In HOUSE RULES, Jacob, a teenager with Asperger's Syndrome is accused of having murdered his caretaker.
What intrigued me: I'm a sucker for everything written by Picoult. Every time I start novel by her I noticed that I need a lot of time to get into the story. Her novels are definitely written in a very unique style and her multipe POVs are always executed masterfully.
Warning: Not A Light Read
If it wasn't for Picoult, I would have never considered making myself acquainted with Asperger's and trying to learn more about the people suffering from it. Similar to HANDLE WITH CARE, which features a little girl with the brittle-bone disease, Picoult takes a lot of time to explain everything in an easily understandable manner. The novel is very similar to HANDLE WITH CARE in many aspects: we have POVs of people in almost identical positions. The mother, the sibling, the abused, the lawyer and the police officer. Therefore I felt like she was writing very similarly to that novel, only exchanging the disease of the protagonist Willow (brittle bone) with Jacob (Asperger's).
Essentially it's a crime novel. I didn't start this book with the intention to read crime, I actually didn't have any expectations for it. I just saw Picoult's name on the cover and decided to get it. In hindsight, I should've at least checked what it's about before blindly purchasing it.
Jacob's brother Theo is supposed to be a fifteen-year-old but talks like an adult. I've seen Picoult write teenage characters pretty well before, but this time it's just a disaster. Theo neither acts nor passes for being remotely teen-aged and none of the characters aside from Jacob seems well-developed. The problem with Jacob's POVs is that it's written purposefully complicated to showcase the side effects of his disease. This leads to his passages being written like a non-fiction book about forensics and being very hard to read.
Pace A Little Off
Jacob is obsessed with crime scene investigation. The whole novel revolves around him either watching crime scene shows and reenacting the scenarios or him following the police around in hopes of finally witnessing a murder case. When his tutor Jess is found dead, he decides to try to solve the case on his own.
If you're not a fan of detective novels, this can get quite tiring very easily. I really don't care for crime and detective literature and therefore I got bored halfway through the novel. Sometimes, with really well written and fast-paced books, I enjoy the odd novel of that genre, but Picoult isn't able to get me hooked at all. Just like all her other novels, this one could have been significantly shorter and I felt like I was wasting my time trying to force myself to read a 700-page book that might as well could have been 400 pages long.
Overall: Do I Recommend?
No. There are better Picoult books and I'm very disappointed with this one. I fought my way through this and wasn't really surprised or intrigued with the resolution. Way too long, poorly written characters, and a premise that just isn't enough for a 700-page novel.
"When your son can't look you in the eye...does that mean he's guilty? Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject - forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he's always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he's usually right. But when Jacob's small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob's behaviors are hallmark Asperger's, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob's mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?