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THIS IS NOT MY FIRST NOVEL BY JODI PICOULT. Her books are always a delight to read, and this novel has the best plot gauging it from my previous readings such as of My Sister's Keeper, Perfect Match and Second Glance.
House Rules is an engaging novel that allows readers to understand the emotional and psychological conditions that confront the characters which is very effective to get the interest of finishing the book (I think so...). Initially, for the first 100 pages of the book, I was tempted to temporary abandoned reading it. But then reaching the middle part of the book, my enthusiasm is building-up considering that I initially did some preliminary conclusions of what happened to Jess' disappearance/death; consequently I found out that, well almost 100 percent I got it right! At that point of my initial assessment of the events, I jumped to the conclusion that Picoult is not clever enough to sustain the suspense element of the story that I was able to predict the outcome of the investigation.
On the other hand, Picoult is perfectly intelligent enough to motivate her readers to bring their own initial investigations and validated at the end of the story. The focal point of the story is whether a person suffering from Asperger's syndrome can be convicted of a crime or can be acquitted because the suspect is not capable to validate that his action is right or wrong? As the story progresses, I cant resist to do my own judgment from the evidence presented, and Picoult perfectly crafted the story in such a way that readers, like myself who does not have any background in forensic or criminal investigations will embark and hold on to find the truth! Unfortunately, Picoult did not explicitly described the outcome or the verdict but somehow readers will have their own interpretations...maybe acquittal or conviction.
The criminal process somehow validates my on-going personal discovery about American justice system. Currently, I do regular readings on this subject matter as part of a personal assistance to my cousin's university degree in Criminal Justice and Picoult did well to convince me about the judicial proceedings without going to the real trials. Not only the technical aspect of coming-up with the conviction, but most importantly, Picoult provided an excellent argument to look at, not only the justice system but also the physical, financial, emotional and psychological impacts to the parties involved. Specifically, the author brings a new dimension of bringing these vulnerable offenders or those with disabilities into trial that could bring "reforms" or challenges to the current criminal system. With my final note, Picoult also wanted to confront us and stir our values and principles especially for those families or individuals who are facing the same dilemma of bringing their loved ones with disabilities that cause a long term effect to the carers which is the hardest thing to accept!
HONESTLY, I was a little bit disappointed of the pacing of the story in the few pages of the book. But Picoult has her own way of presenting the characters which quite effective to fully understand each of the personality involved in the story. If you have already read some of her books, you understand what I am saying here. Normally I want variations of presenting the plot even with the same authors, and this is the reason why I tried to avoid much of Picoult's stories. But in fairness, I like finishing some of Picoult's novels is that she encouraged readers to interact with her, through her "Reading Guide" presented at the end of the book. Being a part-time academician, this kind of book presentation will encourage educators to bring her stories in the classrooms or any debate for that matter.
Note: This is the revised version of my original review posted in my personal website.
Jacob has aspergers syndrome. His Mother, Emma lives for his every move, providing care and constant research into his condition to try to help him make the most of life. She has had to manage alone with help from her other Son, Theo when her husband could not cope with Jacobs condition and left when Jacob was a child. Her medical insurance does not help much either so she has a constant financial struggle to provide the diet, vitamins and personal tutoring she thinks he desperately needs, but has to pay for. All in all, life is a battle. But Emma lives for her children and the joy that they bring in their own way - jacob with his special ways and personality, and Theo giving what he can from a teenagers point of view. Between the two of them, they get into a bit of a pickle and it ends up with Jacob being charged with murder. In a world where people don't understand Aspergers and the traits that identify it, make him look guilty. He cannot express himself very well and its up to newly qualified lawyer, Oliver to make him understood, and get a verdict of not guilty...
Like all Jodi Picolt books, this is another dilemma. You realise that because of Jacobs disability there is no way he would be able to cope in prison, but if he committed murder, he needs to be punished. But then there is culpability because how much does he understand, and does he have remorse..? This book throws up so many questions and dilemmas, and it is really insightful into aspergers syndrome, well researched and well written. Gripping from beginning to end.
This is a review of the 2010 book "House Rules" by Jodi Picoult. I have read many books by this author but I think, perhaps, this has been my favourite read of hers yet.
A bit about
In "House Rules" we follow, Jacob, an 18 year old with Asperger's which is on the Autism scale. He is Emma's Son and Theo's brother. They live together and deal with the various issues Jacob's Asperger's present. He wears only certain coloured clothes on certain days, and eats only certain coloured food on a given day (eg. Brown Thursday). Jacob manages to attend mainstream school with a pass for sensory breaks when he needs a break from the world. Jacob's main obsession is Crime Scene Investigation and forensics. His interest gets him into trouble when he uses a police scanner to turn up at crime scenes to examine the evidence and give his verdict (usually right).
Emma is a good Mum who struggles with her lot in life but has an unquestionable amount of love for Jacob and Theo. She puts herself last every time. Oliver is the lawyer she hires to defend Jacob who is up on a murder charge and there is a definite spark between Emma and Oliver. Rich is the Police Officer who arrests Jacob for the murder yet there is a definite streak of sympathy that shows in his character. Other than that there are a few other characters mentioned like Jacob and Theo's Dad who is off the scene and Mama who owns the Italian restaurant under Oliver's office.
