Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject — in his case, forensic analysis. He's always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do...and he's usually right. But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and, for a change, the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger's — not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, flat affect — can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob and his family, who only want to fit in, feel the spotlight shining directly on them and over this small family the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacobcommit murder? (synopsis from book cover)
House Rules is the kind of book I usually avoid: overflowing with emotion and real-life drama. Add the continual hopping between five different narrators, and I was guaranteed not to like this book. Wrong! I'm straining the thesaurus to find words to describe it: amazing, awesome, ashtonishing, moving, wonderful, shocking, overwhelming...
Chapters alternate between Emma Hunt, her two sons - Jacob and Theo, the police detective trying to solve a murder, and Jacob's defense attorney. Seeing the story from fluctuating viewpoints allows the reader to get inside the events, to experience them more realisitcally than would be possible if everything was interpretted by one character.
The most fascinating character, of course, is Jacob, an 18-year-old with high-functioning Asperger's. Autism makes him very literal - he doesn't use or understand sarcasm, idioms or body language. Since these are all things we decipher without thought, it adds a new dimension to witness events through his eyes.
Getting inside Theo's and Emma's heads is also fascinating - the "horse's mouth" viewpoint (if I may mangle a cliche) of life with an autistic family member. The sacrifices, the daily drama, the constant stress and fear seen first-person are much more effective than 3rd person description.
Rich (the detective) and Oliver (the attorney) add the outlook that most readers are familiar with - an outsider's view of a condition they don't understand and their attempts to mold Jacob's behavior into a more familiar pattern.
Perhaps this book has taught me a lesson about judging a book by it's genre. It undeniably taught me a lesson about juding people by my own standards.
This book is my entry in the Take-Another-Chance Challenge - Challenge 5: Title Word Count.