Sunday, March 07, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I might not be the best person to review this book since I'm a bit influenced by her other writings, so I'm probably not seeing this book as a stand-alone but how it compares to her other works. Either way, this book has some flaws.

This novel focuses on Jacob Hunt, an eighteen-year-old boy who has Asperger's syndrome. Asperger's is a form of autism where a child can be highly intelligent, but obsessive over a certain topic and unable to read social clues. The children are victims of routine and prone to tantrums when their routine is changed. Overall, these children have their quirks that make them unable to fit into everyday society. Jacob, in this case is obsessed with forensic science and before long, someone connected to Jacob ends up dead, and he's the prime suspect. His mother and lawyer argue, though, that he is merely a victim of his disease, not of homicidal intentions. In the meantime, there's his fifteen-year-old brother who is neglected because the needs of Jacob capture his mother's attention and who also happens to know something about the dead body. So now it's a hunt for the truth and trying to determine whether or not it's right to use Jacob's disability as a defense.

I'm probably too critical of a reader, but I found it hard to fully connect Jacob with his disorder. To begin with, I felt like Asperger's was shoved down my throat in this novel - a description of it and explanation, and everything about it was forced upon me. Yet when it came time to actual "interact" with Jacob, unless he was having an episode, he seemed like a "normal" person. Maybe that's how it is with people who have Asperger's, but from the way I've been forced to understand it from the book, I was expecting something more removed from the realm of normal. Everyone has quirks but that doesn't mean they have Asperger's. This novel was told through multiple narrators and when Jacob was narrating, unless he'd gone off the deep end and was upset, he didn't seem any different from his brother. I didn't feel like the author did a convincing job creating that character. In my opinion, there was too much telling me about the disease and not enough time just showing it to me through the character. That's the first thing that turned me off this novel. Next is the fact that if they just took the time to act one correctly worded question, the whole situation could have been solved - with one question! Since nobody wanted to ask that question or had enough brains to word it correctly, the novel and drama ensued for another 300 pages. It honestly felt like characters remained ignorant to create a longer novel. Yes, I can understand the lawyer not wanting to know the truth for fear of perjury, but the mother would rather doubt her son than hear the truth, even though she claims she'll love him either way. It just became too frustrating. Also, in creating a longer novel, we have the trial which just felt like a repetition of everything stated in the first half of the novel. Finally, we have the ending - no, I'm not going to give it away. However, Jodi Picoult is known for throwing in a twist at the end and this time, it was not only a huge disappointment, but also extremely predictable.

Okay, I'll be the first to admit I'm too critical. I should be able to just pick up a book and go with the flow. However, I can't help being disappointed or frustrated with what I'm reading and this book had so many factors irritating me. I'd be happy to know, though, if you had similar frustrations or if you simply think I'm off my rocker. On a positive note - yes, I am capable of finding the silver lining in a book I didn't enjoy - this novel did a good job of showing a family coming together in a crisis and the risks we're willing to take for the ones we love.

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