Book Review: House Rules

By Katie Bonanni
March 15, 2011

Jodi Picoult illustrates real life issues in all of the novels that she writes.  Her newest book, House Rules tells the story of an 18-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who has a keen interest in crime scene investigation. Jacob suffers from Asperger’s, which is a high-functioning form of Autism.  He cannot read social cues or express himself.  He shows no emotion and anything that unexpectedly changes his day will throw him into a temper tantrum.

He is fascinated with forensics and crime scene investigation.   Setting up fake crime scenes in his own home is nothing short of ordinary. Theo, Jacob’s younger brother constantly finds himself feeling left out and neglected because of his older brother.  Because of Jacob, Theo is forced to conform to the ways that Jacob wants to live and has no other alternative. Jacob’s mother and brother revolve their lives around Jacob and his everyday routine.  As a single mother, Emma, Jacob’s mother struggles everyday to pay the bills and keep Jacob from having meltdowns.  Once a week, Jacob meets with his tutor, Jess to work on his social skills.  When Jess is mysteriously found dead on the day of their tutor session, Jacob is blamed. Emma hires a young local lawyer to represent Jacob in court.

When a love interest ensues the reader is taken through a spiraling story of Jacob’s trial, Theo’s feelings of neglect and Emma’s love interest. This book pulls the reader in from the very beginning and it is doubtful it will disappoint.  The tale is broken up into various chapters and is told from the standpoints of Jacob, his mother Emma, his brother Theo, the chief investigator Rich, and Jacob’s defense lawyer Oliver.  The series of events in this twisted plot will never let the reader put the book down.

This book offers a gripping look into the mind of a teenager with Asperger’s.  Picoult did a remarkable job of portraying what it would be like to have a child or sibling with this syndrome. The question that arises in this book is if it is moral to charge a boy who has Asperger’s with murder.  It brings about other questions of our current legal system and how it handles people with disabilities.


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Katie Bonanni

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