As I said above, this is potentially the best book I have read by Picoult (although I have a few on the shelves yet to read!). I found the information behind Jacob's Asperger's really interesting and it highlighted the difficulties parents have when coping with these kids who are seemingly emotionless but are extremely intelligent and have a lot going on under the surface.
The chapters are all narrated by different characters, which makes for interesting reading and lots of different angles on the story. The whodunnit ending is kept mysterious right until the end although I had guessed what had happened earlier in the book but it was nice to have it confirmed! Picoult's insight into Jacob when narrating is truly amazing. Writing in the style of an autistic 18 year old boy can not have been an easy feat but she manages it comfortably.
I would certainly recommend this book and the fact that it is 600 pages makes it last just that little bit longer! I read my copy for around a week and really looked forward to bath times and bed time when I would get a good long uninterrupted read. I always make time for reading as it relaxes me and I learn a lot from it. This book was excellent and a great murder mystery on top of the underlying story.
Having already been a huge jodi picoult fan i was reminded exactly why after reading this book...
It is basically about the plight of a single mother named emma who's son jacob displays all the symptoms of a neorological condition and is diagnosed with aspergerges which is on the autistic spectrum.
Emma has to come to terms with this and battles with her own emotions, her son jacob is accused of a murder and emma struggles with her guilt as she wonders weather he is capable of doing such a crime and not knowing 100% if the odd behaviousr of her son displays are that of a guilty conscience when the behaviours are also classic symptoms of his aspergers syndrome.
As a mother she will always do her best to help her son even if she doubts him herself.
I do not want to give too much away within the storyline as this will ruin the read for a future bookworm but i have given a basic outline, this book is an amazing read and i have recommended it to everyone i know, i can relate to this book directly as i have a son with aspergers myself and this book is beautifully written in a very true light but also in a sensitive mannor and certainly an eye opener for those who have never had any experience with aspergers.
I really felt the depths of the charachters and the predicaments they were placed in, reading this book makes you think "what would you do?" this is a fantastic read which has drama, dilema, suspence, moral complexity and insightfulness.
I finished reading this book within two days and found i was gripped and could not put it down, this is definitely jodi picoult at her absolute best and an essential read for everyone, it is certainly one of my favourite ever read books, the predicament and charachters lingered with me for a long time after finishing the book and not all authors have the ability to really get you into the minds of their charachters as if you had known them forever, jodi picoult is a very talented authour who knows exactly how to do this.
The Hunt family might not appear that unusual nowadays, a single mum struggling to bring up two teenage sons on one wage and some child support is a sad fact of modern society, but this family have more than their fair share of problems, for Jacob Hunt, eldest son of Emma and brother to Theo has a neurological disorder, he's got Asperger's Syndrome, a condition that's on the same scale as Autism. This is a condition that doesn't affect his normal health but sets him apart from the majority of society since his brain works in a different way to most 'normal' people.
You may well question what is 'normal' and certainly this book goes a long way to posing and answering questions about that word. The story though is about what happens when a young man with a different way of viewing the world finds himself charged with the crime of murdering his social skills tutor, Jess Ogilvy. The circumstances lead initially to suspicion being cast on Jess's boyfriend Mark, who could be violent at times. He was possibly the last person to see her alive and some physical evidence does point to him, despite it being Mark who reported her missing from the house they both slept in.
When Jess's body is found wrapped in a patterned quilt in a culvert nearby Emma recognizes it straight away, the quilt is Jacob's. She doesn't stop to think but calls the police who question Jacob and appear to get a confession from him. However, Jacob's body language and social skills are not to be relied on as evidence of murder and Emma hires a young lawyer, Oliver, to help her son.
My Thoughts on the story.
Jodi Picoult is excellent at setting up such dilemmas especially when it involves a question of applying different ways of looking at how the justice system works in America. There's no doubt that she knows her subject and has personal knowledge of Aspergers as well as researching the subject in depth. Many of her books question how society perceives certain subjects and reacts to them, allowing the reader to question such things for themselves. But apart from that she is a mistress of the art of characterization and getting her characters to speak for herself. She does this by keeping her chapters reasonably short and having each character give their side of the story.
This is especially important in this book since Jacob's condition is one that few of us have any knowledge off. I've met a few people who have Asperger's and found it hard to explain how different they are since some with the same high IQ as Jacob has makes it impossible to look on them as different to us. Picoult even goes to great lengths to explain through verbalization how such people feel and how difficult it is for them to relate to others.
The mother, Emma, helps control her son's behavior by dietary supplements and by keeping a list of 'House Rules.' Many ordinary children benefit from having boundaries but for people like Jacob rules are never to be broken and this, along with staying within time constraints, helps him to cope with life. Take away those safeguards and he has what the author calls 'meltdowns' where his behavior becomes bizarre, his hands flapping, his senses overstimulated, and he starts to scream and behave like a child having a tantrum. Since the character of Jacob is eighteen, this looks even more bizarre and appears to be violent behavior. It doesn't make things easier since Picoult gives her character a passion for crime programmes which makes him seem far too knowledgeable about crime.
