House Rules by Jodi Picoult

On the morning of January 1st 2018, I finished reading my first book of the year. It is also the last book I read in 2017, so I guess you could say I cheated a little. The book was written by Jodi Picoult, an author I celebrate for her lack of the conventional happy ending. I read her books when I take a break from reading romance because they keep me grounded. It is called House Rules. Picoult has a unique writing style whereby she employs the multiple person point of view. Such that you will likely get the story from every major character’s point of view. It allows the reader to get into the heads of most of the major characters and even the minor ones.

House Rules is about a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome, his name is Jacob Hunt. Before we talk about Jacob, let me tell you a little bit about Asperger’s. Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects the ability to socialize and communicate effectively. Asperger’s is on the Autism spectrum but is classified as higher functioning. People with AS socialize awkwardly and often require communication training and behavioral therapy to help them socialize successfully. They often have all absorbing interest in specific topics that is borderline obsessive. People with AS are usually misunderstood, they also take things literally. For example, with AS, there is no such thing as a rhetorical question.

Jacob’s obsession was crime scenes. He often recreated crime scenes from his favorite TV show Crime Busters in his living room. He even has a police scanner that leads him to crime scenes where he ends up helping the police solve cases. His mother Emma’s life revolves around making him comfortable and suiting everything she can to his needs, including school. His brother Theo therefore ends up feeling neglected and results to self-destructive behavior. This behavior is what leads to the novel’s main event. Jess is Jacob’s social skills tutor, Jacob ends up developing feelings for him, or whatever his version of feelings is. He feels that Jess’s boyfriend Mark is a jerk and that he would make a better boyfriend for her. When Jess turns up dead, Jacob’s behavior makes him look more and more like the killer. His problematic communication skills lead to be arrested for the murder. The trial itself is filled with Jacob’s meltdowns and his mother’s outbursts.

The book is a page turner filled with intrigue. To her credit, Picoult takes the time to research on whatever she is writing about. There is a lot of helpful information about Asperger’s. The twists and turns keep you hooked, I couldn’t wait to see how the trial ended, whether Jacob was convicted, who killed Jess, you know, the general conflicts that are usually solved at the end of a book. Spoiler alert, there is nothing to spoil. In the end, we find out that Jacob was only trying to protect his brother. But there are a lot of unanswered questions.

At this point, I felt like Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars when they traveled all the way to Amsterdam to find out the ending of An Imperial Affliction. Am coming for you Jodi!!!!!!!

If you are looking for a novel that will tear at you emotionally, I definitely recommend House Rules. Despite my issues with it, it’s one of the most thought provoking books I have ever had. If you’re in a book club, you are provided with several questions you can discuss at the end of the novel.

The best part of the book for me was when Jacob says, “House rules, take care of your brother, he’s the only one you’ve got.” Had me bowling my eyes out, and not in a pretty way.

House Rules got four and a half stars from me, could have been five, but I was denied an ending.


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