By Jodi Picoult
After the disaster that the last Picoult novel I read (Harvesting the Heart) was, I really didn’t want to read another of her novels anytime soon, however, I found this novel in a stack of unread books & thought I’d give it a try. I’m pleased to say that Ms. Picoult has redeemed herself & is back on the list of my favorite authors (I’m sure she’s beside herself with joy over this exciting news, haha)
“House Rules” is the story of a teenage boy, Jacob, who has Asperger’s syndrome (a type of autism). When Jacob is accused of murdering his college-aged tutor, its up to his single mother, Emma, & rookie lawyer, Oliver, to prove his innocence. In typical Picoult style (which I like) each chapter is told through a different point of view; Jacob, Emma, Oliver, Jacob’s younger brother Theo & the police captain Rich.
Prior to reading this novel, I didn’t have a clue what autism REALLY was, let alone ever even heard of Asperger’s syndrome. Picoult did a fantastic job of explaining the syndrome (almost to the point where it became text-book like) & I loved that through Jacob’s narratives, the reader could feel what his episodes were like for him; the blackouts, the violence, the completely losing control & being unaware of his surroundings…I just can’t imagine living a life like that. Although I bounced in between feeling sympathy & being annoyed by Emma, I’d be lying if a part of me hopes I never have to experience being the parent of an autistic child. She was a brave, tough character, & you can’t help but respect her tenacity.
Okay…a quick summary of the book.
Jacob is an 18year old high school student who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. He lives his life by routine-waking up every day at the same time, watching CrimeBusters TV show everyday at 4:30, only eating certain colored foods on specific days. He’s also a bona fide genius who happens to be obsessed with forensic science & crime scenes. His mother, Emma, is a single mother raising 2 boys on a tight income. She has alienated herself from friends, family, & the world, due to the demands of Jacob & his illness. Even putting her youngest son, 15year old Theo, second place. When Jacob’s tutor, Jess, comes up missing & then is found murdered, Jacob is the #1 suspect. Enter in Oliver, the 28year old rookie lawyer, who takes Jacob’s case. Between trying to convince the jury that the reason Jacob shows no empathy or looks the jury in the eye is because he physically CAN’T (symptom of Asperger’s) & not because he’s guilty & Jacob “stimming” in court, Oliver has his work cut out for him.
If you’ve read any of Picoult’s novels in the past, you will most likely be able to figure out the ending pretty early on. And it won’t come as a shock when Oliver & Emma fall in love (as in most of her novels the “victim” & lawyer/cop end up getting together). What might come as a shock is Jacob himself, his selfishness. Now I understand that it was intentionally written like that, due to his Asperger’s, but this novel was a constant tug of war for me. Asperger’s or not, he might not have killed his tutor, but he certainly wasn’t innocent in her death. And Emma spent her whole life trying to let Jacob live a “normal” life, but then was quick to play the Asperger’s card in court. And I found it hard to believe that with Asperger’s (and its apparent inability for sufferers to lie) that not one person actually came out & asked Jacob if he killed Jess, that wasn’t believable to me. What bothered me most was, once the truth came out, that the novel just ended. There was no resolution for the reader…it just ended. Jacob & Theo might not have KILLED Jess, but they both withheld information from the cops, were both doing wrong, & should’ve been held responsible for their part in her death. The reader never finds out what happens after they tell the judge the truth, the novel just ends. Huh??? Talk about being left to hang. Also, I thought the relationship between Emma & Oliver was ridiculous & completely unnecessary, but I was expecting it.
Overall, I did really like this novel. It follows the theme of ALL of Picoult novels, so nothing was a surprise. A good book is one where you can connect & get involved with the characters, & its very easy to do so with this one. It’s almost an exact replica of another novel of hers, My Sister’s Keeper, so if you liked that one you’ll definitely like this one.
On the Goodreads grading scale I’ll give it a 4/5 stars. 4 stars because it was easy to follow, the characters were believable & it was easy to become passionate about them & the storyline. I would recommend this one for anyone looking for a quick, easy read, that really doesn’t require much thinking on your part.