168 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The world, for Jacob, is truly black and white."
In "House Rules," Jodi Picoult explores the complex world of Emma Hunt, who is almost entirely focused on helping her eighteen-year-old son, Jacob, learn to communicate appropriately with his family and peers. This is a Herculean task, considering the fact that Jacob has Asperger's syndrome, a disorder characterized by a compulsive attachment to order and routine, a...
Published on March 2, 2010 by E. Bukowsky
384 of 429 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misrepresents Asperger's
As a person with Asperger's I am dismayed with Picoult's portrayal of an adult with Asperger's Syndrome. Picoult starts off by showing us all the sources she has used for her research but once one starts reading it is obvious she is so full of research she doesn't know what to do with it. She has taken every possible symptom of both Asperger's and autism (which are two...
Published on March 27, 2010 by Nicola Manning-Mansfield
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384 of 429 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misrepresents Asperger's,
As a person with Asperger's I am dismayed with Picoult's portrayal of an adult with Asperger's Syndrome. Picoult starts off by showing us all the sources she has used for her research but once one starts reading it is obvious she is so full of research she doesn't know what to do with it. She has taken every possible symptom of both Asperger's and autism (which are two different diagnoses) and put them all into the character of Jacob. Not only is Jacob loaded down with every single symptom, each of his symptoms are of the most extreme variety. A real-life 'aspie' (as we call ourselves) will have some, perhaps even many, but certainly not all textbook examples, of the symptoms and then they are at varying degrees. What Picoult has done here is a disservice to the Asperger's community.
From the mother: "Since there's no cure yet for Asperger's, we treat the symptoms ...". Asperger's is not a disease or an illness! There is no cure because one is not needed. Just from reading the positive reviews of this book I see the word "illness" being used over and over to describe Asperger's and that is because the book has left readers unfamiliar with AS with that impression. I could sit here and write an essay refuting all the quotes on the dog-eared pages I created while reading, but I won't. If you want a realistic view of a young man with Asperger's I urge you to read the book "Marcelo in the Real World" by Francisco X. Stork. The main character is 17 years old and is very comparable to Jacob only the author has done an excellent job in portraying Asperger's, showing the struggles we face but also shows that we do indeed function and do not need anyone's sympathy.
BTW, I did give the book 2 stars because if I removed the whole Asperger's element I thought the mystery was quite interesting with a fun little twist to the solution.
97 of 107 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Utterly disappointed!,
I am going to quote from the interview above with Ms. Picoult:
"Q: Why did you choose to end the book when you did, rather than going into what happens to the characters in the aftermath of the trial?
A: Because at heart, this is Jacob's book. And remember, to Jacob, there was never any real mystery here, was there?"
With all due respect to the author, there was never any real mystery here to US, either!
I have read every single one of Jodi Picoult's novels. I have loved some more than others, but never have I disliked any, until now.
I was intensely looking forward to buying and reading this book. I have a grandson who is on the autism spectrum, and to Ms. Picoult's credit, she explored the world of Asperger's Syndrome. Jacob is somebody I would like to befriend. That, for me, was the good side.
- Her delivery of information about Asperger's bordered on a professorial lecture ... not just once, but over and over again, from his mother, his psychologists and even Jacob himself.
- There was an unbelievable amount of repetition about Jacob's affect, his likes, his dislikes, his meltdowns, his compulsions. We must have heard at least 5 times about the food and clothing colors. Once was enough, we got it!
- The "mystery", however, was the worst part of this novel. I knew from the moment Jacob came home that Tuesday and went into complete meltdown, exactly what had happened, and why.
- Ms. Picoult's treatment of Jacob's defense sickened me. She attempted to present what would happen to an "Aspie" if they became involved in the legal system. Well, all I can say is God help anybody, neurotypical or not, if they were mothered, and represented by anybody, as Jacob had the misfortune to be. LEGALLY INSANE? Oliver and Emma, neither one, ever asked Jacob: DID YOU KILL HER? And yet they dared to present him as legally insane. Of course, we know why the question was never asked ... if it had been, and Jacob had told the truth as he "always" did, the book would have been over and done with at 250 pages.
- Ms. Picoult, and all of us, would have been better served if the question HAD been asked. She could then have gone on to explore, side by side, the defense of an Asperger's man, and the defense of his neurotypical brother, to truly show any differences that might exist. As it is, we don't know about those defenses because the book ended, lazily on the part of the author, without us knowing anything!!!
I don't devour novels just to find a happy ending, I read for the love of reading. Reading this book was an exercise in frustration and it left me angry on so many levels.
168 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The world, for Jacob, is truly black and white.",
In "House Rules," Jodi Picoult explores the complex world of Emma Hunt, who is almost entirely focused on helping her eighteen-year-old son, Jacob, learn to communicate appropriately with his family and peers. This is a Herculean task, considering the fact that Jacob has Asperger's syndrome, a disorder characterized by a compulsive attachment to order and routine, a tendency to take comments literally, hypersensitivity to bright lights, human touch, and scratchy fabrics, a reluctance to make eye contact, lack of empathy, painful bluntness, and difficulty relating to others. Emma's life is complicated by the fact that her husband, Henry, left shortly after their younger son, Theo, was born. Fifteen-year-old Theo deeply resents the amount of time and money that his mother lavishes on his older brother. At great expense, Emma brought early intervention therapists into her home who were "intent on dragging [Jacob] out of his own little world." She also buys costly medicines, supplements, and special foods that, she insists, help regulate Jacob's behavior.
