This summer for fun, I read House Rules by Jodi Picoult. The story is about a boy with Aspergers Syndrome who becomes a suspect in the mysterious death of his tutor. Has anyone else read this book, and if so, what did you think of it as an educator?
Personally, I was amazed at how accurately and objectively Picoult portrayed her autistic protagonist. It seemed like she really did her homework on the personal and academic lives of kids with AS. The plot kept me turning pages, and the characters were all very tangible. A fine piece of writing for some "rec" reading, if you haven't read it already.
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I loved House Rules, but then I'm also a huge Picoult fan. I appreciate her interesting imagery and syntax and her ability to weave page-turning plots and modern issues. It seems that she does a great deal of research for each of her novels, and House Rules is no exception. Before I read it, I had read Look Me in the Eyes by John Elder Robison. It chronicles his real-life struggle with Aspergers, and Picoult's portrayal is very similar to Robison's experience. I've had students read Look Me in the Eyes before for choice nonfiction and am considering doing some sort of nonfiction/fiction pairing with Picoult's book.
I also read House Rules but for far different reasons. I have an autistic son who is now 28, but who fit no easily defined criteria. We spent from first grade until he was 20 figuring out exactly what was wrong as he has several other diagnoses, and if any medication would help as he had very unusual reactions to many accepted treatments. We've been to hell and back with a backlog of stories and experiences. I wanted to know if Picoult got the emotions right for both the boy with Asbergers and the rest of the family. Amazingly enough, she not only presented a pretty accurate picture of the boy and his family, but also the crazy incidents or funny remarks which happen as a matter of course. As for using this as a comparison with Look Me In The Eyes, I think it would be excellent. I also might consider The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night for lower level students though it does not offer quite the same possibilities as the Robison book.
Another book for YOU to read is A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards by Ann Bauer. She was a visiting professor at Macalester and the book quite interesting. It was her first novel, and is essentially the story of a mother's love.
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