Thomas Edmund's Reviews > House Rules

House Rules by Jodi Picoult
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's review
Jun 18, 2010

really liked it

The Hunt family has some issues – The eldest son Jacob is an 18 year old man diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, Theo the younger teenage boy is developing a habit of breaking and entering. And Emma a solo Mum tries to hold the family together as best she can with monthly child-support checks and cash from answering an agony aunt column.

I have to admit at first I found House Rules incredibly annoying. I assumed that Piccot had decided to leap on the Asperger’s bandwagon in order to sell another tale of familial hardship. Also I found the constant dithering about dietry suppliments and vaccination scares to irk me. (I am one of those horrible logical scientific people who doesn’t think that autism can be caught of MMR vaccinations – incidentally did anyone else notice the original scientist to claim that was put up on criminal charges?) Adding to my ire was my subconscious mind constantly making comparisons with the brilliant book “The curious incident of the dog in the nightime” Comparatively Jacob’s narration seemed more like an author trying to make an ordinary kid quirky rather than genuine ‘Aspie’ discourse.

I got over this

Sure maybe Jacob isn’t quite as genuine as he could be, and maybe Emma’s ‘mother knows best’ arguments about autism are more about appeasing the scientifically illiterate but when it comes down to it – Emma is a fictional character a very realistic one, not actually the author’s medium for her political opinions (which I am in the bad habit of always assuming) and Jacob is a very high functioning individual, so maybe would be that close to normal.

It’s all too easy to get hung up on small annoyances when reviewing and miss the fact that in this case, Piccot has writen an incredibly compelling novel, with characters who are instantly likable and a plot that is oddly compelling:

Initially (I’m going to discuss impression changes a lot as this is the sort of novel that turns your assumptions on their head) I thought this was possibly going to be the cheesiest novels ever. We were introduced to a teenager with Asperger’s who loved forensics, his divorced mother, and a detective who was also divorced. I’m sure other readers also predicted soppy extended love dialogue while the actual storyline disappeared into the background.

Instead something quite different happened: Jacob is accused of the murder of his social skills tutor – a betrayal by the very cop we thought was going to hook up with mum, and the rest of the novel deals with the affects of this event on Jacob and his family. The main compulsion to turn the page coming from the fact we don’t know what really happened, only that forensics obsessed Jacob had something to do with it.

I do have to say that the ending was a bit of a letdown – something I will discuss as a comment below so that others may avoid the spoiler if they wish, but House Rules is definitely a surprisingly good book and contains a whole education about Asperger’s untainted by any softening often present in the entertainment industry when difficult issues are presented.
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message 2: by Brittany B. (new) - added it

Brittany B. This book is a best seller, but it's reviews don't compell me to read it. Seems like Jodi Picoult hasn't been writing at her best for a while now.Too bad.
Thank you, nice review.

Thomas Edmund Brittany B. wrote: "This book is a best seller, but it's reviews don't compell me to read it. Seems like Jodi Picoult hasn't been writing at her best for a while now.Too bad.
Thank you, nice review."

What earlier ones do you recommend?

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