book review: House Rules by Jodi Picoult

The book I want to review today is House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

The author is renound for her books dealing with current controversial issues mostly affecting family and relationships and often ethical questions/ court proceddings.

This book House Rules is about a family with Jacob, a 14 year old with asberger’s at its center. Jodi has a writing style that is complex and tells the story from multiple points of view. In this way readers get in depth information about how each character thinks feels, and is in relationship to the other characters and plot of the story.

Jacob is a 14 year old boy with Asberger’s. Over the years he has received a lot of therapy in order to help him control his tics/ odd behaviors due to the disorder as well as learn to have social skills. He is obsessed with crime scene investigation and probably knows as much if not more about it than the experts. Throughout the book his narration is filled with crime scene facts and cases he’s studied. He is often seen at live investigations due to having a police scanner in his room. A couple of times he gave the police information that actually made sense and added a puzzle piece to solve the crime. They were not happy about this obviously.

Jacob has a social skills tutor Jess. She’s been one of the few people to really get him and that he feels connected with. Over time he grows to have a crush on her. Then he witnesses her relationship with an abusive boyfriend. Their last meeting at a restaurant is filled with tention in which Jess tells him to “get lost” and mark storms off.

When they are supposed to have their next social skills session Jess is found dead and the only one who knows what really happened is Jacob. Through his trial/ experiences after this turn of events we are able to be invited into his inner most thoughts and really empathize in learning exactly what asberger’s feels like for him physically emotionally E and mentally. And how the behaviors that seem odd to others make perfect sense in his world.

In this complex story are his mother Emma, who has been a tireless advocate for him, his brother Theo who has a lot of identity issues being the younger brother yet having to look out for his older one, his estranged father, a polece officer, and Jacob’s lawyer. All have personal issues they’re dealing with alongside Jacob’s all are touched by him and connected to rally around him in order that he receives support to see him through this crisis. In the crisis things come to light within the family such as the pressure Theo feels under being the brother of someone with a disability, and his conflicted feelings around this. (Theo could really benefit from therapy)

The loneliness and pressure of being a single mother is painfully pronounced for Emma as she struggles emotionally and financially to support Jacob especially as things become more and more confusing and serious. Her bubble of pride and bitterness of having had to do it all alone finally bursts, allowing her ex husband back into her life, as well as an unrealistic affair with her son’s lawyer. (I’m sure it’s pretty unethical in a lot of ways to have sex with your son’s lawyer.) At the end of the book the two men, her ex and the lawyer actually seem to get along and so that is something that’s a lose end as how that was resolved.

At the heart of the book is the complex relationship between Theo and Jacob. And the lengths they’ll go to to protect one another in unexpected and shocking ways. Also a key issue is the matter of disability particularly high functioning autism. The different treatments used and their varying results, what Emma has had to do to be sure her son gets the accomidations he deserves. And in the end how his asberger’s is used to structure an insanity defense. And how accomidations aregiven in the court experience in order for Jacob to have a fair trial.

As with all of Jodi’s books the ending is totally unexpected and complex and not story book. Which is a hallmark of her writing. I would really recommend the book. I think it gives an amazing insight into the mind of someone with this disorder and how over his life he’s learned to cope, but how sometimes there will always be things that just clash from his world to others. It shows that having a disability is ok and sometimes as with asberger’s not really considered a disability at all.


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