House Rules
Jodi Picoult

Hardcover/532 pages
ISBN: 978-0743296434
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"Mystery, suspense, family saga…every genre of book seems to be covered by this novel . . ."

Jacob is a brilliant young man with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. This syndrome is described to the reader as being “a lot like having the volume of life at full blast all the time.” Specific colors, lots of noise – certain things are hard for Jacob to deal with because he is highly sensitive. He is also quite literal; if you ask him a point blank question, you will receive a point blank answer. Lying is not an option for him. His one true love in life is the world of criminal investigation. CSI techniques are something that Jacob understands with his “literal” senses. He spends most of his time making fingerprint analyses and watching his favorite CSI show on television.

Jacob lives with his mother and brother, Theo. Theo is a normal teenage boy who is sick of the world he’s living in, sick of being second in his mother’s eyes because she has to spend all of her time taking care of Jacob and his illness. Theo wants a normal life with a normal family. He’s tired of having to be perfect because Jacob isn’t. He’s tired of having to spend his life listening to his brother talk about subjects like blood spatter patterns. He wants a normal life so much that he ends up breaking and entering—walking into people’s empty houses and pretending that he lives there with these perfect families.

Emily is a seriously hard-working, loving mother, who will do anything for her boys. Her husband left her when Jacob was diagnosed with Asperger’s because he didn’t want to or couldn’t deal with the fact that his son was mentally ill. Emily has a job as an advice columnist called “Auntie Em”. She finds this extremely ironic as people come to her for her advice even though she feels like her own life is spinning out of control.

Jacob, listening to his police scanner, hears an announcement that a corpse has been found in his small town. Getting on his bike, he rushes to the scene in order to get a better look at the CSI guys in action. He sees a detective named Rick walking the scene of the crime and lets Rick know that his hypotheses about the cause of death are incorrect. Rick smiles, realizing that Jacob is completely correct about the crime.

Soon Rick becomes intertwined in this family’s life when a social worker shows up dead inside a house in town. Jess, the social worker, had been Jacob’s teacher. Jess was a lovely, smart girl with a horrible boyfriend Jacob didn’t like. Jacob soon finds himself being accused of the crime, and everyone hovering around him is sucked into this extraordinary puzzle.

This is a wonderful book that offers a look inside Asperger’s syndrome. It also shows how much a loving mother and a close knit family will do in order to save another member of their family. The story offers wonderful characters including a detective who will do anything to solve a crime and keep the streets safe for his own child, an inexperienced lawyer who is willing to go to the mat for a boy who may be guilty, and two completely different brothers. However, the love that exists between Theo and Jacob has taught them to understand and stick up for one another. Mystery, suspense, family saga—every genre is covered by this novel. The reader will not want to put House Rules down until the final chapter unfolds.

Reviewer: Amy E. Lignor