In addition to his other quirks, Jacob is obsessed with forensics. He watches a television show called Crimebusters and keeps a detailed journal of each episode; he even shows up at real crime scenes and offers to "help" the detectives solve their cases. Much to Emma's chagrin, he regularly stages his own mock crime scenes at home, using corn syrup to simulate blood. His preoccupation with true crime becomes an issue when someone he had recently quarreled with is found dead. Eventually, evidence comes to light pointing to Jacob's guilt. Could something have happened that caused him to snap? It would not be the first time that he lashed out after someone provoked him. After Jacob is arrested, in desperation Emma chooses an inexperienced lawyer named Oliver Bond to represent her son. Bond will have to pull a few rabbits out of his hat to earn sympathy for his idiosyncratic client.
The central characters all have imperfections. Emma, who is disconcerted by the curveballs life keeps throwing her way, never gives into despair. Still, her preoccupation with Jacob shortchanges Theo, who feels neglected and unloved. Jacob is a smart yet very troubled young man who will need a miracle to get out of the mess he has helped create. He is aware enough, however, to realize that people think of him as "the weird kid who stands too close and doesn't shut up." Theo is a rebellious and angry teenager who acts out in frustration because he is burdened with a sibling who acts like "a total nutcase." Oliver is a kindhearted twenty-eight year old attorney whose lack of familiarity with criminal law may prove costly. Jess Ogilvy is Jacob's compassionate and sensitive tutor, whose job it is to teach him social skills, such as how to make small talk and the importance of looking people in the eye. Yet she is foolish enough to stay with her boyfriend, Mark, an aggressive boor who cruelly teases Jacob.
Picoult effectively conveys the anguish of a single parent who invests almost all of her energy trying to give her son a chance to enjoy a fulfilling life. But the price that she pays is steep, not just financially, but emotionally. Emma has few pleasures, no vacations, and no luxuries; her younger son must settle for whatever time and attention she can spare. We cannot help but empathize with this family in distress. Picoult's narrative device of allowing each character to convey his or her thoughts in alternating chapters works well. In spite of its length (over five hundred pages), the story moves along briskly and is helped immeasurably by sharply written dialogue and liberal doses of humor.
"House Rules" has lively courtroom theatrics and a dash of romance. Although the plot has gaping holes (including an enormous coincidence that makes it difficult to suspend our disbelief) as well as a bit too much sermonizing, Picoult wisely avoid overdosing on melodrama and sentiment. She drives home a theme that is close to her heart: Family members may occasionally loathe one another, but it is well worth the effort to make peace. This is an engaging, entertaining, moving, and at times, eloquent work of fiction that will appeal to fans of Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Inaccurate portaryal of Asperger's,
I had so looked forward to House Rules when I first heard about it. I couldn't wait to finish the series I was currently reading to get started on it As the mother of an Asperger's Child who was diagnosed a year ago at the age of 10 I wanted to feel good that someone was writing about this syndrome. Being aware is key. But within the first quarter of the book i was so disappointed. This is not an accurate portayal of someone with asperger syndrome. I actually started to dislike the character of Jacob. Something just did not ring true. He has way too many symptoms all at the highest level. This is not typical. My fear is that those who read the book will think that all asperger children are at this level, when in all actuality these wonderful kids vary as much as any other group. I myself was thinking that the character of Jacob was more towrd the low level Autism than Asperger's. Who knows, maybe if my child didn't have Asperger's I would have enjoyed the book, but i also know that I would have come away with the wrong impression about these wonderful, smart, quirky, fabulous human beings. And to me that is very sad. When fiction deals with a real lif situation it should ring true, not be made more dramatic for storyline purposes.
73 of 82 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun reading but no mystery,
I almost always enjoy Jodi's books and while I did enjoy reading House Rules I can't put it in the same class as others she has written. It was an interesting look into Asperger's but at times seemed a little cliche and did not always ring true. Also the plot was just weak. It was so obvious from the very beginning what the "twist" was that I almost didn't want to finish reading because I knew how it was going to end from the time the girl went missing. Still, Jodi has a very engaging style and her characters are mostly interesting and very well fleshed out which kept me reading to the end. Maybe borrow this one from the library instead of buying right away. Worth the read but others of her books come much more highly recommended.
122 of 145 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Jodi Picoult does not understand Asperger's Syndrome,
Jodie Picoult's image of an adult with Asperger's inaccurate and offensive. I and some other adults with Asperger's I know are not good at understanding what other people are thinking or feeling unless we are told directly. But we have feelings and we care about others, at least as much as neurotypicals [i.e., people without Asperger's].
