Teresa's Reviews > House Rules

House Rules by Jodi Picoult
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May 16, 2010

it was amazing
Read from May 08 to 11, 2010

I am a Picoult fan, having read and enjoyed 14 of her 18 books published to date (3 of the 4 remaining are on my shelves, to be read!). I’ll be the first to admit that she has a very distinctive style, some would say formulaic…there is usually a moral/social dilemna which pushes a family to the limits, invariably a court case and usually a twist at the end. I’m not going to get all defensive here but this is MOR reading, neither highbrow nor lowbrow, but I have encountered very few storytellers who can engage you and make a book as readable as Jodi Picoult can.

So, what’s the big social/moral theme this time ? Here, the focus is on Aspergers via the story of the Hunt family comprised of single Mum, Emma, her son, 18 year old Jacob, who has Aspergers and Theo, his younger brother who doesn’t and is therefore Neuro-typical (NT) – well, if we’re into putting labels on folk, let’s label the so-called “normal” characters too! Perhaps I should declare a slightly vested interest here as I am very familiar with Aspergers/ASD as a member of my family was diagnosed with it a couple of years ago. So, I recognise that my view of the story and the author’s presentation of Aspies may be slightly skewed at times but I think I can still attempt a reasonably objective review…

As usual, Picoult employs multiple POV narrative to show the feelings and opinions of all of the main characters, those already mentioned from the Hunt family plus Rich, a policeman and Oliver, the newbie lawyer who ends up defending Jacob in a murder trial. I have read quite a few novels structured this way and I must say that Jodi is the expert in this field, given that she doesn’t confuse the reader and still manages to give you well rounded, extremely believable characters. Even Jacob’s estranged father, who plays a peripheral role, is fleshed out to give us a credible picture of a man living with undiagnosed ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder).

I’ll refrain from giving away anything about the plot and instead focus on the characters. The author has clearly done her research on Aspergers and forensic procedures meticulously. Anyone who has ever met, worked with or lived with someone on the autistic spectrum will readily recognise certain aspects of Jacob’s behaviour – one can’t generalise as every one is individual but I found myself nodding away at some of Jacob’s traits and even recognising the portrait of the mother who is so used to living life in such a rigid routine to keep Jacob placated (certain colours of foods for certain days of the week..) and the other sibling who seems completely left out of the picture as all attention is focused on Jacob.

I only have a couple of slightly negative criticisms – it does seem a bit odd that such a strong, independent woman as Emma falls so quickly for the charms of the first interested party or that the murder investigation isn’t solved very quickly but I guess there would be little room for drama if everything was packaged so neatly. If you’re a fan of detailed mystery/thrillers don’t go searching for holes/inconsistencies as there are probably lots of them so the realistic depiction of Autistic Spectrum Disorder is slightly marred by some incongruous sections but not to the extent that my own reading enjoyment suffered. I also wondered if the attention to detail re Aspergers including a constant stream of anecdotes to explain Jacob’s quirky behaviour might have bored those who aren’t remotely interested in learning about ASD – just a thought which niggled me…

If you’ve already read and enjoyed Jodi Picoult at her best, My Sister’s Keeper, Plain Truth, Nineteen Minutes, you will love House Rules and like me, want to devour it in one or two sessions. If you’re already familiar with Aspergers, you will be pleased that the author hasn’t sensationalised the condition and has created a realistic picture of a young Aspie – if you don’t know much about Aspergers, then you will come away from this book, having learned a great deal and hopefully realise how foreign the allegedly “normal” world seems to Aspies and perhaps be a bit more flexible in your thinking about how we, as a society, treat those who don’t match our behavioural archetype.

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05/08/2010 page 130
24.44% "loving this..."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Heather Great review Treez! I'm just over half way through this and really enjoying it. It is true to JP's style but I think that adds to my enjoyment of it. She's a reliable author who doesn't disapoint.

Teresa Thanks Heather! I think her latest, Sing You Home is even better. :-)

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