Paperback: 640 pages
Publisher: Hodder (10th Oct 2013)
When your son can't look you in the eye...does that mean he's guilty?
Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject - forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he's always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he's usually right.
But when Jacob's small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob's behaviors are hallmark Asperger's, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob's mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob.
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Review: mild spoilers ahead.
On a mission to read more of Picoult’s books, rather than re-reading my favourites of hers, I recently picked up Plain Truth (review here) and House Rules. Though sadly Plain Truth left me disappointed, I continued on with House Rules, hoping for the amazing story and amazing writing that the last book deprived me of. This was more like the Picoult I had come to love - but still, it wasn’t her absolute best work, which I believe adamantly to be Keeping Faith, Second Glance, Small, Great Things and Nineteen Minutes.
We follow the story of Jacob; a teen diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome who suddenly looks to be the main suspect in the murder of his tutor. With information that only the murderer would know, and Jacob’s blanket wrapped around the victim’s torso - could it really be anyone else?
We get the usual we expect from Picoult; alternative viewpoints between Jacob, his mother, his brother Theo, the lawyer defending him and of course, the policeman. This is one of my favourite aspects from any Picoult novel, in the hands of most authors, this may seem like an overwhelming number of viewpoints with the threat of it being too crowded. But with Picoult she does a wonderful job of making each voice distinct and providing so many individual viewpoints to one main event. Also, there are the somewhat lengthy court scenes which are a love/hate aspect of her books and though sometimes I can do without it, it is something I have come to accept and skim past. When you’ve read so many Picoult books with so many court scenes, you come to get tired of them - but a new reader would appreciate the detail and precision and level of research gone into these things to really make it authentic.
The author really does know how to do her research and I was fascinated about the details we learn in regards to Asperger’s Syndrome as well as the forensic analysis information. I have a bachelors degree in Criminology (which I guess, would make me a criminologist?) and I am totally fascinated with crime scene investigation. My desire in life at one point was to be a forensic analyst, and crime is one of my favourite topics ever. So I totally loved this aspect of the book as it was one of the main reasons I picked this book up and the author manages to dish out this information without making it too heavy-handed.
The writing was great and allowed me to whizz through the book in a couple of sittings, with the sole question revolving around my mind; was it Jacob or was it Theo? See, both Theo and Jacob were at the scene of the crime on that day, albeit at different times. Both seemingly have a motive - Jacob, for having an argument with her, and Theo for being caught accidentally seeing her naked as she came out the shower. As the book progresses, we question each of these individuals but for me at least, there was no doubt in my mind as to who did it. The author, as always, raises some good questions through her story; in this case, about issues regarding autism, social stigma, being ostracised from society, personal identity and helps us questions our own ideas and thoughts on the topic.
The characters were great and Jacob especially was my favourite - his character and voice was so distinct, his humour and personality really shone - the way he couldn’t lie, the way he takes things literally, both of which are markers of Asperger’s but is also traits of a normal teenager. I loved the parallels that were drawn in this book in the court scenes; being secretive, not being able to make eye contact, being distant and cranky - things that were markers of Asperger’s, but also markers of being a regular teenager. Jacob’s mother - a lion, doing any and everything for her child, reminded me of another character who is an all time favourite of mine - Sara, from My Sister’s Keeper. The Mom that kept on giving, kept on fighting, no matter what, even if sometimes this was at the expense of her other children. The author does a great job in bringing together some great characters and giving them their own distinct voice in this book.
The one thing that really stopped me from giving this book a 5 star was the ending - OH GOOD LORD. Why why why whyyy WHYYY. The ending really killed the book for me; after ALL that, to have it end so quickly and conveniently, didn’t sit well with me. Overly rushed and not at all what should have been the outcome in my opinion. A little more work on the ending really could have bumped this up into a 5 star book. My grievance with that aside, this was a really good book that I enjoyed reading - but if you’re looking for an EPIC read from Picoult, I would still recommend my all time fav books ever - Keeping Faith, Second Glance, Small, Great Things and Nineteen Minutes.