Book Reviews

Book Review: House Rules

***This review has been cross-posted at Bond with Books. Visit Bond with Books for views and reviews by other bloggers***
House Rules

This is Jodi Picoult’s latest offering. House Rules is about Jacob and his family. Jacob is not your neurotypical kid. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Thus, while Jacob’s IQ is in the top one percent, it doesn’t necessarily show in his work, lives in a literal world and struggles socially. 18 year old Jacob lives with his mother Emma and his younger brother Theo. Their father walked out on them when Theo was just a baby because he could apparently not handle Jacob’s diagnosis. Like most children with AS, Jacob has fixed interests…at one time it was dogs, at another it was dinosaurs. At this stage in life, he is obsessed with forensics. Not just the crime shows but the intricacies such as fingerprints and tests and other clues. Jacob also has other quirks. He has his days colour-coded. For instance, he has ‘Blue Fridays’ where clothes he wears are blue, the food he eats has to be blue. If not, he will have a meltdown. To assist with his social skills, Jacob receives tutoring from a university student Jess.

The family are getting on with their life in their own way…Emma taking each day as it comes, Theo withdrawing and feeling resentment at some of the things he has to give up and taking refuge in stranger’s houses pretending he has a ‘normal’ family, and Jacob following his routines day in and day out. Things take a turn for the worse when Jess (Jacob’s tutor) is found dead. While the initial suspect is her extremely possessive and abusive boyfriend, Emma notices Jacob’s rainbow coloured handmade quilt wrapped around Jess’ body as the breaking story is aired on the news. What follows is nothing short of a nightmare for someone with AS. Jacob is taken to the police station where he is tricked into talking about Jess. In his literal world, he says he didn’t mean to do it. Resulting in him being charged with her murder.

How does a person with AS cope with the justice system?

Can a person with AS get a fair trial since to a layperson, this individual who does not show empathy the way most of us do could be mistaken to be a psychopath?

Is AS a disability? Or just a different ability?

Has Jacob really killed Jess? If so, was it in a fit of anger and impulsiveness? If not, who was it? And why did he tamper with the crime scene?

The book is a good read and keeps you hooked till the end. In true Picoult-style, each chapter is narrated by a different character. The characters are all well-drawn and likeable. The star is of course Jacob. Picoult has done her research well when it comes to AS and the theories about causal factors as well as the interventions and management at home and school. She manages to educate the lay person about AS and the difficulties as well as the bright side of it. 

However, this book is still not as good as some of her other works. The end was a bit anti-climactic for me; possibly because I have become accustomed to her twists in the tale which for some reason did not really happen. Also, while I am no expert in AS, I found some things a bit hard to believe about Jacob. For instance, him setting up the crime scene was a bit ludicrous to me given that he is an intelligent boy. Anyone with that level of intelligence as well as obsession with forensics and crime would know you do not tamper with a crime scene and expect to get away with it. AS or no AS. It was not like it was an impulsive act like some behaviours can be when it comes to AS and therefore I just could not get my head around why he would do that. 

I would definitely recommend a read…as I would for most of Picoult’s books. But don’t read it with expectations that it would be equivalent to My Sister’s Keeper or Nineteen Minutes or Picture Perfect.

Read it to enjoy the ride.

My rating:

Until next time,


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  • ItsNu
    8 April 2010 at 8:51 am

    1sst !

  • bookslifenmore
    8 April 2010 at 10:41 am

    Hmmm the book is yet to release here!!! Lemme see if I read it or not!!

  • Psych Babbler
    8 April 2010 at 11:17 am

    Yes! 🙂

  • E.
    8 April 2010 at 11:21 am

    It’s good to read a review of this. A friend has just lent it to me and as Boy child is an Aspie I’m not sure whether to read it or not. I’ve already been given the talk that Jacob is worse than Boy child which really made me not want to read it at all.

    I have only read one other Piccoult book Second Glance which I quite enjoyed. Decisions, decisions. Still not sure.

  • Psych Babbler
    8 April 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Read it…if you liked her other books you will still like this one. It’s just not as great as a few other favourites. Still funny and witty and an easy read.

  • Psych Babbler
    8 April 2010 at 12:11 pm

    So I was right…Jacob is an exaggerated version. I guess she decided to use the hardest case scenario in terms of AS and while I have worked with a few kids with AS, none has been this literal or had quirks such as colour-coded clothes and days…maybe you should read it and give us your perspective. While reading I was constantly thinking of the few mothers like yourself whose blogs I follow and wondered what all of your views would be.

    Second Glance wasn’t bad but I definitely preferred some of the others like I’ve mentioned before.

  • bouncingbubble
    8 April 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I used to like her works a lot, but somehow at one stage her style exhausted me. However I would not give up reading her completely,

  • Psych Babbler
    8 April 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I am starting to see a pattern in her works as well. I have all her books so far but the last 3 have had the same style. On the other hand, 19 minutes was different. I think her themes tend to be around family and hard hitting issues. They can be draining for sure. This one wasn’t emotionally exhausting for me like say, My Sister’s Keeper (which is still my fav!) or Picture Perfect.

  • Titaxy
    8 April 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I thought of you the minute I saw this in the bookstores 🙂 Have been waiting for the review since then 😀

  • Dew
    8 April 2010 at 5:58 pm

    WOW..sounds good to me…would pick up soon!! 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    8 April 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Haha! 🙂 Well, it released out in the US a lot earlier than here…we only got it on the 1st of April…I ordered it online through Borders and got it on the 1st 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    8 April 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Do! And let me know what you think…

  • Psych Babbler
    8 April 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Do and let me know your thoughts!

  • Psych Babbler
    8 April 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Haha! Well, it released in the US earlier than here…here it only came out on the 1st of April but I ordered it online through Borders and funnily enough, it arrived exactly on the 1st!

  • Vyazz
    9 April 2010 at 4:03 am

    As a medical graduate, I have always been fascinated by aspergers!! But the thing is, given the usual circumstances, a lot of people go undiagnosed, and are frequently mislabeled by society as being difficult, eccentric or even retarded.
    Its comes into the spectrum of Autistic disorders.
    Interesting book by the way. Will purchase it if I get the chance!!!

  • Psych Babbler
    9 April 2010 at 9:15 am

    Yeah, I agree that a lot of kids go undiagnosed. I’ve seen kids who I am willing to bet my bottom dollar were on the spectrum but who have been diagnosed with a learning disability or ADHD! It’s grossly negligent given that both of these are so different from ASD. As for society…well, most people still are unaware about ASD and how it manifests in individuals. Education is the key and this book will be good for the layperson as well…

  • Smita
    9 April 2012 at 10:53 am

    Finished reading it and it was a painful read for me because I had guessed the end when i was 30% down the book. It was plain, JP has a pattern and most of her books are anti climatic. But yes she does manage to get us educated on certain issues.