House Rules by Jodi Picoult

In House Rules by Jodi Picoult, Jacob Hunt is an eighteen year old with Asperger’s syndrome.  He is obsessed with forensic science, and can solve practically any crime, much to the chagrin of the local police who are not interested in Jacob’s assistance.  His mother Emma has built her entire life around helping Jacob, often leaving his younger teen brother Theo in the dust and resentful of the chaos that often surrounds life with his brother. Jacob has difficulty with any type of social skills, so his mom hired a tutor;  a pretty graduate student Jess who is helping  Jacob learn appropriate social cues and to look people in the eye.

Jess disappears and is later  found dead. Picoult weaves one of her typical courtroom dramas that seem to be made for television. I found the legal and courtroom parts of the narrative to be the weakest part of the novel. Her brilliance  is in describing the family and especially in making the reader understand Jacob from the inside out. I came away  from this novel feeling like  I had stepped into the head of a young man with Aspergers, as well as gaining a better understanding of the challenges it creates in a family dynamic. Jacob’s fascination with forensics does seem a bit convenient, but Picoult makes it work somehow so it didn’t seem too trite. I found her adult characters rich, and the medical aspects very well researched without being jargon or dry termininology.

This novel has it all; romance, forensics, courtroom drama, and a compelling medical issue.  Critics have called this one of Picoult’s lesser triumphs, but I was engrossed in the very solid story line. I recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys Picoult and other authors in her domestic  fiction genre.

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