Personally I found this very enlightening and enjoyed the case histories that Jacob writes up in his notebooks. In these he shows an understanding of the nature of humor even if he can't actually understand jokes. I also liked the way he looked out for his younger brother Theo, another house rule, 'look after your brother, he's the only one you have.' I thought Theo a complex character that possibly acted more mixed up at times than Jacob and led to some misunderstandings. But the interaction with the brothers, the mother and the absent father, all helped to bring the story to life.
Setting the scene.
Picoult always brings a touch of romance into her stories and in this we have two contenders for Emma's affections, the policeman, Rich and the lawyer, Oliver. Both boys show a marked hostility to both of them and this poses a question on how do people with Aspergers feel emotionally?
Theo needs to see his real father, even though he never knew him after he walked out of their lives when Theo was a baby. In this he shows some rivalry with Jacob, who remembers his father briefly. Then there are Emma's emotions to contend with. Has she set a rod for her own back by the House Rules she sets her boys. The narrative questions the outcome of this.
We get to see all the family through the eyes of Oliver's narration and that of the court sessions. While various witnesses strive to explain Aspergers syndrome we can follow this and even attempt to question whether any of the characters are hiding behind the definitions of Jacob's disability. I liked the way that Emma called Jacob's actions his 'quirks' rather than a disability but then thought it a bit unfair that she wanted to play the 'disability' card to keep him out of jail.
I really enjoyed the book, not just as a story that made me think about the questions it posed. That did make it more interesting but I would have enjoyed it anyway. Something about the family dynamics gave it an edge to other thrillers, though this isn't a real thriller as much as a detective novel. It's a shame then that I did guess the identity of the criminal early on. I found the ending was enough for me, although I can see why other readers might have wanted a proper ending. Somehow I feel that would have detracted from the story, but it's a personal preference.
If you feel that the subject matter might be too daunting then I'd say consider this as a story about a murder where two boys get drawn it by not just their relationship to the victim but to their own relationship. For me I didn't see a lot different to ordinary sibling rivalry with the difference that one child could be damaged by it permanently. I wondered who was looking out for whom?
If you read this and enjoy it or it poses more questions you might also be interested in further reading matter, which is given by the author at the end of the book. I'd certainly recommend 'The curious incident of the dog in the night-time' by Mark Haddon.
My copy of this book was a charity shop find which gives me a growing library of this author's books. You can buy this used on Amazon from about 25p plus postage.
Book length: Approx 600 pages.
Thanks for reading my review.
Having read all of Jodi Picoult's books, I have found a few hard to get into and most completely un-put-downable. This one falls into the latter.
It's hard to live up to the public's expectations when you write some brilliant books like Picoult has such as My Sisters Keeper, andything less than that is almost a failure. This book though is one of the best I've read from one of my favourite author for a long time. It's interesting and gripping from the word go as you enter the world of a young boy with Aspergers Syndrome. There is also a who dunnit murder mystery which keeps you reading to the end.
The story follows Jacob, his mother and brother as they cope with his Autism and the death of his tutor, which is subsequently tried for. Picoult has researched into this very well as always, almost making you feel like she was there as it unfolded. I suppose I have a personal link to this also as my sister was diagnosed as having Autistic tendencies at a young age and it is nice to see it was researched and not just guessed.
I would definately recommend this book, and in fact most of her others for anyone how want a gripping read and to be sucked into a book.
At first glance this book is thick, a big chunk of a book. You may think, it will take me ages to get through that, I cant be bothered reading it its so big...think again!
This book is AMAZING! Its 600 pages, yet I read it in 2 days! Revising for my degree came second as this book totally gripped me from page one and I couldn't put it down. I didn't want to do anything except sit in my chair and read it, hours passed and I was so engrossed in this book.
I haven't read anything by Jodi Picoult before but I believe this book illustrates her exceptional skill as an author.
The book is about a mother, her autistic son who may have killed someone, his brother and the lawyer who gets drafted in. Its very thought provoking as it's written in the first person by all of the main characters so you really get inside the autistic boy's mind. We also see life through the brothers eyes, what it's like having an autistic brother and the love/hate relationship they have. Credit to the author for her thorough research into Aspergers Syndrome and its associated behaviours.
She gives nothing away until right at the end where you really can't read fast enough.
100% recommend this book. Read it and you will agree.
I received this book as a Christmas gift; I've taken a passing interest in Jodi Picoult (well I've read a few synopsis's of her books and figured they might turn out to be quite interesting!) but this is the first book I've read of hers. It's pretty hefty at 603 pages (maybe not the best one to 'break me in' with!) and tells the story through each of its main characters which gives you a rounded view of the situation as it is perceived by Jacob Hunt - the main character of this book whose interest in forensic science and turning up at crime scenes leads him to a potential murder conviction of his own, as well as his younger brother Theo, his mother Emma and others such as the police officer who brings him in (Rich) and Oliver a rookie lawyer who takes on the case despite being completely out of his depth.
