house rules book coverReviewed by Vera Pereskokova

For Emma Hunt, days revolves around color coded meals, clothes arranged in rainbow order and strict adherence to routines. Her teenage son, Jacob, has Asperger’s, and while he is brilliant, he also has immense difficulties with social interactions and the slightest deviation from his routine can cause a break down. While others pity her  situation, she cannot imagine her life any other way.

At the expense of her marriage – her husband left soon after Jacob’s diagnosis and the birth of their youngest son Theo – and paying attention to Theo’s comings and goings, Emma tirelessly works to make sure that Jacob has every advantage in life. Whether it’s insisting on an IEP (individualized education plan) for Jacob at school, hiring a social skills coach or researching dietary plans and supplements that can quell Asperger’s symptoms, there’s nothing that Emma won’t try. Individuals with Asperger’s also tend to fixate on certain topics, hobbies, etc. and as Jacob’s fascination with crime scenes grows stronger, Emma is even happy to play along in figuring out the fake crime scenes he carefully constructs.

Jacob’s (and Emma’s) carefully constructed world comes crashing down when Jacob is accused of murder. Suddenly, the quirks that are signature signs of Asperger’s are seen as evidence of guilt and Jacob’s obsession with crime scenes certainly does not help his case. How does a person who avoids eye contact and is prone to outbursts at certain triggers get a fair trial in a court system that’s not always fair even to fully-functioning individuals? More importantly, how does Emma convince herself that Jacob is innocent?

In typical Jodi Picoult fashion, House Rules is a gem to be devoured while ignoring meals, sleep and anything else that’s not reading this page-turner. At 544 pages, House Rules is imposing, but to me that just meant that I had more time to spend with one of my favorite author’s writing.

Picoult is not one to shy away from difficult topics (a rare bone disease and a malpractice lawsuit in Handle With Care, child molestation in The Perfect Match, sexual assault The Tenth Circle, and so on) and her research on the topic at hand is always evident. Her descriptions of the various traits and markers of Asperger’s not only provided for a well-executed novel, but allowed me to become more informed on the subject.

This book was provided free of any obligation by SheKnows Book Club. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.