking each day as it comes, Theo withdrawing and feeling resentment at some of the things he has to give up and taking refuge in stranger’s houses pretending he has a ‘normal’ family, and Jacob following his routines day in and day out. Things take a turn for the worse when Jess (Jacob’s tutor) is found dead. While the initial suspect is her extremely possessive and abusive boyfriend, Emma notices Jacob’s rainbow coloured handmade quilt wrapped around Jess’ body as the breaking story is aired on the news. What follows is nothing short of a nightmare for someone with AS. Jacob is taken to the police station where he is tricked into talking about Jess. In his literal world, he says he didn’t mean to do it. Resulting in him being charged with her murder.

How does a person with AS cope with the justice system?

Can a person with AS get a fair trial since to a layperson, this individual who does not show empathy the way most of us do could be mistaken to be a psychopath?

Is AS a disability? Or just a different ability?

Has Jacob really killed Jess? If so, was it in a fit of anger and impulsiveness? If not, who was it? And why did he tamper with the crime scene?

The book is a good read and keeps you hooked till the end. In true Picoult-style, each chapter is narrated by a different character. The characters are all well-drawn and likeable. The star is of course Jacob. Picoult has done her research well when it comes to AS and the theories about causal factors as well as the interventions and management at home and school are quite comprehensive. She manages to educate the lay person about AS and the difficulties as well as the bright side of it. Plus through Jacob’s character, you learn a lot about crimes, forensics and just general trivia which brings a smile to your face.

However, this book is still not as good as some of her other works. The end was a bit anti-climactic for me; possibly because I have become accustomed to her twists in the tale which for some reason did not really happen. Also, while I am no expert in AS, I found some things a bit hard to believe about Jacob. For instance, him setting up the crime scene was a bit ludicrous to me given that he is an intelligent boy. Anyone with that level of intelligence as well as obsession with forensics and crime would know you do not tamper with a crime scene and expect to get away with it. AS or no AS. It was not like it was an impulsive act like some behaviours can be when it comes to AS and therefore I just could not get my head around why he would do that.

I would definitely recommend a read…as I would for most of Picoult’s books. But don’t read it with expectations that it would be equivalent to My Sister’s Keeper or Nineteen Minutes or Picture Perfect.

I give it a 4

Read it to enjoy the ride.

Until next time,



Look me in the Eye: My life with Asperger’s

This is a book by John Elder Robison. An autobiographical book about his life with Asperger’s Syndrome. The book appealed to me on two levels — it appealed to my love for reading and to my love for psychology.

First and foremost, for those that are not aware, let me explain to you what Asperger’s syndrome is. Individuals with Aspergers have significant difficulties in forming and developing appropriate social interactions, difficulties in communication skills and tend to have restrictive interests. This website has more information. Anyway, the best example I can provide about an individual with Aspergers syndrome would be Sheldon Cooper from the show ‘Big Bang Theory‘ (although, please note that not all individuals with Aspergers are geniuses!)

But I digress.

Going back to the book…it is a great insight into the life of someone with Aspergers. What makes it even more fascinating is that John Robison was not diagnosed until about the age of 40! The title of the book is because some individuals with Aspergers, like John, have difficulty maintaining eye contact when they speak to others…resulting in people telling them to “look me in the eye”.

Whilst growing up, John failed to understand why people didn’t understand him. Or why it was so difficult for him to make friends with kids his age. Or why people misunderstood him when he smiled at the fact that someone else met with an accident. Or why people and psychiatrists back then thought he was a psychopath in the making. John writes about his dysfunctional life — an alcoholic father, a mother with a mental illness, an abusive childhood, a dodgy therapist who was supposed to help the family, and a younger brother who back then to him, was a real pain.

John takes us through his journey as a child where he struggled to make friends but learnt around the age of 9 what was acceptable and what was not. (e.g. patting someone on the head was not acceptable or talking about your helicopter when they showed you their truck was not the etiquette). He takes us through his adolescent years where he dropped out of high school and got interested in electronics and cars, his misadventures with women, and his attempts to fit it. He takes us through his adult years where he formed relationships with women, worked with Pink Floyd briefly and the band KISS doing special effects for their live shows, getting a ‘stable’ job in the corporate world and finally ditching that to become his own boss at an automobile company.

It is a heartwarming book and you can literally see the struggles of a little boy who has no clue what’s going on with him. You feel uplifted when years later, this little boy finds out his diagnosis. And sees the light. And everything seems to make sense to him after 40 long years of struggle and compensation.

For me personally, given that I work with some teens with Aspergers, it was all the more insightful. It was life from their point of view. It also opens up the world of Aspergers to the population out there explaining everything in lay terms.

If you like autobiographical books and enjoy reading about overcoming hardships and a dysfunctional childhood, this book is worth a read. I rate it a 4

Until next time,



I just want to take this opportunity to thank the lovely Titaxy for inviting me to be part of this venture and our bond with books. 🙂