House Rules by Jodi Picoult

6614960Fiction — print. Atria Books, 2010. 572 pgs. Library.

This is the final book I read during Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon and despite it’s length, it was the perfect book for the wee hours of a read-a-thon. Characters that pull you in and a murder mystery to solve.

Picoult’s 2010 novel follows Jacob Hunt, 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. He has a special focus on forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes. 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.

I had the murder mystery solved within the first hundred pages. It was fairly obvious who killed Jacob’s social tutor, Jess, and the killer does end up confessing. The ending, though, is still unsatisfactory because you don’t know if Jacob or the real culprit was convicted. Picoult loves having siblings feel overshadowed by their sibling suffering from a tragic disease or diagnosis. Of course, she would incorporate this into the novel! The reintroduction of the father was odd, and the relationship between Emma and Jacob’s lawyer Oliver was a big distraction from the overall story.

However, Jacob was a wonderful character. I’ve read other reviews were people complained about how much of a stereotype Jacob is, but I have had little interaction with people on the Autism spectrum and learned a lot about Asperger’s from this book. Jacob adds a human face to this medical diagnosis.

Not my favorite of her books but not her worst. Usually it’s the mystery or moral question that pulls the novel through whereas this time it’s the characters that propel the reader forward.

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