BOOK: House Rules by Jodi Picoult (2010)

Emma Hunt is a middle-aged single mother struggling to raise her two sons: teenager Theo and 19 year-old Jacob, who has fairly severe Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism).  Jacob is highly intelligent and fascinated by science, especially forensic science, but any change to his routine and his reaction can be extremely volatile.  Serve yellow food on blue food day, for example, or make him miss his favorite TV show, a true crime forensics program called Crime Busters, and he may suddenly become violently aggressive or, worse, completely withdraw for days, practically comatose.

Once Jacob begins working with a young woman named Jess, a teacher helping him learn better social skills, he improves dramatically.  But when Jess goes missing and is later found dead — wrapped in Jacob’s old quilt, no less — the police latch onto Jacob as their chief suspect.  Thinking he’s helping solve the case, Jacob immediately confesses to having tinkered with the crime scene in Jess’s house, without explaining WHY.  The police, not understanding the way Jacob’s brain works, assume he’s confessing to killing her, and an hour later, Emma learns her emotionally-challenged son has been locked in jail, pending trial for murder.

This novel is incredibly gripping and fast-paced (I devoured it in two days while on vacation).  Though I had the whodunnit figured out pretty early on, it was still entertaining to see how and when — and IF — the truth would come out.  The book also provides a lot of insight into what it’s like to parent a child with Asperger’s (hint: damn hard), and since it was recommended to me by a friend with a son with Asperger’s, I assume it’s fairly accurate in that regard.

Picoult is an author who is usually pretty hit-or-miss for me; this is about the third or fourth novel of hers I’ve read and I never find them as well-written as I want them to be (the stories are good, but the writing itself is fairly lack-luster).  This one is definitely the best of the bunch I’ve read, though, and I really enjoyed it a lot.  Recommended!


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7 Responses to “BOOK: House Rules by Jodi Picoult (2010)”

  1. bookslist Says:

    this book actually sounds interesting…not her usual depressing stuff..
    which of picoults books have you read? I just wanna compare your impressions with mine 🙂

  2. megwood Says:

    The two I remember the most were Plain Truth and Second Glance. I enjoyed the first, and thought the second started off well (ghost story, I think!) but ended really trite and predictably.

    Which have you read?

  3. Nicole Says:

    I’ve read two of Picoult’s books – Mercy and My Sister’s Keeper. Don’t think I can bring myself to read anymore. I feel like she’s emotionally manipulative (and not in a good way, if that makes sense). I find myself rolling my eyes when I think I’m supposed to be “moved.” (But perhaps I’m just a big ol’ meanie cynic)

  4. megwood Says:

    I know exactly what you mean, Nicole, and I agree completely!

  5. Melinda Says:

    Nicole, sounds like Lurlene McDaniels, who is a YA author that I could never bring myself to read, as each blurb went something like “Marcy was EveryGirl, living the American Dream, when she was diagnosed with A Disease. In the hospital, she met Rob, who also had A Disease, and their love, pure as the driven snow because obviously sickness results in undying…. well, passionate love, grew every day until ONE OF THEM DIED.” The YA librarian used to tell me about the girls who would come in sobbing and check out another of her books.

  6. Liz Says:

    LOL! I just had to say that I LOVE that “generic blurb,” Melinda. I, too, get really annoyed and – I admit it – defensive about stories that are OBVIOUSLY geared to make you feel all gooey and teary (Ick – are those words?). That’s one reason I got really mad at the movie, “Million Dollar Baby.” I’m so glad a number of us on this blog get “antsy” about overly sentimental projects.

    SOMETIMES YA stories can have a lot to offer. But ya gotta watch out for the ones that “pander” to the “chick flick” type of emotionality! 🙂 Meg seems to be very sensible, and gives good advice on this subject.

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