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House Rules

May 25, 2010

House Rules

by Jodi Picoult

About twenty times a day I think, “If I only I knew then what I know now.” For example, today I thought:

  • I probably could have accomplished more at the age of 34 if I’d watched a little less MTV and studied a little more during college.
  • I regret counting calories and not eating more french bread slathered in Nutella on my trip to Paris last year.
  • What was I thinking when I decided to channel my inner Madonna back in the 80’s by sporting very unattractive stirrup pants and big floppy hair bows?

Considering that I have my share of regrets it probably seems odd that I also recently concluded ignorance can be bliss.

I am a professional worrier. I am the type of person who worries about how I’m ever going to clean the freezer if the sponge keeps sticking to it? Or better yet, how am I going to fill up my gas tank when Ali took the gas card with him to NYC? Since I obviously worry about the most ridiculous things, you can imagine how much more I would have freaked out about Maya if I’d known more about autism and the potential link between vaccinations and autism.

My already gray hair thanks me for not knowing.

In Jodi Picoult’s latest book House Rules: A Novel we meet Jacob Hunt, a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. As a high functioning autistic Jacob is brilliant academically but is unable to handle most social situations. Among other symptoms, Jacob finds it difficult to make eye contact, to form emotional connections, and is very sensitive to things like bright lights and loud noise. He takes everything very literally and needs order and routine in order to function. As a coping mechanism Jacob immerses himself in the world of forensics and begins to “help” the police solve cases. But things backfire when Jacob finds himself on trial for the murder of his social skills teacher.

As with most of this author’s work I enjoyed Jodi Picoult’s extensive research into autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. I also found her exploration of the potential link between vaccines and autism both thought-provoking and worrisome, and her court scenes were as thorough and impressive as always. But even I, as a non-expert, can say that the author misrepresents “aspies” throughout the book. I mean how can someone like Jacob, with so many debilitating symptoms, still function at such a high level? I also had issues with Jacob’s mom Emma. It is a mystery why she never outright asked her son if he committed the crime! And since I guessed the book’s “twist” early on in the story I was quite disappointed in the sloppy, loose ending. For the first time I actually found myself wondering why I’d bothered to read a Jodi Picoult book at all.

I fear that Jodi Picoult is going the way of Danielle Steel, i.e. her cookie-cutter books are beginning to lack the heart and soul that made me fall in love with her writing in the first place. While I was okay with cutting ties with Danielle Steel’s sub-par books years ago, I would definitely be sad to eliminate this talented author from my life. I do hope she gets back on track with her next book.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2011 6:14 pm

    Okay I know I am totally late to the party with this review, but I am just taking some time today to explore your book review blog. I love to read and have read obsessively since I was like 5. I have to be involved in some book at all times, when I finish one I have to start another one immediately or I feel all tense.

    So when I saw that Jodi Piccoult’s My Sister’s Keeper was one of your favorites (one of mine as well) and then saw that you had reviewd House Rules I had to check it out.


    Because I was also so thoroughly disappointed in the book for all the reasons you mentioned. I contemplated just not finishing it several times (but another fatal flaw I can’t not finish a book), but in the end I did and really regretted the fact that I wouldn’t get that time back,.

    I am excited to read some more of your reviews. I am always looking for good reads!

    • July 6, 2011 6:41 pm

      Have you seen Jodi Picoult’s latest book “Sing You Home?” I usually cannot not finish a book either but that one was simply unbearable. I fear that Jodi has gone the way of Danielle Steel…she simply puts out books because she has to per her contract. Not because she wants to. I’m sad that she’s no longer on my list of fabulous authors!

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