---The Plot (without spoilers - the back of the book says all of this!)---
Jacob Hunt is an 18 year old; he has been diagnosed with Asperger's and though incredibly intelligent, lacks the capacity to relate to others and socially interact. As a result, his mother has centred her world around helping her child to access the world, helping him with a private social skills teacher and by working the world around him to function in a way he can cope with i.e. food is colour coded according to the day of the week, strict routines and a tailored diet and dealing with his meltdowns. His brother Theo feels the crunch of coming second to this and acts out in his own way.
His obsession with forensic science (he sets up crime scenes in his own home!) and the disappearance of his social skills teacher at the time when he was meant to be seeing her starts off a catalogue of events which points the finger at Jacob. Aside from this, lacking social skills and acting in a way which indicates guilt - lack of emotion, eye contact and inappropriate behaviour which can be attributed to his Aspergers, he appears guilty and with a whole world of people who don't understand him, the odds are against him.
I found this book a bit of a slog to get through. I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to reading so it was great that the chapters were small, taken from each characters perspective so I could keep up with what was happening as often, the next characters thoughts and actions will relate to the previous one (which I may have read a night or two ago).
I found this an interesting, informative read. The 'case studies' of murders I found interesting - obviously intended as a branch of Jacob's psyche, but all the same they helped to stir my thoughts on what actually happened and who was guilty. I found it interesting hearing things from different perspectives and thought that this was done well. Most chapters were left on a cliffhanger which another character responded to and especially towards the end of the book, I really wanted to read on.
I had previously read 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time' by Mark Haddon which is written solely from the perspective of a boy with autism and how he perceives the world - I found it a real eye opener; to see the world from a different perspective and I enjoyed this single perspective MORE than I did the fragmented one although in order to build tension and suspense, it needed to be broken up between characters. There were so many incidences where the 'truth' nearly came out that I did get a bit frustrated - if I'm in his mind then why doesn't he just say what he saw?! For someone who takes the world literally, I would prefer to know a bit more instead of being taken around the houses but again, that would have destroyed the whole build up of tension and I'm glad in some ways that it was strung out like it was!
The cons for me were the incessant readdressing of Asperger's - the analogies from both Jacob and Emma which occurred frequently. I get it - you cannot break the social barriers. Whilst it was useful at the start to really build a context and understand how dehabillitating Asperger's can be, I felt like everything that was said throughout the novel was done so repeatedly and was then regurgitated through the court proceedings and therefore I had to hear it all again. I found it more interesting having those issues that Jacob is faced with listed then having them drip fed and every character who hasn't met Jacob to then react in a surprised manner. It was just repetitive.
I also found the characters a little...draining. I liked Jacob and I liked Theo. Emma I didn't like - she's meant to write an advice column for a local newspaper as a means of income but the examples of her work that suddenly keep cropping up at the start of her chapters towards the end of the novel (not a pattern that ran through the novel or was welcomed when it did appear) were poor and made her less believable. They were meant to add a touch of humour but I felt that they were trying too hard - and any one who wrote so little and such rubbish would definitely not be employed to contribute to a regular column and get paid for it. There was also a very cheesy line that stuck out to me at the start of the novel - either from Rich or Oliver about how they imagined the woman who wrote the advice column for their local paper to be - fantasying and saying they were attracted to her and the things she said...this was left to die and also seemed very far fetched for a woman who obviously contributes utter tripe to have a profound impact on any one. Then coincidently crops up in their lives almost instantaneously. Too obvious that Picoult was trying to draw tentative links between the characters but this appeared pretty unlikely. I don't think any profound thoughts about Dear Deidre - "Wow. I bet she's a intelligent, stunning woman in real life.". No folks.
Despite my dislike of Emma, I would say overall this is a good book but needs some pace injected. I felt like the storyline progressed at a snails pace because one episode in Jacobs life would then need to be relived through the thoughts of at least 2 others and really the most exciting bit was the last 150 pages and then I was gripped and didn't want to leave the story.
The ending, not so much an anti-climax and seemed a reasonable way to end but something in my heart of hearts saw it coming and I swear it was hinted at by someone involved in the situation but never directly addressed. I felt like it closed in probably the only way it could although having been invested in 150 pages worth of court proceedings, I felt like they robbed me on the end - I wanted to know what would happen in that situation and how it would be dealt with. I wanted to know the expressions of those in the trial and how it came to a close.
I also felt that as a mother, or brother of someone on trial for murder KNOWING that my brother does not have the capacity to lie and can only tell the truth (a fact reiterated a billion times) I would have turned and said "Tell me exactly what happened." I know this would have dramatically shortened the book but considering as a parent you would NEED to know for your own peace of mind, and the weight placed on Jacob's inability to lie, I felt the scenario was really diluted and dragged out when in reality no mother would have ever let this carry on for this long without knowing. Also making a point of saying he answers everything literally led to questions being asked which required rephrasing in order to get more information, which the character avoided doing to leave you with more questions that answer. The character has an inner monologue about what this could mean instead of asking Jacob for details.
