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

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