Friday, February 5, 2010

Review #43: House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Title: House Rules

Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria (Simon and Schuster)
Format: Advanced Reading Copy from Publisher
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9643-4
$26.00, 544 pages
Release Date: March 2, 2010

Rating: 10/10

My Review and Description:

As a huge Jodi Picoult fan and someone who has read pretty much all of her novels (minus a few early ones), I am confident in saying that House Rules is going to hit the book world like My Sister's Keeper did. It's going to stir up so much thought, emotion, politics, drama, rage, hope, fear and joy that readers are going to be bubbling with discussion.

First, it's about a child with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism. It would be hard to find a parent out there these days who doesn't have an opinion on this subject.

I am a mother of a two year old and am convinced at all times that the world is going to open up and suck him down under. I'm pretty crazy on the ol' mother worry front. So, as a reader I felt so many different emotions while reading this.

Let me tell you about the story first. Jacob is a 17 year old boy who has Asperger's Syndrome, a high functioning form of Autism. He is the older brother to Theo and son to Emma. His days are filled with color coding and the strictest of routines. He doesn't have a girlfriend, he doesn't really have any friends but he does have a passion, for forensics. His passion is so much that he tends to show up at crime scenes and give his two cents.

The only other person that gets Jacob is Jess, his tutor. Jess spends her time with Jacob teaching him social skills, skills as simple as making eye contact with a cashier. Jess, unfortunately comes with a boyfriend, who calls Jacob "Chief" and wears orange (and that's enough for Jacob to NOT like him at all!).

Jess ends up missing her session with Jacob one Tuesday and is found dead. Soon enough, evidence leans toward Jacob. For the world outside of Jacob's home, Asperger's is not well known or understood. To the outside world, Jacob is strange. Strange = Guilty.

Why this book gets such a strong rating from me and why I think it's going to strike a chord, is that is brings to light a very heated topic these days. An onion of a topic, I'd say, with so many layers.

You have Emma, the mother, left as a single parent to raise two boys incredibly different from one another. She is intense, loyal, passionate, loving, opinionated, and...tired. Tired of fighting every day for balance, for understanding, for help, for a moment.

You have Theo, ashamed to say that he wishes his brother wasn't around but also wonders who would take care of him so well if he were the one with Asperger's.

And you have Jacob, the storm that circles around them; calm at times and bursting at others.

What Jodi Picoult does well is throw in a mess of side characters that wrestle through. Rich, the detective who questions Jacob; Oliver, the very green lawyer who takes the case; and Henry, the father (and ex-husband) who walked away in the beginning.

All these characters collide in such a troubled murder investigation. I had no idea what to believe. Quite frankly, I found myself being kind of pissed at Jacob, wanting to shake him of his disorder to get to the truth. The frustration of everyone around him was so thick it seeped out of the pages. I hated that I felt that but I understood. Yet at the same time, my heart was burning for Emma. I could feel her exhaustion in my bones and the weight of the daily routines and lack of understanding. I wrestled back and forth through the whole damn book. I cried. I got mad. I prayed for a healthy child.

In the end, I was once again amazed at the power of Jodi Picoult's storytelling and her ability to see beyond the black and white. I haven't been this moved since My Sister's Keeper (and seriously, folks, if you haven't read that one...go out and buy it now. Then go rent the movie, a box of Kleenex and some chocolate...because the tears and emotion are going to come big time!).

Thank you so much to Wendy at Simon and Schuster for sending me this super advanced copy to read. I am forever grateful.

Mark March 2 on your calendars and check out her website above for any tour dates. Though she is quite popular these days, if you ever get a chance to meet her in your neck of the woods, do it. She's incredibly kind.

Happy Reading!

red headed book child


Jenny said...

Wonderful review!!! This does sound amazing... I was a little disappointed with her last one so I'm glad to hear this one is so good! Can't wait to read it!

Julie@My5monkeys said...

its on my calendar

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Jenny, Handle with Care was pretty good. I didn't really get into Change of Heart. This one is strong.

Julie, glad to hear it!!!

StephTheBookworm said...

I am SO excited for this book. She is an amazing writer. You are so lucky to have read it early. Glad you liked it!

Amo said...

You know, I have never read a Jodi Picoult book, yet I have always wanted to. I've heard nothing but great things about all of her books. If I can ever finish reading the book I'm reading now, I'll have to pick this one up!

Ceri said...

Ooh, I've yet to read this one. I do like Picoult, even though I do find her books kind of samey sometimes. I loved Salem Falls and Keeping Faith too. :)

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Steph, March 2 is coming soon!

Amo, I would start with Plain Truth!

Ceri, I know what you mean. She does have a formula one that does well most times, others you can get a little annoyed.

BookHounds said...

I am NOT reading the review until I get the book in my hands. I just saw that you gave it 10/10 -- I can't wait!

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Mary, I understand. the wait will be worth it!!

Lisa said...

Can you believe I have never read any of Piccoult's books?! This sounds like a good one to start with although one of my son's oldest friends appears to have Asperger's (my diagnosis--I have known this kid for so long and work with someone who's son has it so she's taught me a lot about it)so I think it would be hard to read.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Wow. Great review. Jodi seems really good at writing about parents who have ill children.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Lisa, it is hard to read just being a mother but she does a really good job with explaining Asperger's and really capturing it, I think. I have limited exposure. But even though I was frustrated a lot reading it, I understood and I cared for Jacob.

Juju, Jodi Picoult has a knack for stories that involved children in danger or sickeness. I guess it is what pulls at our heart strings the most!

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Like you, I've read all of her books except maybe one or two early ones.

And I have this one on preorder. I can't wait! Now that your review has really piqued my interest, I'm "salivating" here...can't stand waiting! But March is just around the corner.

Jodi Picoult said...

Thanks Michelle, for the rave!
Jodi Picoult

bookmagic said...

I'm not a huge fan of hers but I am intrigued by the premise of this one. Amazing review!

Staci said... gave it a 10! I'm even more excited to read it because if it doesn't knock my socks off...I'm done with Picoult. I have read all of her books and wished that she would go back to her style of the early days. I wish she would write a book that didn't end up in a courtroom...I'm getting burned out on that scenario.

Great review!

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I apparently commented back to this in my mind but HOLY COW , thanks for commenting on my review for your book, Jodi Picoult.!!! It's my pleasure to read your novels.