House Rules is told from the perspective of each of the characters in the book. In the beginning, the characters are Emma, Jacob and Theo a family struggling to make it without a father figure.
Jacob is 18, has Asperger's Syndrome, and is considered to be high-functioning on the Autism spectrum. He is fascinated by a CSI-like crime drama on TV that he must watch every day in re-runs and he re-enacts the murder scenes in his house with his mom and brother playing the parts of the dead. He knows everything about how to process a crime scene, dead bodies and famous murders.
Theo is Jacob's younger brother by a couple of years but often must act the part of the older brother. Theo has troubles of his own: he breaks into homes for thrills and eats the food in the fridge and watches TV and sometimes steals video games and Ipods from these homes. He loves Jacob, but often times bears the cruelty of other children because of Jacob.
Emma is a single Mom, writes a 'Dear Abby' column of sorts for the local paper and is devoted to both of her sons but is especially involved in Jacob's life.
The book opens up with these three characters doing a round robin of story telling about Jacob's Aspergers, how it has changed their life and his, for the better - or the worse depending on the voice telling the story. For me, this was frustrating as I know a lot about Aspergers and I just wanted the author to get on with the story. Instead I felt like the author spent an inordinate amount of time explaining what Asperger's was like. I may have not been so annoyed with this particular part of the story if the author had actually started the boys off at a younger age and had each of them tell the story as it was happing, Instead they each told stories about Jacob's problems in the syntax of 'one time this happened', or when Jacob was a baby he did X'. To me, it felt like the stories were being told to make a point, not to tell a story.
Once you get past these stories, Jacob is accused of murder. The rest of the book is spent on getting ready for the trial, going to the trial and waiting for the jury to come back with a verdict.
The problem with this is that while you may not know WHO did murder the person, you are fairly certain that Jacob didn't and you have to wait through the entire book for the mother and the lawyer and the father (who finally makes an appearance) to finally decide that maybe they ought to ask Jacob why he did the things he did that got him accused of murder. Once Jacob explains everything it all becomes clear and it is a mad dash to the judge to explain everything. Frankly, I don't think I am giving anything away by telling you this because I felt it was THAT obvious. It was for this reason that I thought the book was annoying to read. The mother claimed such devotion to her son yet she never asked him why he'd done the things he'd done at the murder scene.
I will admit that there was a lot of interesting parts of the book that I enjoyed, but I will also tell you that I was very glad to be done reading it!
Rating: 5/ 10
Publisher: Atria Books
Edition: 1st Edition / 1st Printing
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