A character in Picoult's novel says, "lack of empathy simply means someone is cold, heartless, without remorse." This is the definition of Asperger's Picoult uses, and it is central to her plot. But this definition is wrong. What she is talking about here is lack of sympathy: an inability to feel hurt when others are hurt; a lack of desire to help others when they need help. What she is describing is somebody without a conscience: a sociopath. What she is NOT describing, at least not accurately, is somebody with Asperger's.
I may not read people correctly and may sometimes act in ways that are inappropriate, but I care about others and try to do good as much as anybody without Asperger's. I just need things explained to me more than others do.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is more preaching than mystery,
I was very excited to read this book when it first came out. I have heard many good recommendations about Jodi Picoult so I thought picking up a book where the main character has the same diagnosis as my son was a good fit. I was wrong.
To be fair, I'm only about a quarter of the way through the novel. I simply cannot seem to bring myself to want to read this boring, soap box lecture. To begin with, the cover shows a young boy sitting by the lake. Why? The story is about an 18-year-old man! It's a small thing, but I kept finding myself wanting to identify with the child on the cover instead of viewing a grown adult behaving the way Jacob does.
The protagonist has every single Aspie symptom there is; a highly unlikely situation. He is treated with every drug, vitamin, diet, behavior modification and treatment that's ever been suggested. Perhaps the writer wanted to demonstrate how difficult life can be with a special needs child, but it came across to me as if she were preaching a cure. At one point, she lists how vaccinations are related to children with autism. The tone in which these "facts" were presented come across like an agenda and have nothing to do with the story line. I found myself spending more time wondering about Jacob's condition and treatment than the mystery.
I worry how this book will portray the condition to those who haven't experienced it. I can't speak for all people with Aspergers, only for my own son. He is loving and caring and has moments of true empathy towards others. His social issues stem from others misinterpretations of his actions, not his lack of feelings. It's a shame the author didn't take as much time understanding that as she did the autism-extremists' agenda.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not her best work...,
After last year's disappointing Handle with Care: A Novel, I had higher hopes for this year's book. Ultimately, I was disappointed. I thought that the issue of Asperger's was an interesting one, but this book needed an editor who was willing to do more cutting. The book dragged on, there were many redundant scenes and to be perfectly honest, the length felt more like a ruse to mask the fact that the plot was predictable. I had guessed the ending about three pages after everything got moving, and spent the remaining four hundred or so pages trying to convince myself that it could not possible be so simple. Once I reached the conclusion, I was disappointed at how open-ended it was. The book followed her by-now-standard formula, and it certainly was well-written, but overall was a bit of a let down in the plot-department. I am looking forward to next year's publication, but after two disappointing years in a row, my hopes are not that high...
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Confused?!?! NO "REAL" ENDING?!?! WHY??????,
I have to say that I have read all her books. I cannot believe the ending of this book. The character of Jacob answers very SIMPLE questions, and yet, no other character asks him the question of, "Did you kill Jess?" or "Do you know who killed Jess?" or "Recount exactly what you did and saw at the house that afternoon".
The ending was HORRIBLE. It was as if the author just looked at her unfinished work, and said..."Well, forget it. I'll just sorta end it NOW". The ending stated nothing about whether the Jacob, or Theo, for that matter, were convicted on the murder of Jess. The book, I guess what us all to assume they didn't. It doesn't state at all.
It leaves ALOT of issues lose in the ending:
1.) The presence of Henry (the father of Theo and Jacob, and Emma's ex-husband)
2.) The new relationship of Emma and Jacob's lawyer, Oliver.
3.) The verdict from the Jury.
4.) Whether Jacob and Theo ever faced the jury that afternoon and exactly hat happened.
5.) Any important character development of Dep. Rich?
6.) Possibly NOT a accurate portrayal of A.S. and/or Autism?
----I'm not looking for responses that answer these questions from users from Amazon.com. I'm only sharing my opinion and understanding of the reading. More than anything, I'm disappointed at Jodi Picoult, herself. She just didn't give this book her all. Why do I write this? Read all her other works, especially her popular and best selling works, other than this one, and you will easily understand.---------
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Get real,
As someone who works with young people with Asperger's, and someone who is the parent of a young man who has Asperger's, I have one question. What could Jodi Picoult have been thinking? No person with Asperger's spends as much time as Jacob does thinking about his disability. People with Asperger's are the way they are, and most of them don't dwell on it. That's always been the way things have been for them, so it doesn't seem unusual. I have never in my whole life heard a person who has Asperger's say something like, "When I get upset, I repeat words over and over and talk in a flat voice." A real person with Asperger's wouldn't notice unless someone pointed it out to him or her at the time.
In my experience, people with Asperger's tune into some people more than others. Sometimes they need some help understanding a social or emotional situation, that's all. There's a saying in the Asperger's community. "You've seen one person with Asperger's, and you've seen one person with Asperger's." They're all different. Nobody who has Asperger's displays every single symptom of Asperger's (and so many symptoms that *aren't* indicative of Asperger's, like lining up toys and losing speech at age 2) as Jacob does. This book really ticked me off. If I could have given it negative stars, I would have.
ps. People with Asperger's can and do lie. Just ask my son if he has taken a shower or brushed his teeth.
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House Rules: A Novel by Jodi Picoult