Inexplicably, although unsurprisingly, New York Times Bestselling Author Jodi Picoult has once again succeeded in throwing me into an alternate world of her personal creation—almost instantaneously. I was forced to forget everything pertaining to actuality prior to reaching the final page; alas I sat both cherishing and lamenting the book’s resolution for the entire duration of a four hour return flight from Atlanta, Georgia.
Jodi Picoult seems to possess an unwavering habit of pulling me (and all her readers) into the aperture of her novels—both mentally and emotionally. Although I found myself unable to adequately empathize with the main character of this book in particular, I was able to understand and relate to many of the other characters and their personal anticlimactic struggles.
I really believe that Picoult has not received nearly enough recognition for her incredible contributions to literature (although I am sure it is because I am in 8th grade and her books, it seems, are geared toward a marginally older audience. Plus, no one reads for fun these days! At my school, people read for required Reading Counts points; if it wasn’t for the RC program, I doubt most of them would read at all).
House Rules tells the captivating story of an eighteen-year-old boy named Jacob who has Asperger’s Syndrome (which is declared to be “a form of autism”) and a knack/obsession for forensics (crime scene investigation). Although he is academically empowered and intellectually brilliant, he is also socially impaired; and cannot transform thoughts to words or read social signs as people without Asperger’s can. Little, random things bother him that other people wouldn’t even notice, such as the crumpling of paper, brightly shining lights, or miniscule interruptions to his meticulously planned-out Life Schedule. He cannot lie, for it is nearly impossible for him to tell anything but the undiluted, unmistakable truth; his mother dubs this as “a symptom of Asperger’s” in the midst of the novel. Jacob is a real, living, non-Divergent Candor, so to speak (I realize that describing a fictional character as “real” and “living” is an absurdly paradoxical statement, but I digress).
One aspect of this book that I greatly appreciated was its authentic and…candid…approach to the subject of love. Not only is her perspective true and honest, Picoult seems to voice the things that we are afraid to say. She addresses the fact that love and hate can be felt simultaneously; and that sometimes, even when we love someone dearly, we still wish for them to be a little more perfect than they are in reality. Love, although indescribable in context and unmistakable in its climax, may be transformed into an immovable burden. Jacob’s fifteen-year-old brother, Theo, feels this way when he realizes that he will have to take over caring for Jacob when their mother is no longer able to. He knows he will, though—out of his love for Jacob—which angers him, because he feels like he isn’t given a choice either way. But later in the book, he states that “when he finds a girl he loves and is ready to propose, he’ll just have to make sure she knows that Jacob and himself are a packaged deal, and that she’d just have to deal with it”.
Note: House Rules is a murder mystery. I purposely did not address any specific events/introduce certain characters in fear of giving something away.
This book was enthralling in a way I cannot even put into words. I would recommend this book to anyone who a) likes murder mysteries, b) has read—and liked—any of Jodi Picoult’s other novels, or c) has read—and liked—The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.
-Danielle K., 8th grade