Worth a read but needs your full attention - and good humour - to fully appreciate.
I first discovered Jodi Picoult a few years ago when her novel, Perfect Match was mentioned to me by a family friend. Whilst it certainly left an impression and moved me to read much of her other work, it wasn't until House Rules fell into my possession that I began to recommend her as one of my favourite authors.
The first thing that hits me whenever I pick up one of Ms Picoult's novels is the extensive time and effort that has obviously gone into researching her central social topic, and House Rules is no exception to this. Her work is free of the exaggerated, stereotypical opinions that too often find their way into human interest novels, and instead portrays a realistic and often brutally open window into those areas of life that the majority of us never have to face. In this case Picoult takes an education into the many facets of an Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis, from tantrums to resentful siblings to the sweet, intelligent boy that just wants to fit in, and intertwines it with the heart-breaking moments of a mother's life as she is faced with the possibility that her son is a cold-hearted killer. And she does it well.
Much the same as Picoult's other novels, House Rules is one of those books that you just can't put down, her style is fluent and strong and each chapter left me wanting more. Like the best whodunits, guessing the identity of the killer fairly early on means nothing as Picoult's skilful way of revealing each side of the story gave doubts as to who it was, right up until the very end.
'Your son is accused of murder...You fear he might be guilty...What would you do?
I had this book for a Christmas present from one of my friends, having previously only read one Jodi Picoult book (My Sister's Keeper, which is definitely better than the film) I thought I'd save this book to read when I was on holiday, especially as it is very thick! However I must have been bored at the time because I started to read it, and then I just couldn't put it down!
The story is based around a son who has Asperger's syndrome, and the family's struggles and triumphs in dealing with what daily life can bring.
The story is written through each person's perspective, like they are narrating their own story, with their own thoughts included. I sometimes feel that this type of writing would be able to confuse the reader more easily, as there were times in the book, where I had to go back to check who each character was.
I found this story really opens your eyes to the issues surrounding Asperger's, previous to reading this story I did not have much insight into this condition, and Jodi Picoult makes sure that there is enough information around the condition that will help the reader understand this issue more. She also uses a lot of legal vocabulary which I must admit some if it did go straight over my head!
Jacob is an 18 year old male who has asperger's syndrome, he was diagnosed from an early age and has overcome many stumbling blocks throughout his childhood, he attends a high school where he is allowed special passes when he needs time out. He lives with his Mother Emma who is a single mother to both Jacob and his younger brother Theo. She is only able to work from home and works as a columnist for a magazine, reading and answering people's problems, 'Dear Aunty Em..' .
Jacob takes everything very literally which is a symptom of Asperger's syndrome which is a reason as to way he finds social situations and communication extremely difficult. Jacob and Theo's Dad left when they were both very young. Emma is the only one who knows how to deal with Jacob and is able to calm him down. The only friend which Jacob has is Jess, a student who comes to help Jacob with his social skills. Theo, Jacob's younger brother always see's himself as the older brother as it is he who has to look after Jacob rather than the other way round. We get to know Theo in this story and learn about how Jacob's difficulties affect the whole family. Even though there is angst between the two brothers, we definitely get to see 'brotherly love'.
To help Jacob, Emma has House Rules which they have to follow, these include:
1.Clean up your own messes.
2. Tell the truth
3.Brush your teeth twice a day.
4.Don't be late for school.
5. Take care of your brother, he's the only one you've got.
Jacob lives religiously by these rules, which becomes evident throughout the story.
A part of Asperger's syndrome is becoming fixated on different things, the main fixation which this story revolves around is Jacobs fixation with Criminal Investigation and Crime Scenes. This proves to be both a positive and negative when Jacob becomes accused of murder.
We see a mum's struggle to believe her son when evidence and other people turn against him. This is definitely an emotional story.
Other characters in this story include Rich, a local policeman who becomes involved in the families life following tragic events in the story. Oliver, a young newly qualified lawyer who tries his best by the family. Mark Maguire, Jess's not so nice boyfriend, who belittles Jacob publicly to Jess's annoyance.
From writing this review so far it all feels very doom and gloom which is not the case, there are some very funny and light hearted moments which definitely enhance the story. There is a lot of detailed information in this story which without reading the story will seem very random, but you do learn a lot of interesting yet strange facts- 'It takes the average man thirteen minutes to eat his dinner'.
I really did enjoy reading this story and it definitely kept me gripped....however I hate to admit it, I did not like the ending of the story. It seems like a huge anti climax and was very disappointing. I think the ending could have been so much better, and even though the story is a long one anyway, an extra chapter may have done the story more justice. I do still recommend this story even with the disappointing ending as it truly is a fascinating read.
