House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Selected by Rachel Maughan
When your son can’t look you in the eye . . . does that mean he’s guilty?
Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject—forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.
But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob.
And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?
This book was selected because:
I used to do a lot of work with autistic kids, and am very familiar with the affect (or lack of) that these kids display, so I was intrigued by this book. I also have several friends with autistic kids, so I have seen how hard it is for the parents of kids who, from the outside, look like any other kid, yet they are not. These kids (and adults) are some of the sweetest kids you will ever meet, and they are incredibly smart, yet they are not able to communicate with others in the way we are used to communicating, so many people either don’t have the knowledge and skills to get to know them, or are intimidated by the idea of trying to communicate with someone if they can’t have a typical conversation.
I’m also very scared for people with disabilities during any encounter with law enforcement because what may seem suspicious behavior to a police officer may just be the way that a person communicates or copes with stress. Too many people with disabilities (physical, emotional or learning) are held to a different standard than others, which makes them extremely vulnerable when they encounter the US legal system. People with disabilities make up the majority of convicted criminals in the US, far more than any other country in the world. Unfortunately, this vulnerable population isn’t able to advocate for themselves the way that others can, and their families, caregivers and support circles are often overburdened and poorly equipped, as well. This is one of the biggest reasons that I am drawn to the legal world, and why social justice is a passion of mine.