House Rules by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
House Rules centres around Jacob, a boy with Asperger's Syndrome, who is accused of murder. The nature of the Syndrome means that a lot of his mannerisms could potentially be mistaken for signs of 'guilt', such as not being able to make eye contact and not answering certain questions, particularly under pressure. It also didn't help his case that he has a fascination with forensic science, something which he is extremely knowledgeable about.
The murder victim is Jess, Jacob's social skills tutor. His mum, Emma, knows that he had some kind of involvement in what happened to Jess, but she doesn't know to what extent. When Jacob is charged with the murder, Emma enlists the help of a rookie lawyer to try and prove her son's innocence. Meanwhile her other son, Jacob's younger brother Theo, is dealing with his own issues alone, while his mother is preoccupied with Jacob's court case. The 'forgotten sibling' seems to be a popular theme through several of JP's books...
This was another formulaic Jodi Picoult novel - moral/social/ethical dilemma etc culminating in courtroom scenes. I felt like I learned quite a bit about Asperger's Syndrome, although having read a few other reviews on Goodreads, it seems that Jodi Picoult threw every possible symptom at Jacob, so that he was quite an 'extreme' example of the condition.
The part that moved me the most was when Jacob was actually being held in jail (he was 18, so legally an adult) and trying to cope with such a dramatic change to his routine, and the torment that Emma was going through being parted from him and unable to help, but knowing how much he would be struggling. Even though he was an adult, the Asperger's meant that he was sometimes a bit naive and child-like, and as a parent myself I kind of felt that pain of not being able to help your child when they were suffering.
Overall I enjoyed the book, but there were a few moments of frustration when I wished someone would just ask Jacob, in a way that he would be able to respond to, about what really happened to Jess. Emma was always pointing out that he was incapable of lying, so I couldn't help thinking it could've all been solved a lot sooner!
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