Synopsis (from Amazon)
Jacob Hunt is a teenager: brilliant at maths, wicked sense of humour, extraordinarily organised, hopeless at reading social cues. And Jacob has Asperger’s. He is locked in his own world – aware of the world outside, and wanting to make a connection. Jacob tries to be like everyone else, but doesn’t know how.
When his tutor is found dead, all the hallmark behaviours of Jacob’s syndrome – not looking someone in the eye, odd movements, inappropriate actions – start looking a lot like guilt to the police. And Jacob’s mother must ask herself the hardest question in the world: is her child capable of murder?
I am quite happy to say that Jodi Picoult is a favourite author of mine, however recently I’ve found her writing to be a little hit and miss. For example I loved Handle with Care- it was my favourite read last year, and quite probably my favourite Picoult book, but I really was not impressed with Second Glance, which I wouldn’t even give a second glace (haa haa aren’t I hilarious?). For these reasons I was excited about reading House Rules but also a little…anxious is I suppose the most fitting word. I was really interested in the subject and hopeful that it would be done well. As someone who works with children- some of whom have learning disabilities, and has a degreee in psychology. Kids like Jacob are the type that I eventually want to work with, I hope to take a masters in Educational psychology in the not too distant future. I wanted this book to be informative and still have the interest that Picoult usually gives me, a sort of mystery and a crime story, and of course the emotional side which really gives Picoult’s writing heart. As far as an account of life with- and for a child with Asperger’s syndrome I thought it was pretty honest and informative- it told me things I did not know (although I cant claim to know a great deal about Asperger’s, having only studied autism on a wider scale) and gave the human side- what it felt like for the family, and even for the ‘sufferer’.
As for the crime side, it was done well, and did have me wondering to some extent right up to the end- although I did work out a key part of the plot long before it was explicitly said (highlight for spoiler) I worked out quite early on that Jacob was covering for Theo, and I didn’t ever think that it had been Theo who murdered Jess, although I did think that she had been murdered- possibly by the boyfriend. I did think that she was being abused by the boyfriend was a bit of an unnecessary plot line but I guess it kept the reader thinking he did it. It could be that it gave a valid reason for Jacob to set him up, but I don’t think that fits with the profile of someone with Asperger’s. Jacob wouldn’t have set up Mark to get back at him for what he did to Jess, because he didn’t feel empathy- although he may have seen that as a reason why Mark would have killed Jess and set it up so the police would see that too.
As a first Picoult read I would probably put a few books as a first choice before House Rules. For a first time reader I would probably recommend either My Sister’s Keeper or Handle with Care, but if you have read and enjoyed Picoult’s writing in the past I don’t think you will be disappointed by this one.