Becky's Reviews > House Rules

House Rules by Jodi Picoult
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's review
Mar 23, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: library-books, bookclub_work, reviewed, mystery-and-thrillers, highly-recommended, 2012
Recommended to Becky by: Jess

Confession time: I had no intention of ever reading a Jodi Picoult book. To me, her books were pretty much equivalent to Nicholas Sparks' books.* Formula: Mix one part "issue" with one part "sap" and one part "luuuuuurve", then swallow. If nausea occurs, try Pepto to keep it down.
*Sparks' books are still ones that I have no intention of ever reading. I watched 'A Walk to Remember' and 'The Notebook'. That's enough for one lifetime. There's like 50 movies based on his books now or something, and you know they're scraping the bottom of the barrel when Miley Cyrus is the best they can get to star act be filmed in one. *shudder*

So when this was chosen for my bookclub, I wasn't exactly looking forward to it, and prepared myself to be reticent at the next meeting.

Aside from that, I was worried about the portrayal of a teen with Asperger's Syndrome, particularly because the only other book that I've read with an autistic character was very disappointing for me. I couldn't help but mentally compare the two books, and my opinion of that other book was constantly reinforced: it just lacked substance, depth. It was just mediocre. House Rules was anything but mediocre. It was interesting, insightful, informative and fulfilling.

I'm no Asperger's expert, but I thought that the book worked on many different levels at portraying not only the thought processes and behaviors of one who has it, but also of everyone that is affected by it. I felt that Picoult did her homework, and that she presented the traits, and possible causality, fairly and honestly. There are perspectives on whether heredity, or immunizations, or just randomness cause autism to develop, and I liked and appreciated that it was not treated as an excuse to demonize vaccines.

I particularly empathized with Emma and Theo. Their perspectives were so raw and honest that I couldn't help but love them for it. Emma's raised two sons on her own for 15 years - something that is hard enough without throwing autism into the mix. Her whole life has centered around it. She's done everything in her power to give him the best life she can, and if she suffers for it, that's just part of the job.

There were points in Theo's chapters where he'd be thinking something that an outsider would think is horrible, and even berating himself for it, and I would just sit there commending him for the things he didn't say. For example:
"True confession number four: I don't sit around thinking about having kids, nor­mally, but when I do it scares the shit out of me. What if my own son winds up being like Jacob? I’ve already spent my whole childhood dealing with autism; I don’t know if I can handle doing it for the rest of my life."
This is a superficially selfish thought, yes, but then I read the subtext to be that he's assuming he'd be around to take care of any kid of his who has autism. He'd stick it out, not leave like his own father did. He'd try to do the right thing, even if he doubts his abilities to do it. It makes me proud of him, and sad for him, at the same time. Because he's lived on the sidelines of autism for his whole life already. His childhood was constantly colored by the routines and the contingencies and the chaos of his brother's condition. To never have "normality" would have to be a terrifying, daunting thought.

Regarding the mystery aspect, I pegged it pretty quickly - about 30% in. All the clues were there, and it wasn't hard to figure out. But I was still interested to see if I was right, or if there would be some twist, other than the one I predicted, to shock me. I kept being a little frustrated with the investigation too. This kid is extremely literal, and extremely honest. Why did nobody think to just ask him directly? I guess I understand why, honestly, but it was still kind of frustrating. And so for that, I knocked off a star. But the rest of the story, the personal and familial aspects, were fantastic. I loved it.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book, and I will probably be picking up more of Picoult's books now that I know they aren't likely to be tapped for maple syrup anytime soon. ;)
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Reading Progress

March 23, 2012 – Shelved
April 21, 2012 – Started Reading
April 21, 2012 –
page 1
0.19% "Bookclub is in 4 days... Should probably start this one. ;)"
April 21, 2012 –
page 57
10.71% "I'm very surprised by how much I'm liking this already. Interesting..."
April 21, 2012 –
page 131
April 21, 2012 –
page 157
29.51% "Hmmm..."
April 21, 2012 –
page 195
36.65% "Oh shizzle... O_O"
April 21, 2012 –
page 267
April 22, 2012 –
page 425
April 22, 2012 –
page 532
April 22, 2012 – Shelved as: library-books
April 22, 2012 – Shelved as: bookclub_work
April 22, 2012 – Shelved as: reviewed
April 22, 2012 – Shelved as: mystery-and-thrillers
April 22, 2012 – Shelved as: highly-recommended
April 22, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012
April 22, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-19)

