Genres: Adult fiction, contemporary, mystery.
Jacob Hunt is an 18-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. When Jacob’s tutor is found dead, he is charged with murder. Jacob is fascinated with forensic analysis and this combined with his unusual behaviours means that he looks apathetic and guilty to the police. Jacob finds it extremely difficult to communicate and his mother finds herself wondering whether her son really is capable of murder.
House Rules is told in typical Picoult style: there’s alternating viewpoints from the accused, the mother, the brother, the lawyer and the policeman. And there is, of course, a lengthy court scene. This is why I like Jodi Picoult novels – you know what you’re going to get. Even so, I would not say that it felt like she was reproducing her previous work. My favourite aspect of House Rules was how Jodi combined educating the reader about autism, as well as providing fascinating information about forensic techniques, with a interesting, contemporary storyline. I loved each and every character and seeing events from each person’s perspective.
Jodi Picoult raises important issues surrounding those with autism: the social stigma, labelling, and exclusion from society that can occur, and the affect that this can have on a person’s life and identity. Although I do not have any personal experience with autism, I imagine the Jacob’s character is valid; we are able fully understand his life through serious, heartbreaking honesty as well as good-natured humour. We’re explained what having Asperger’s Syndrome feels like and why certain behaviours, that may seem extremely unusual and even frightening to us, occur. This is contrasted with Jacob’s brother, who often feels like he got the worst deal.
I guessed the ‘truth’ – did Jacob really commit murder? – a while before it is revealed, as will many other readers, but this did not in any way diminish my enjoyment of the book as it still kept me guessing until the very end. I may know the truth, but does the jury?
House Rules captivated me from the very beginning. Existing Picoult fans will find everything they love in this novel. To date, she has published 18 novels and I’d definitely put House Rules in my top 5.
My Rating: ★★★★★
Read as part of Adult Fiction Month