Author: Jodi Picoult- www.jodipicoult.co.uk
Publisher (UK): Hodder & Stoughton (2010)
National autism society- www.nas.org.uk
House Rules is the latest offering from Jodie Picoult, who I have to admit is one of my favourite authors. She is also the best selling author of seventeen books in total. The most well known being my sister's keeper which in 2009 became a popular film staring Alec Baldwin and Cameron Diaz.
Picoult always picks very interesting and sometimes difficult subjects for the heart of her novels and house rules is no exception.
It is the story of Jacob Hunt an eighteen year old who is diagnosed with Aspergers, a condition at the top most end of the autism spectrum. This leads Jacob and his family to have to live life a little differently to most other familes. Jacob's aspergers traits are wide ranging and many things can cause him to have a meltdown, which to outsiders can look similar to a childish tantrum, complete with screaming and lashing out.
These traits range from his inability to look you in the eye, hatred of the colour orange, an oversensitivity to noise, light and touch and a problem dealing with any changes in his routine. These include having to watch his favourite tv show crimebusters at exactly 4.30pm sharp every day and having colour coded meals on certain days.
Despite his issues in communicating with others, Jacob is a bright young man with a high I.Q and a photographic memory. He also has an obsession with crime Scene investigation, how the work is done and what it takes to solve crimes.
Jacob's mother Emma has taken to working from home so as she can be there full time for Jacob as well as for his brother Theo, who unintentionally is often pushed into the background while allowances are made for Jacob.
One day Emma's life is set to spin when she hears that Jacob's social studies tutor Jess has been reported missing, but this is only the beginning of the problems for the Hunt family. When Jess's body is found and there is irrefutable evidence that Jacob was somehow involved with her murder.
Is there any way Emma could imagine Jacob being guilty? What can she do to help her vulnerable son?
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and found myself devouring it in three long sittings. As someone who has some knowledge of Asperger's I found that Picoult handled this issue very well.
I loved the parts of the book written from Jacob's perspective, where you do get an insight into how someone suffering from Asperger's deals with the differences between their way of seeing things and how others see them.
The family dynamic was interesting and I really felt sorry for Emma as she did what she thought was best for her son and even though she had given up a lot to make sure he had the best help she could get to have as normal a life as he could. She never got any thanks for it. She also never once complained about what life dealt her and to me that is the true love of a parent. One who loves and supports their child regardless of any differences they may have to other children.
The more I read about Jacob I personally couldn't believe he was involved in Jess's murder, I found myself hoping that things would work out and couldn't stop reading as I wanted to know how the Jury would decide, I wanted to know what would happen with Jacobs future. I think that's the sign of a fantastic book, when you relate so much to the characters in it that you can't stop reading as you want to know what happens to them.
ISBN - 9780340979075
PAGES - 603
As far as I'm aware, this is Jodi Picoult's latest book release, and it's the fifth one of hers that I've read in total. Like the majority of her books, there is a moral thread running through the story. The plot revolves largely around Jacob, a teenager who suffers from an autism-related condition called Asperger's Syndrome who struggles to communicate effectively with the outside world and who is prone to refusing eye contact, fidgeting and looking at the ground ... all of which make him look extremely guilty in the eyes of the police when his tutor, Jess, goes missing and is later found dead. He repeatedly protests his innocence but much of the evidence points to his involvement and the police are determined that his condition means that he doesn't or can't act in a rational manner. Is he lying, or telling the truth?
That question is slowly but surely revealed over the course of the book and the truth only emerges right at the end, so there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing. Personally, I changed my mind on multiple occasions, blaming a variety of characters for Jess' demise and I'll admit that I was somewhat surprised about the eventual outcome of how events unfolded but when you've got the benefit of having read the whole book, you can look back in hindsight and see some clues that didn't seem like it at the time. Picoult kept my interest throughout the story with subtle revelations and red herrings. This was no mean feat really as I was starting to find the court cases and trials that repeatedly crop up in her books monotonous and tedious on the whole.
The story unfolds through the eyes of the key characters: Jacob, Emma (Jacob's confused and shocked mother who obviously doesn't want to believe that her son could be capable of murder and knows how his typical behaviour could be assumed as guilt), Theo (Jacob's brother), Oliver (the lawyer that Emma hires to defend Jacob) and Rich (the police officer assigned to the case). It's a first person narrative so there's a lot of scope for getting to know the characters in-depth. Most of the characters are likeable but it took me most of the book to decide whether I liked or disliked Jacob with the thought of "did he do it?" burrowing away at the back of my mind. The final revelation at the end of the book swayed me one way or the other.
What really gripped me with this book was the idea that actions and behaviour can make all the difference when it comes to deciding whether a person could be capable of such an act or not. It's not just evidence that puts Jacob in the frame for Jess's murder. The behaviour that he demonstrates on a daily basis as a by-product of his autism disorder starts to look very incriminating indeed and it's easy to see how an innocent person could be framed for something that they didn't do. I'm not implying that this was the case was Jacob as evidence doesn't favour him and the police were not alone in their conviction that he was the murderer - this crept into my mind on many an occasion and various characters begin to wonder as much too - but it highlights some disturbing possibilities in real life.
