House Rules ****.* by Jodi Picoult
Seventeen-year-old Jacob Hunt has Asperger’s syndrome, which renders him unable to read social cues or relate to his peers. Like many kids with AS, Jacob is obsessed with one subject — in his case, forensic analysis. His mantra: What would Dr. Henry Lee do?, watching CrimeBusters, and listening to his police scanner, consume him~ leading him to look suspicious to the local law enforcement when his town is rocked by a terrible murder. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s – not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, make him appear guilty. His mother, Emma, has to navigate the waters of intolerance and misunderstanding, that constantly threaten her family, but in the process finds herself asking the same question the police are asking: Did Jacob commit murder?
“I don’t get into trouble because rules are what keep me sane. Rules mean that the day is going to go exactly the way I am predicting it to be. I do what I’m told; I just wish everyone else would do it too.”
We have rules in our house:
Clean up your own messes.
Tell the truth.
Brush your teeth twice a day.
Don’t be late for school.
Take care of your brother; he’s the only one you’ve got.
“Dealing with an autistic meltdown is like dealing with a tornado. Once you are close enough to see it coming, there’s nothing to do but weather the storm.”
“It is only thirty seconds, but thirty seconds can last forever when you are the center of everyone’s scrutiny; when you are wrestling your six-foot-tall son down to the linoleum floor and pinning him with your full body weight, the only kind of pressure that can soothe him.”
Jacob’s world is one of logic and not emotion:
“It should be noted that I do not always understand body language. That’s quite normal, for someone with Asperger’s. It’s pointless to expect me to look at someone and know how she is feeling simply because her smile is too tight and she is hunched over and hugging her arms to herself, just as it would be pointless to expect a deaf person to hear a voice.”
Twice a week, Jacob meets with Jess~ his social skills tutor and a student at UVM, who plans on teaching autistic kids. As an exercise to interact socially, Jess decides Jacob should ask someone to his prom. His concern is not in asking a girl to go, he has no one in particular in mind~ rather that his date will wear orange (#12 on his list, see above).
“There are 402 girls in my school. Assuming that one of them finds me remotely attractive, the probability of getting one of them to say yes is statistically in my favor.”
(Undaunted, he only had to ask 83 :-)
Jacob has a photographic memory, that in addition to remembering every CrimeBuster episode by number, allows him to remember obscure facts:
“Five days of the week, in addition to having a limited diet, Jacob eats by color. I don’t really remember how this started, but it’s a routine: all Monday food is green, all Tuesday food is red, all Wednesday food is yellow and so on. For some reason this helped with his sense of structure.”
“I’ve always sort of pictured it like a movie: imagine a camera that can record the entire world at once–every sight, every sound. That’s impressive, but it isn’t particularly useful if you want to specifically hear a conversation between two people, or see a ball coming toward you while you’re standing at bat. And yet, I couldn’t change the brain I’d been born with, so instead I learned how to narrow the world with makeshift blinders, until all I noticed was what I wanted to notice. That’s autism, for those who’ve never been there themselves.”
According to Jacob’s brother Theo, Blueberry Pie was the “only good thing about Blue Food Friday”. So for Theo’s benefit, I decided to make a Blueberry Tart.
1 8-ounce sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 jar lemon curd
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
juice of half a lemon
2 cups blueberries
Heat oven to 375° F. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the sheet of pastry and roll it into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Using the tip of a knife, score a 1-inch border around the pastry without cutting all the way through. Brush the border with the egg and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake until golden and puffed, 18 to 22 minutes.
Using the tip of a knife, rescore the border of the cooked pastry without cutting all the way through. Gently press down on the center of the pastry sheet to flatten it. Let cool to room temperature, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the lemon curd, lemon zest and juice and beat until smooth. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly within the borders of the pastry.
Arrange the blueberries in a single layer over the filling.
Really simple ;-)
I read/listened to this book with some trepidation. After Jodi Picoult’s last book, Handle with Care, I had marked her off my reading list~ stick a fork in me . . . I. Was. Done. So either a glutton for punishment or cautiously optimistic, I bought this book. It turns out I’m glad I took the plunge! I enjoyed the suspense, the characters, learning about Asperger’s and I didn’t feel like I was kicked in the gut when I was finished. (always a plus :-) It has all the elements of her previous books that has you wringing your hands . . . a child with a disability or a debilitating medical condition, a trial, and a sibling that gets lost in the shuffle~ told through multiple points of view. I listened to the audio version of this book~ the multi-voice audio performance is easy to listen to and hard to turn off.
“I like the concept: that Asperger’s is like a flavoring added to a person, and although my concentration is higher than those of others, if tested, everyone else would have traces of this condition, too.”
Looking at Jacob’s list above~ change of plans, foods that explode in your mouth (for me cherry tomatoes) and loose hair (tickling my face). . . traces of Asperger’s?