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September 6, 2010 | by  | in Books |
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House Rules, by Jodi Picoult

To be honest, I’m not sure if I can write anything new about Jodi Picoult. She is to readers what leftover pizza for breakfast is to kids. We’ve grown up with her books on the coffee table or in our best friend Stacy’s Roxy backpack. And aside from that gratuitous movie adaptation of My Sister’s Keeper, anything with her scent on it has usually been a bet well-hedged. House Rules doesn’t break the mould. It’s the story of Jacob Hunt, an eighteen year old with Asperger’s Syndrome and an obsession with forensics. His mother Emma is a struggling advice columnist who rolls with the many punches of Jacob’s Asperger’s induced eccentricities—think colour-themed days, frequent meltdowns, and hypersensitivity. His younger brother Theo is a social outcast by association and starts to break into homely looking houses to feed his need for normalcy. When Jacob’s social skills tutor Jess turns up dead, his AS incriminates him more than his DNA evidence, and Emma hires rookie lawyer Oliver as his counsel. A warning: raise not your eyebrows that Jacob exhibits every symptom around—Picoult can’t sell the plot unless he manifests bad. As far as character originality goes, leave your seatbelt unbuckled; Jacob’s a doozy, but the staples (long-suffering sibling, devoted mother, and authority figure with a heart of gold) are reincarnated as the latest Picoult characters. Familiarly absorbing at the start, House Rules drags towards the end and only an author as successful as Picoult could get away with a self-indulgent 532 pages—not to mention that the final resolution comes as a finger-snap over the last four pages. To finish, I’ll leave y’all with a quote from Florence + the Machine: “Who is the lamb and who is the knife?” In Jacob’s case, that one will keep you up all night.

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