Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Book Review - "House Rules" by Jodi Picoult


As mentioned in my little bio in the sidebar, I LOVE reading. Honestly, I could read all day.  I love getting lost in a book and living in a different world for a while, getting to know the characters and following the twists and turns of a good story.  As I have just finished a book by one of my favourite authors, I thought I’d do a review of it; perhaps I might make it a regular thing after I’ve finished a book. 

“House Rules" by Jodi Picoult

Few authors hold my attention as well as Jodi Picoult.  Her books generally do all the things listed above; they are captivating, draw you in to the story and the minds of the characters, and provide great twists.  However, I am sad to admit that I was a little bit disappointed by this offering L and I really do not like to say that about her books!

“House Rules” focuses on Jacob, an 18 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  He lives with his mother Emma, and 15 year old brother Theo.  Their father left after Jacob’s diagnosis, and so Emma has raised her sons on her own, in modest conditions.  She has basically devoted her life to ensuring that Jacob’s Asperger’s doesn’t hinder him in daily life.  However, when Jacob’s tutor is found dead, all leads point to Jacob, and he is soon under arrest for murder.

What I liked about this story was learning about Asperger’s Syndrome; Jodi always has thoroughly researched the main themes of her stories, and this was no different.  It is a condition on the autism spectrum, and while sufferers can speak clearly and are often highly intelligent, they have no grasp of how to communicate with people and can struggle with normal conversations.  It is not a highly discussed condition, so I thought it was informative and also well-executed by Picoult.  The one exception to this execution was the fact that (in usual Picoult style) chapters were from the viewpoint of different characters; including Jacob.  I thought it was a bit confusing - this boy has Asperger’s; he takes every sentence literally, cannot judge when people want him to stop talking about his obsession with forensic science, follows rules to the letter (Jacob would be confused by that sentence), and has no empathy for other people’s emotions.  I feel that it is almost impossible to write from Jacob’s point of view, yet Picoult did this often.  Whether it was truly successful, how can anyone know?  I just thought that this was a tricky risk to take.

I did find this an engaging read, and found it hard to put down at times, however the other things that didn’t sit well with me included the mother in the story, Emma.  Don’t get me wrong, she was believable and I really felt for her, however the “strong suffering parent who just gets on with things and never confides in anyone” really is a running theme in almost all of Picoult’s books, and this was my main annoyance.  Surely she couldn’t have been that friendless?! There could have been other parents of autistic or Asperger’s children she could discuss things with?  Yet apparently she has no friends in the world!  Slightly far-fetched to me.

My final gripe was that the twist in this story was no surprise.  I had guessed it quite soon after Jacob’s arrest, but thought “No, I must be wrong, far too obvious!”  However I had in fact guessed right, and so the twist was not so much of a twist as it was a predictable ending.  This really disappointed me.  That plus the fact that it is an abrupt ending; there is no epilogue or update as to what happened afterwards, how people’s lives changed, didn’t change, or moved on as a result of the story.

All in all, an interesting book and a good story on the face of it.  However for me, it lacked a few things that would have put it into my normal Picoult reaction of “You HAVE to read this!!”  Sorry Jodi L

N.B.: There was another MAJOR point pretty much the whole way through this book that annoyed me, but it is so integral to the plot that I don't wanna spoil the story by giving too much away.  But seriously, as someone working in Law, a crucial element of the case was never questioned, and completely overlooked by lawyers, police and basically every other character in this book - could never happen and added to the far-fetched element of it.

1 comment:

dannithegirl said...

Great book review, thanks! I'm finding that Jodi Picoults books are going downhill a bit, they started off really interesting and unique and have started to get a bit samey (albeit with very interesting themes still). I don't mean to sound like a blog pusher but I've done some reviews on an author called Emily Barr in case you're interested, she's great!