Thursday, February 17, 2011

House Rules

532 pages
Genre; Fiction
Published March 2nd 2010 by Atria

When your son can’t look you in the eye . . . does that mean he’s guilty?

Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject—forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s 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 why nothing is normal because of Jacob.

And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?

I found House Rules a very enlightening read. I often like to take a break from fantasy and science fiction in order to grab a book from which I can learn something new. House Rules explores the many facets of a kid with Asperger's, who has a kick on forensic science, and Picoult does a great job into weaving a fascinating story around him and his family. Picoult has a simple, clear writing style that made it simple to understand everything that was going on, and she made the plot even more interesting by offering different point of views (of the cop in charge of the case, the lawyer, Jacob's brother...). She made me curious about forensic science, too, and I'm probably going to recommend this book too all my friends and relatives who are in criminology.

Yet, sometimes I felt like I was reading Wikipedia. This was the case often; from when Emma, Jacob's mother explained how life with her son worked, to when all the various doctors and psychologies testified at the trial, I had the impression of reading a Wikipedia article. Yes, I did learn a lot, and I do give credit to Picoult for the extensive amount of research she did on Asperger's, but this is a novel, after all. It goes without saying that these walls of text became repetitive, to the point where I felt comfortable in skipping a few paragraphs of testimony (that blabbered about what the reader already knew about Jacob) just to get to the part where the plot advanced.

I also didn't get attached to the characters, except for Jacob. I consider the other characters as too representative of the generic family members struggling with a handicapped child; in this case a young adult with Asperger's syndrome (such as Emma, by example, who was your typical brave mom who loves her child no matter what or Theo, your typical normal brother who his annoyed by all the hardships that come with a 'defective' sibling, and who just wants a normal life). I didn't see them as characters that stood strongly by themselves. Of course, I consider House Rules more like a book that wants to bring a point across than a poetic tale that you enjoy reading over and over again.

It was definitively an interesting read. Slightly predictable too, but very bright and smart.


Originality: 9
Plot: 8,5
Characters: 7,5
Writing: 8
Cliffhangers: 7,5

House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Rating: 8,1/10

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Paper Girl

376 pages
Published March 31st 2010 by XO Editions
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Originally written in French, translation in English not yet available

"Soaked to the bone and completely naked, she appeared on my lawn in the middle of a stormy night.
'Where do you come from?'
'I fell.'
'Fell from where?'
'I fell from your book. I fell from your story, geez!'"

Tom Boyd, a popular author undergoing a writer's block watches as the protagonist from his
novels arrives in his life. She is pretty, desperate, and she's going to die if he stops writing. Impossible? And yet..

Together, Tom and Billie will experience an extraordinary adventure where reality and fiction become intertwined in order to deliver a seductive but dangerous game.

Musso has a simple yet fluid writing style and offers us here a quick novel that is good when you're on a vacation or in the need of a break. Even if he doesn't stand out as an exceptional author, I must say I enjoyed this novel (the first I read by him) quite a lot. Actually, when thinking of this novel, one word pops out in my mind: Lovely.

This is a funny and romantic road story about an author who struggles with his loss of inspiration and heartbreak, about friends overcoming hardships together and of course, about all kinds of love. Musso weaved together a curious plot that kept me hooked till the very last page and surprised me with a twist I honestly hadn't expected.

His characters are all unique and interesting; Billie, the head strong but troubled woman, Tom the depressed but inspiring author, Milo the foolish yet caring friend and Carole, the sturdy cop that started with nothing but rose to the top. Each of the main characters play an important part of the story, from when they are trying to pull Tom out of his depression to dealing with their own troubles from the past. They reach the reader's heart with their many strengths and faults, and I was slightly reluctant in letting them go.

I found the whole book very touching. It's a wonderful story about how books can change people's lives, and not only those of Tom, Billie, etc. It's an easy quick read that takes you all around the world; from the USA to Mexico, France and Italy. It hasn't yet been translated in English, and I don't know when it will be, but I recommend this book for those who want a cute love story with a bit of mystery and true feelings.

I don't acknowledge Musso as a brilliant author and consider his writing style as bit too simplistic, but he sure knows how to plot.


Originality: 8
Plot: 8,5
Characters: 9,5
Writing: 7
Cliffhangers: 8

The Paper Girl by Guillaume Musso
Rating: 8,2/10