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House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult puts hours of research into her books and met with dozens of Asperger’s children and their parents before writing House Rules. This is an excellent example of Asperger’s fiction and centers around Jacob Hunt, a teenager with Asperger’s. Jacob is 18 years old and lives at home with his mother and younger brother, Theo. He has an obsessional interest in forensic analysis and creates fake crime scenes so he can investigate them. When his tutor is found dead, Jacob is interviewed by the police and ultimately accused of murder. The traits of Asperger’s such as poor social skills and the tendency to avoid eye contact add to his apparent guilt.
As well as writing a suspenseful story, Picoult gives the reader an up-close look at the realities of raising a teen with Asperger’s. She examines aspects of the condition such as the love of routines and the emotional meltdowns that may occur if these are disrupted. She also looks at the possibility of romantic attraction and how therapy can help a young person with Asperger’s. She portrays the mother’s love well and captures her hurt when Jacob does not show compassion or empathy. Theo, the younger brother features throughout the book and Picoult highlights the pressures that an Asperger’s sibling can bring to a family.
The book is extremely well written and offers many hours of reading. As well as being a captivating story, it is also a window into life with Asperger’s syndrome. It is enlightening and encouraging while being realistic.
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Second Opinion by Michael Palmer
Michael Palmer is well known for his medical thrillers and Second Opinion is a fine example of his work. The main character, Dr Thea Sperelakis has Asperger’s syndrome and was inspired by Palmer’s son who also has the condition. The storyline is centered round the Sperelakis family that consists of Thea, her brother Dimitri, her twin siblings and her father, Petros. Petros is the victim of a hit and run accident and Thea suspects that it was foul play. Her father lies in an apparent coma until Thea discovers he is suffering from ‘locked-in’ syndrome. As she investigates, Palmer gives wonderful insight into the way a person with Asperger’s thinks.
Thea is a brilliant doctor with the tendency to say what she is thinking. She is aware of her Asperger’s syndrome and reasons with herself about her behavior and thoughts and feelings. She has trained herself to act more appropriately and although she struggles with crowds, she manages to get by at social functions. Her brother Dimitri is undiagnosed and a genius with computers. However, because of his Asperger’s he is unable to hold down a job and sponges off his father.
As well as being an exciting thriller, the book is an excellent example of Asperger’s fiction. The author skilfully compares the differences between Thea and Dimitri and the reader gains insight into the benefits of early treatment and therapy. Michael Palmer is a medical doctor and this combined with the personal experience of raising a son with Asperger’s make the book a must-read for those interested in the condition.
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House Rules by Jodi Picoult, Atria, 2010
Second Opinion by Michael Palmer, St Martin’s Press, 2009