Book Review House Rules by Jodi Picoult

House Rules: A Novel by Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: March 2010
Pages: 544
Source: Library
For: Book Club

Jacob is not your average teenager, locked in his own mind, unaware of social cues.  He has Aspergers, but that isn't the only thing he is: he's very smart and really wants to fit in, to be normal.  When his tutor, a girl who is helping him to learn about social interactions, turns up dead, his Aspergers symptoms make him look very guilty.  Will he be able to explain what happened, or is there more going on than meets the eye?

Things I Liked:
Picoult always manages to suck you into a story.  I cared about the characters - I wanted them to succeed, especially Jacob.  Her stories are tight and current and with just enough action to keep you interested.  I liked the book and I liked the themes and the portrayal of Aspergers.  I thought it showed many different views and attitudes about Aspergers, the most interesting, of course, being his own view on it.  A solid, heart-felt book.

Things I Didn't Like:
There always seems to be something to annoy me when I read popular adult fiction. :) The first thing that bugged me was how Jacob was described as always taking things literally, but here and there during his point of view, he'd throw out phrases that seemed like something he wouldn't get.  Most times, he would explain what it meant or how he initially didn't understand it, but a few times it was left without explanation (notably "fireworks go off in your head" on p 63).  Would he really use a phrase like this without commenting about how silly it was or how it didn't mean what it sounded like?  I don't think so.  Little things are mostly what bothered me.  I didn't enjoy the many (many, many) side stories and other things going on.  I don't care about the other people involved as much as the family.  And the ending was so obvious from very early on, it annoyed me.  I almost found it unbelievable that the people involved would so explicitly NOT state what had really happened.  Seriously, just spit it out already.  It was ok for a while, but it dragged on for a ridiculous amount of time, stretching it too far.  All this makes it sound like I hated it, which I didn't.  As I mentioned, I was sucked in - I read it nearly all in one sitting.  It's the kind of book I devoured and enjoyed, but on further contemplation annoyed me.

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (which I enjoyed a LOT more, though it is a kids book)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
(only other Picoult I've read is My Sister's Keeper but both felt the same, just with different basic problems)

s-factor: !@#$ 

so, so many (f-bombs throughout)

mrg-factor: XX 
plenty of action, some described

v-factor: ->->-> 
crime scenes and gruesome deaths are frequently described

Overall rating: *** 

What's your favorite Picoult (or are you not a fan)?

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