As a final note, I was impressed with the portrayal of Jacob. I don't profess to know much at all about autism disorders but he came across as very real and believable, which is a credit to the author's ability to research and really immerse herself in her characters (especially the ones that are very prominent parts of the plot).
To sum things up briefly, I'd definitely recommend this book if you're a fan of Jodi Picoult's work in general - even if (like me) you've been tiring of her recurrent court cases as this is an added thread to the story here about whodunnit. This is one of her better books in my opinion but it's not one that I'd read again, purely because it would lose most of its impact once you know the outcome.
As a big Jodi Picoult fan I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. It reads as obsessively as the others sucking you into a world of someone else's problems. What I love most about her books are the moral dilemmas they present and present without much bias. This allows the reader to form there own answers...or accept that there is not right answer. This book does not let you down. Well written and above all well researched it is a comfortable flowing read. I would not say that it is one of her best books however as there is not as much depth to the moral dilemmas. The plot, though believable, hangs crucially on one unasked question which was very frustrating. However the book is well worth a read for the world it presents of families living with a disability or is that a superability? Definitely a must have for Jodi Picoult fans.
Although I am a big fan, I seem to have taken a bit of a break from reading Jodi Picoult books lately. That was until I read 'House Rules' which is a brilliantly absorbing read and has reminded me just why I love this author's books so much. It is quite a long read with over 550 pages and quite emotional and disturbing in places, so if you decide to read it, you should make sure that you are prepared for the long haul!
Jacob Hunt is an eighteen year old boy who has been diagnosed with Asbergers syndrome and his mum, Emma, has devoted her life to caring for him and trying to ensure that he is integrated into society as much as possible. That's not easy when Jacob finds it hard to communicate and does not 'get' much of the accepted behaviour that helps to make society tick! That is why Emma enlists the help and support of Jess, who becomes Jacob's personal social skills tutor. All Emma's time and money is spent on helping Jacob but what she does not realise is that her younger son Theo is being neglected and as a consequence is exhibiting some quite anti-social behaviour. This is all background that the reader learns very early on in the book before one tragic day that will have a profound effect on all of their lives.
Jess goes missing and is found dead after a few days. All the evidence points towards Jacob especially as he is unable to explain many strange things. Inspector Rich Matson is the police officer collecting the evidence against him and Oliver Bond is the lawyer whom Emma employs to defend Jacob. Time heads on towards a court case but did Jacob really kill Jess and if so, is insanity his only defence?
House Rules really is a gripping book that poses a lot of questions especially as far as Aspergers sufferers are concerned. I didn't really know that much about this condition before so I found it quite compelling and heartbreaking to read about it (albeit only fiction) and I couldn't help wondering how I would cope as a mother in similar circumstances. It's also interesting to note that the reason that the novel is entitled 'House Rules' is because that is what Jacob (and as a consequence, all his family) live by. Rules and routine are both very important so it is most distressing when, due to the circumstances of Jess's death, these have to be disregarded or disobeyed.
I also love reading about court cases and probably almost half the book is dedicated to the time of the trial so I was really in my element. A lot of the court action is related to the reader and this really helps one to feel as if they are actually there following what is going on.
There are five main characters in the story - Jacob, Emma, Theo, Rich and Oliver - and they all take turns at telling the story. You might think that this could be a little confusing especially as the only indication of who is the narrator is the name at the start of the chapter, but surprisingly it isn't. Only once or twice at the start did I need to check back about who was telling the story, but not at all as I got more and more engrossed in the tale. This use of different first person narrators seems to be one of Jodi Picoult's trademarks and it really helps the reader to get a feel for and to know the most important characters. All of these characters felt very real, and with the family members in particular, I couldn't help but sympathise with them. All three are having to follow a life that they would not have chosen and the fallout at times is quite devastating. I really felt for Theo who's needs are pretty much overlooked altogether and although he is younger, he has to take on the roles and responsibilities of the older brother.
'House Rules' really is an absorbing and gripping read. I found it impossible to predict what was going to happen and this is important to me as a reader. I don't like books to be too predictable. Also, although it is along book by my standards (550 pages) I read it in a relatively short space of time because I just didn't want to put it down.
I feel sure that if you are a fan of Jodi Picoult's books you will love 'House Rules' as it has all of the ingredients for a perfect read. It is obviously very well researched; it has a gripping and thought provoking story line and it has wonderful characters. I loved it and I will now definitely read the few Picoult books that I have not read yet.
House Rules is still only available in hard cover (June 2010) and has a RRP of £16.99. However it is available on Amazon for only £8.35 and I bought it from The Book People for an amazing £4!
Jacob Hunt is good at many things, he is able to remember a film word for word after the first watch, he's able to memorize a book after one simple glance and he's probably the most organised teenager in the world. However Jacob is unable to look anybody in the eye and the colour orange sends him into tantrums rarely seen outside of young children which are all hallmarks of Jacob's condition; Jacob Hunt has Aspergers. When Jacob's social studies teacher Jess is found dead, all of the signs point to Jacob and the fact his Aspergers means he can't look anybody in the eye and the police begin to believe Jacob had something to do with it. Jacob's mother, Emma, then has to ask herself: is her son capable of murder?
