Jacob Hunt is a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome. Although he’s brilliant in many ways, he’s hopeless at reading social cues and has a lot of trouble expressing himself well to others. He has a great love for one subject – forensic analysis. He keeps a police scanner in his room to alert him to crime scenes…and he shows up and tells the cops what to do…and he’s usually right.
When Jacob’s small town is shocked by a horrible murder, the police come to him. Jacob’s behaviors, which are hallmarks of Asperger’s, look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly Jacob’s family, who only want to fit in, are in the spotlight. For his mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that her family often experiences. For his brother, Theo, it’s just more proof of why nothing is normal because of Jacob.
I love Jodi Picoult books. They are always well researched and well written…and often brutally sad. Her last book, Sing Me Home, was one of my favorites…and had an unexpectedly happy ending! So I was excited to read House Rules and I wasn’t disappointed.
It drives me crazy when I’m reading a book and a silly lack of communication or the overlooking of certain facts or the hesitancy to ask a question leads to a misunderstanding that creates havoc. I’m a talker and I like to ask questions…and if something happens that I don’t understand I’m going to ask enough questions that I get to the bottom of it. I would never simply ignore a problem. So I began to get frustrated when I realized that this story was based entirely on a misunderstanding of the facts and a lack of communication and understanding between the characters.
Then it hit me…that was the whole point. The story is Jacob’s story and having Asperger’s syndrome means that he has trouble communicating and getting his point across. He doesn’t make his motives clear throughout the book…but it’s not because he wants to be cagey…it’s because he doesn’t know how to make himself understood. So as the reader, you can experience some of his…and his mother’s and his brother’s…frustrations. Once I realized that it changed everything for me.
I will say that the author got a little preachy at times…and there were parts of the book that read more like a lecture than a novel. She took all of Jacob’s “symptoms” to the extreme to make her point that he was different. She also made it very clear that she believes that vaccines cause Austism…which not everyone agrees with. But overall, I thought the she did a great job of helping the reader understand the frustrations of Asperger’s Syndrome…and pointing out that we should all be a little more patient with people who don’t communicate the same way we do.
Oh…but I really hated the ending. I won’t give anything away…but I couldn’t believe it when I got to the last page. I kept looking for more pages.
I read some reviews online and it seems they are really mixed. I’m curious to know if any of you have read it and what you thought about it.