Catherine, the protagonist of Rules, is a normal twelve-year-old girl dealing with the universal preteen issues of friendships, family relationships, and identity. However, Catherine’s situation is complicated by the fact that her eight-year-old brother, David, is autistic. Because Catherine’s parents are both overburdened with work, Catherine must care for her brother a good deal of the time. As a result, she has become more responsible, careful and considerate, but also more nervous, preoccupied and inhibited than the average preteen.

For much of the novel, Catherine struggles between her desire to be “normal,” to interact with others her own age without the burden of her “abnormal” brother, and her desire to care for and protect David.Because Catherine has spent her entire life with an autistic person, she has learned to see beyond behaviors others think of as strange or off-putting, to appreciate her brother as a unique, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately lovable and endearing person. This ability comes in handy when Catherine strikes up a friendship with Jason, a boy who is both physically handicapped and unable to verbalize normally. Because of her experience with David, Catherine is able to see beyond Jason’s “different” exterior and connect with him on a deeper level.

However, for Catherine, the greatest difficulty is integrating her relationships with David and Jason and her friendships with what she considers “regular” people. At the opening of the novel, Catherine tries as hard as she can to keep these two sides of her life separate, and as a result, she feels her identity “ripping in half.” However, by the end of the novel, she has begun to bring the two sides of herself together, attending the dance with Jason and introducing him to her more “normal” classmates Kristi and Ryan.

David is a kind eight-year-old boy who has trouble adjusting to the world around him because of his autism. David is incredibly sensitive to noise, and loud noises make him scream in pain and frustration; he needs things to go exactly as planned, and gets upset if anything forces him to deviate from his normal routine. For example, even though David’s dad is often late arriving home, every day...

(The entire section is 915 words.)