Friday, July 2, 2010

Julie's Review: House Rules

Summary: Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject--in his case, forensic analysis. He's always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do...and he's usually right. But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and, for a change, the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger's--not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, flat affect--can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob and his family, who only want to fit in, feel the spotlight shining directly on them. For his mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication of why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder? Emotionally powerful from beginning to end, House Rules looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way--and fails those who don't.

Review: Jodi Picoult is always good for plucking out a current issue and writing a book around the subject. House Rulesis no different as it concentrates on Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum. We are introduced to 18 year old Jacob Hunt who has Asperger's and his family. Emma Hunt is a single mom since her husband walked out after Jacob's initial diagnosis. Theo Hunt is Jacob's younger brother that doesn't know what it's like to act like a younger brother.

While I enjoyed the book, I didn't love it. Believe me as a huge Jodi Picoult fan I wanted to love it. I liked all the characters but I didn't love them. I found Jacob profoundly funny at times and then I found extremely frustrating at others, which is no different that how his mom felt about him. I found the case interesting but I felt that the court case dragged on a bit and unlike most of her books, this ending left me with more questions than answers.

The book follows Picoult's typically successful formula but I don't think it worked as well with this book. Instead of getting a story about a family and their struggles with someone who is different; I felt that at times I was reading a book about Asperger's. Now I know the condition is critical to the story but at times it felt that the symptoms of Asperger's told the story instead of the reverse.

I did like the aspect of the forensic science playing an important part of the story. Jacob could definitely solve crimes but he wouldn't be able to identify with the victim or the victim's family.

I'm hoping that with her next book she moves away from her current formula and tries something new. Don't get me wrong I don't want her to totally abandon her style, maybe just tweak it. You already know that when you start her books and there's a sibling something serious is going on with them as well.

I will keep reading and buying Jodi because I do believe she's a gifted storyteller.

I also want to say that I'm not feeling the cover this time. Jacob is 18 in the novel, yet the boy on the cover seems between 8-10 years old. Doesn't seem to match the story.

Final Take: 3.75/5



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