House Rules – by Jodi Picoult (2010)

House Rules

The description inside this book will tell you that “House Rules” is about a young man – Jacob Hunt – who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and is charged with killing his tutor, Jess Ogilve. Did he really kill her? While the trial is a big part of the story, it seems to me that the real story is Jacob’s struggle to live day-to-day with Asperger’s, and how it affects every member of the family. The telling of the story rotates between Jacob, his mother Emma, his younger brother Theo, his attorney Oliver, and the police investigator Rich. The timeline jumps back and forth between the present and the years of Jacob as a child.

I came to appreciate each character in the story after reading their point of view. Emma’s love for her son, her patience, her willingness to do whatever it took to give her son a “normal” life, was inspiring. When Theo expressed how overlooked he felt over the years as all the attention was focused on his brother, I felt great sympathy for him. As Oliver and Rich told their parts of the story, I could see how conflicted they were about Jacob. And Jacob – it was just plain amazing to see how he viewed the world and the people around him.

After reading this book, I have a much better understanding of Asperger’s. There is a small amount of content and language that some readers may object to, but overall this is a well-written novel worth reading. It is also available as an audiobook, with different narrators reading the parts of the main characters.

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Be Different: Adventures Of A Free-Range Aspergian – by John Elder Robison (2011)

Be Different

 

The title of this book caught my eye. I’ve never seen the point of being exactly like everyone else. God made us all unique, one-of-a-kind humans, but most people spend their lifetime trying their best to be like everyone around them. They wear what everyone else wears, rush to the movie everyone is seeing, have cars and houses and yards that are amazingly similar, make sure their kids have the same toys, and repeat what others say.

I began reading John Robison’s book with the idea that he would be detached and unemotional, perhaps depressed, a person frustrated with life. Instead, the author was articulate and downright witty in spots, expressing himself beautifully on paper. He has the same emotions and insecurities that we all have. The behavior of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome that is odd when described in other books, seems very understandable when John explains what was going through his head.

What I loved about this book was John’s point of view about Asperger’s. He doesn’t see it as a disability, but rather as a different type of brain wiring, and at times an advantage. He describes how he gradually taught himself to interact with others in a way that he doesn’t push them away. He also went on to start a successful business of his own. Whether you read this book because you have someone in your life with Asperger’s, or you just wanted to know more about it, you will be inspired by this biography.

 

Excerpt:

Touch sensitivity has its good points, but it can also bother me a lot, especially when I think about it. As I write this passage, my clothing is becoming increasingly noticeable. Sharp little fibers are biting into my back. The label on my shirt is scratching my neck. The more I think about it, the more I feel. Soon, I may have to tear all these clothes right off. Hopefully something will divert my attention before that happens, Otherwise, this shirt is headed for a bad end. But probably not. If this time is like most, some distraction will come along and my touch sensitivity will fade into the background.
Things were worse when I was younger. There were days when a piece of clothing would bother me all day, and I’d just sit there distracted and fidgeting. “Why are you squirming around like that?” my teachers would challenge me when they saw me wriggling. “Can’t you sit still?” I never knew how to answer them, so I’d say something like “I don’t know,” and they’d get mad at me. For some reason, I never thought to say what was really bothering me…
Today I meet moms who cut the labels out of their kids’ clothes and trim the seams. The first time I heard that, it sounded great. What a nice thing to do, I thought. But when I thought about things a little more, I began to question the wisdom of that. Why? Because removing the irritants doesn’t do anything to decrease our sensitivity. And if clothes tags bother us today, and we don’t address the nuisance head-on, where will we be in ten years? Naked at work?
Instead of fixing my clothes, I fixed myself. I learned to focus my mind so that my sense of touch no longer controlled me.