I've become a huge fan of Jodi Picoult after first reading My Sister's Keeper a couple of years ago which I really enjoyed. I then managed to pick up Nineteen Minutes and I loved that, too. A few weeks ago I finally plucked up the courage to read my third Jodi Picoult, Handle With Care, book wondering if I'd love it just as much as the previous two. Turns out I did and was thrilled I'd already pre-ordered her newest book House Rules. I was looking forward to it arriving so I could read my fourth Picoult book. It came last week so I decided to wait until after the weekend to read it so I could have the time to actually sit down and get stuck in.
House Rules, like most of Jodi's books, is a bit controversial. If there's a plot to be written that might offend a lot of people then Jodi Picoult is probably the person you'd want to write it because she manages to pull off her plots with great aplomb. Here we have a kid with Asperger's, Jacob, being charged with the murder of his social skills teacher, Jess. Because of his condition and the fact it makes him unable to lie and the fact he takes every question he's asked literally he manages to implicate himself to the police and he ends up on trial for the murder of Jess.
Before we get to the murder of Jess and Jacob's trial, though, we learn what it's like to live with Asperger's and, by association, to live with a child who has such a difficult condition. Here, I must applaud Jodi Picoult. I have no idea whatsoever what having a kid with Asperger's means and have never met a person with the condition but Jodi explained it very satisfactorily and I could really get a feel of the struggle it is to live with such a condition. Having Asperger's didn't just affect Jacob, as we learn. Yes, he has it the hardest because of how he has to live his life due to the natures of his condition - he lives, essentially, by house rules set down by his mother Emma and he has lots of little quirks that can set him off into a meltdown/tantrum should his day be disrupted in anyway. But the way Jacob has to live his life in order to have it as peacefully as possible also affects his mother Emma and brother Theo. Emma has to work from home in order to be around for Jacob whenever he needs it and Theo always feels left out due to how much time Emma obviously has to spend with Jacob.
House Rules is quite a complex book and the murder of Jess doesn't even come into the book until maybe half way through. Before that, as I said, we deal with how Jacob, Emma and Theo live their lives. It was an interesting read and because Jodi uses multiple narratives it was easy to see how Asperger's had affected each member of the family. It also meant we got to know the characters that much more. I actually really loved Jacob. By default, because of his condition, he is a social outcast and has to live his life by a set of rules otherwise there's a good chance he'll have a meltdown and I couldn't help feeling sympathy for how he's treated in the modern world. I thought his interest in forensic science was hugely interesting, too, as I quite like shows like CSI that deal with crime scenes and what not. I also liked Emma, Jacob's mum, and I could also easily feel sympathy for her too. Her life had whittled down to barely nothing due to the fact she had to be around for Jacob at all times and it also meant that at times Theo, her youngest son, got left out a lot of the time. When Jacob was arrested and charged with Jess's murder I could also see the struggle Emma had with wondering whether he son had actually managed to kill someone. The only character I struggle to like was Theo. He isn't exactly an angel throughout the book and although I could understand what he had to live with, I could also see that what he was doing was hardly helping the family in any way.
Now, I've come to learn two other things with Jodi Picoult novels. 1) If the main female lead is single she'll have a love interest or two and 2) the end of the book will have a killer twist leaving me completely shocked. Emma did have a romantic storyline. I originally thought it was going to be with the local detective, Matsen, but then when Oliver, Jacob's lawyer, came on the scene I wasn't too sure. Both men lend their voices to the multiple narrative and I found myself liking Oliver more than Detective Matsen. So that was the romance dealt with, now I just had to see what Jodi had in store for the end of the book. For me, this is where the book falls completely flat on its face. Because the fact is there is no twist, not really, and if what is supposed to pass as a twist is the actual twist then I'm hugely disappointed because I already knew that. I had already guessed who killed Jess far before it was even revealed, so to have my suspicions confirmed irritated me because I was expecting some big revelation and it never materialised. I also thought the ending was a bit twee. I wanted to know what had happened after the 'revelation' and I closed the book feeling hugely disappointed. Up until the ending I adored the book, I thought it was fantastic and I loved every page. Jodi is an outstanding writer and she easily manages to pull me into her books and House Rules was no different. Until the ending. That changed everything for me and turned it from a five star read into a four star read.
Overall, bar the ending, House Rules was a fantastic read. It's a long book - almost 600 pages in it's hardback format - but I thought it was incredibly readable and I did struggle to put it down. Jodi Picoult really excels with her courtroom dramas and House Rules was no different. House Rules is definitely worth picking up because everything that comes before the disappointing ending is excellent. The book will also teach you about what it's like living with a child with Asperger's and I thought that was quite an eye-opening experience. The research that went into that must have been long and tortuous but well worth it as Picoult does an outstanding job of translating that to the page. Do pick up House Rules, but be warned, the ending isn't up to Picoult's usual standards.