Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review of House Rules by Jodi Picoult

From Sunday Star Times (Australia) --

Crisp prose lifts thrilling Picoult yarn --

By: Kate Mead --
April 11, 2010 --

JODI PICOULT is not one to shy away from heartfelt, zeitgeisty matters, and her latest novel, told from the perspective of five different characters, is no exception.

Picoult introduces us to Jacob Hunt, an 18-year-old with Asperger's syndrome. Living with his mother Emma and brother Theo, Jacob is struggling in a world of colour in which he reads everything as black or white. Symptoms of his Asperger's means that Jacob has clumsy social skills, an inclination to take everything literally, and, in his case, an obsession with crime-solving and forensics. Emma and Theo alternate between feelings of guilt over how they treat Jacob and their feelings of pure love for him. While at times it is hard for them to understand his behaviour, they persevere and put up with his staged crime scenes, complete with fake blood and fingerprint analyses.

When Jacob's tutor Jess is found dead, Jacob becomes entangled in a real crime case. Because of his fascination with forensics and what seems like suspicious behaviour as a result of his condition, Jacob is charged with Jess's murder.

House Rules investigates the characters' fractured states of mind and reminds us that the lines between right and wrong are sometimes blurred. Using a dramatic narrative laced with thrills and compassion, Picoult is particularly successful in separating the characters so we can empathise and understand each one individually. Her prose is punchy and the topic is clearly well-researched, making for a wholly engrossing and emotional read. In typical Picoult style, there were no loose ends – yet I was still left wanting more.

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