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Kathy I'm so glad you liked it, Becky. My younger son, Dylan, is mildly autistic and let me just tell you, she's nailed it. As you put it, she did her homework! I would definitely recommend more of her books. Except earlier on, where she was still trying to find her voice. Songs Of The Hunchback Whale & Mercy were disappointing. Some of my favorites were: My Sister's Keeper, Sing Me Home, The Pact, 19 Minutes, & Second Glance.

message 18: by Maciek (new)

Maciek I bought one of her books on a whim a few years ago, Salem Falls, and surprised myself by really enjoying it. It was a good yarn with a interesting plot - a teacher falsely accused of statuory rape of one of his female students has served time in prison for that, and wants to start a new life in the little town of Salem Falls. It had likable characters and enough suspense to keep me reading to the very end, and the end itself was a surprise. I closed the book and went out to buy a whole bag of her books from the used bookstore. I decided to read her famous book, My Sister's Keeper which was famous because of its subject matter - a teenage girl who was conceived solely as a source of bone marrow for her sick sister wants to stop donating it, and decides to fight for a right to her body. Sounds good?

Well, it wasn't. It was dreadful! It was extremely manipulative in places, and it ends in a way that you would not expect from a serious writer. Seriously, read about it on Wikipedia if you don't want to read the book. I also read Mercy, which I thought was like a maudlin TV movie and left no impression. I still have some of her books waiting to be read, but now I'm not in a hurry to do so.

Kathy I'm sorry you didn't like My Sister's Keeper, Maciek. I liked Salem's Falls, too, but it wasn't my favorite.

message 16: by Maciek (new)

Maciek Aw, Kathy, don't worry. I did like Salem's Falls a lot because it was the first book by her that I've read. I still have some on my shelf that I will eventually get to.

message 15: by M (new) - rated it 3 stars

M I did think this was a cut above her usual, as a Piccoult critic myself, but I will just warn you that she is very formulaic and reading more of hers will wear thin, whereas this one was not only better than most of her others but also part of her formula that you mind less if it's the first book of hers that you read.

Becky Marg, reading other reviews, I think you're probably right. As a first book, the format and style worked... as a 10th, probably not so much. ;)

message 13: by Stefanie (new)

Stefanie Gotta agree with marg (as I usually do!). I loved the first 4-5 picoult books I read, but beyond that they literally became unreadable to me.

Natalya Cannot stand Sparks neither, but I do love a Picoult once in a while, although she does drive me crazy with her sappy metaphors, of which there are noticeably less of in her latest books (like House Rules that I just read)

Alexis I feel as if I don't need to review this book as everything you said are my thoughts exactly - never intended to read picoult but received it as a gift... I really liked it. Not sure if I'll read any other picoult though, kind of want to keep this one as special in my head! Good review :-)

message 10: by Adri (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adri Known fact about Nicholas Sparks is he made the The Last Song after the movie was made with Miley Cyrus. He and Miley Cyrus wanted to work with eachother so He wrote the screen play to the movie then later he wanted to have a book the come out with the movie so he created the book. Other than that Both Picoult and Sparks to me personally are great writers and after a while I agree that they would become unreadable.

Becky I did not know that. It doesn't improve my opinion, though. It may actually be worse...

message 8: by Kendall (new) - added it

Kendall Jodi Picoult is nothing at all like Nicholas Sparks, in my opinion. Her books really show you the truth of people and how they really are, as opposed to Sparks' formula of sap+issue+luuuurrrrrve. Jodi Picoult even talks about how dislike of Nicholas Sparks' novels (and him, for that matter) in an interview.

message 7: by Bridgetgirl (new) - added it

Bridgetgirl I cannot stomach Sparks but highly recommend The Storyteller by JP.

message 6: by Wayne (new) - added it

Wayne Blackburn what bothers me most about this novel is Theo.. Nobody really gives a s*** about this kid and I mean nobody his mom ignores you mistreating him even basically wants him to be her servant without complaint and time and time again basically sold them off like a f****** field n***** Asus Prime and then have some f****** nerve the wanted to say thank you and may I have some more

Becky Let it out, Wayne. Let it allllll out.

message 4: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Simmons I never could get into N. Sparks books, also

Belle Stephensen If you're looking for a great Picoult then I'd recommend Perfect Match!

message 2: by Mary (new) - added it

Mary Ann Try My Sisters Keeper.

Kristin I loved it. I thought the aspergers was on the extreme end but after reading Kathy's review ("spot on") I am stunned. I thought Jacobs behavior extreme, but honestly, I can't say I've ever experienced time with a truly autistic person. I also wondered why Jacob wasn't asked outright but then the story might end there-maybe. Jacob was playing a game in his own mind. That was frightening but I appreciated the twist. Autistic or not, humans are inventive. It's a favorite read/listen.

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