Monday, November 22, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

(Photo taken from Jodi Picoult's website)

Title: House Rules
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria International
Language: English
ISBN - 10:
ISBN - 13: 978-0743296441

House Rules:

  1. Clean up your messes
  2. Tell the truth
  3. Brush your teeth twice a day
  4. Don't be late for school
  5. Take care of your brother; he's the only one you've got.
Those are house rules set up by Emma Hunt, mother of Jacob and Theo. She has been burdened since Jacob was two years old by responsibility for Jacob's condition. He has Asperger's syndrome, making him, although exhibiting exceptional intelligence, hopeless in expressing himself well and reading social cues. His interest in forensic analysis has made him a fixture in police crime scenes, telling them what to do which usually turns out right. However, when a friend was murdered, the police suspect him and take his Asperger's symptoms to imply guilt.

I read an interview of Picoult regarding this new book here and it was good that she really did her homework with regards to Asperger's syndrome, forensic analysis, and the legal issues involved. However, if I were to do like Jacob and pretend that this novel is a CrimeBusters episode, I'd say I solved the murder just right after Chapter 2. A murder mystery this is not; I'd like to think this is more of a-love-between-brothers story, or an-inside-look-into-the-Asperger's-syndrome, or better yet, a simple family's love and struggle for normalcy amid mental/psychological illness.

Most of the time, I wonder about what other people think while they are doing something. What is going through the butcher's head while cutting a pig open; or what a mother thinks about while slapping a wayward child's face? This novel definitely provides a lot of insight into each of the character's heads, even Jacob's. I like the depth of her imagination, that she was able to give a good impression of what's running inside an aspie's head; but it is not only imagination that she was able to pull it off properly, her research gave a lot of credibility into her words.

Story-wise, I thought the pacing was very good, and I like the sprinkling of real-life murder cases in some parts, all of which are trying to say, "It's not what it seems." It encouraged the readers to really dig deeper and use their imaginations to figure out what is going to happen. I really think that the author wanted the reader to solve the mystery, but it would have been better if she added another twist or so, that way maybe I wouldn't have been able to solve the murder earlier, and prolonged the suspense more.

The character development is also satisfying. I like how Emma, the mother, the one who devoted her whole life for Jacob's well-being, was finally able to recognize and fulfill her own needs but not ignoring her responsibilities. I like how Theo finally found the answers to his questions, and dissolved his desire to become apathetic to his brother's plight.

Overall, this book is very insightful, informative, and interesting. The characters are very lovable, even Theo in all his teenage angst. This is a book worth reading and re-reading with the rest of your family that will definitely draw you closer and appreciate the compassion that you give each other.

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