House rules - FamilyEducation

House rules

February 06,2012
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I don't often rant about a book I don't like because, as a writer, a part of me is always sensitive to the feelings of the person who wrote the book, even if I will never meet them, and they will never read my rant.  But I've been bothered by a book I finished this past weekend and sometimes when things bother me, they stay with me longer then they should--writing about them is often the only way to send them packing.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me whether I'd read this book by Jodi Picoult. I hadn't read any book by Picoult, actually, so I told her no. The particular book my friend asked about is about a young man with Asperger's, who ends up charged with a murder. I just wondered what you'd think about it, my friend said casually, in a way that implied that there would be something to think about.

So last week I stopped by the library and checked out the book. I read it in only a few sittings, but I found my desire to keep reading it waning each time I opened the book. 

At first I was interested. Then I began to get irritated. Then, by the end, I kind of hated the book. I disliked the formulaic feel of the structure of the plot, but I hated the way she depicted the character with AS. He was about as real and believable as a human would be if you plucked them right out of a textbook on human behavior, propped them up paper-doll like with a popsicle stick, and gave them a name. Anyone reading the book who has never met or interacted with somone with AS could imagine terrible things, and see a person with AS as the sum of all their quirks and challenges, instead of seeing first and foremost the person in front of them. There are probably virtually no individuals with AS out there who display ALL of the characteristics and behaviors that the character Jacob does in the book--all at once, in fact. No one person is like another, not matter how they come wired, and yet Picoult would have us believe otherwise. Sadly, many people who read House Rules will come away with a very damaging and narrow perception of AS. 

And that makes me mad.