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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Wonderfully written, from alternative viewpoints, House Rules tell the story of Emma Hunt, a mother of two boys - Jacob, 18, and Theo, 15. Jacob has Asperger's Syndrome, an illness which has many different elements, making it different in everyone, but often charactered by lack of empathy, detachment from the world, obsessive behaviour and violent outbursts. Emma dotes on Jacob, spending all she has on therapists, medication and food supplements. Theo, naturally, resents such unbalanced parenting.

One of Jacob's quirks is his interest in crime scene forensics - he watches true life forensic TV shows, reconstructs crime scenes at home and even turns up at real crime scenes, offering to help the detectives.

When someone Jacob knows if found dead, and it is revealed that the murder occurred shortly after and argument with Jacob, he falls into the spotlight. Subsequent forensic evidence points even more towards Jacob's guilt and he is held for questioning...

There are some pretty large plot holes, and the twist can be seen coming from a thousand yards, so as a thriller it doesn't really stack up. It also suffers for being overly similar to Picoult's My Sister's Keeper and Handle With Care - child with medical problems, jealous sibling, courtroom drama, check, check and check.

But as an engaging and well observed novel it hits the mark, and is an excellent study of a family under pressure combined with a fascinating insight into Asperger's Syndrome.

Four stars.
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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.
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on July 22, 2008
I live in Ottawa, Ontario Canada and was walking through my local bookstore. I came across this book in the aisles and the title of the book caught my attention. Why it did is because we always had something at home that was posted on the fridge titled "House Rules". I had to fly to Calgary and I read this book the entire 4 hour flight, I didn't even notice the time. I don't know Rachel, but this book really touched me. I honestly couldn't put this book down and there were parts where I would laugh, parts that were similiar to experiences I had when I was young and then parts where I just completely stared to left of my window to just completely cry. I have never had a book do that to me before, and the fact that it was something that was real, really had me explore my own childhood memories. I loved the book and I hope that you will continue to write more. It's just interesting to know that we are in separate countries and that we had similiar childhoods, it's interesting to me, that there are many similiar people in the world, we just never know it and the fact we can look back without hatred and really look at both positive and negative aspects of life, but mainly because we moved on. I bought another copy for my sister as well, she won't believe it when she reads it. It truly was such a good read, and I really just enjoyed it.

Thank you!

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on July 18, 2010
If you have someone close to you with Aspergers (as I do) ... this will be a very tough read!! I had to stop reading because I was so frustrated!! Picoult's character was over the top with symptoms of both AS and Autism. This book is a big let down..... I liked the idea of writing from the different perspectives of the family ... but she was again over the top with all of the characters thinking, actions and feelings about AS!! I hope readers don't take this "research" and apply it to all living with AS and their families!!
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on May 24, 2010
Emma Hunt's life largely revolves around her eighteen year old son, Jacob. Jacob needs help in learning how to communicate appropriately in a world where most of us are equipped to read social cues and he is not. Jacob has Asperger's Syndrome and, together with his compulsive need for order and routine, he takes comments literally and is hypersensitive to a number of stimuli including bright lights, loud noises and human touch. Emma's preoccupation with Jacob means that her younger son, Theo feels neglected and unloved. Emma's husband, Henry, left the family soon after Theo was born, and their contact with him is limited.

Jacob has an obsessive focus on forensic science. He watches a television show called `Crimebusters' and keeps a detailed journal of each episode. Jacob has a police scanner, and sometimes turns up at crime scenes where he tells the police what they need to do. He also frequently stages his own mock crime scenes at home.
When his social skills tutor is found dead. Jacob is questioned as a matter of course. However, his behaviour when questioned looks a lot like guilt, and it seems as though he knows more than he is telling. When Jacob is accused of murder, Emma is desperate.

I found myself reading this novel over two days because I just had to know how it would end. And while the ending didn't really satisfy me, I'm hard pressed to think of one that would. Some aspects of the novel didn't work well for me but overall I enjoyed it: it made me think about some of the issues for families living with Asperger's Syndrome; about the many different ways in which individual differences can impact on lives.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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on August 3, 2010
Well I must say the book grabbed my attention very quickly and held it till just over the halfway mark. From there I found it a bit slow moving and drawn out. The autism component was interesting but repetition of the symptoms from each characters point of view caused me to skip many paragraphs. It seemed to me that Jodi Picoult must have got distracted towards the end of the novel as the feel changed. I did loose interest in the story and found I just wanted to hear the verdict.

I debated between 2 or 3 stars and decided I'll give this a 3 as I felt connected with the characters and the beginning and felt for the poor mother of the "Aspie" child. Also the mystery component was good. However, the last third of the book killed it for me. It could have been either shorter or written differently to hold my attention.

Lastly, I still don't know why someone simple did not ask Jacob for the truth. Given the way he was portrayed to follow rules and never lie I would have thought this whole thing could have stayed out of court.
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on January 2, 2011
This book is excellent! The author takes you inside the mind of a boy with Aspergers Syndrome. It's so well written and definitely gives you a new insight to children with Autism... especially if you work with, or are involved with Autistic children in any way, this book is a must read! I loved every minute of it! A truly beautiful story about a boy who is severely inhibited by his social skills and interpretations of social rules... great read!
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on December 3, 2014
For those with aspergers, I am appreciative of authors who write to give better insight and understanding. This story is recommended to all readers who wonder what it is like, but don't want to learn the clinical descriptions or traits. This will captivate you heart and your interest. Thank you Jodi.
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on December 31, 2013
Interesting book about two brothers, one of whom as austism. Learned lots about the disease, particularily Asperger Syndrome. Family relationships and a love interest made this book an easy read. I enjoyed it and am now reading Jodi Picoult's book entitled The Story Teller.
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on March 23, 2012
10. The characters are all one-dimensional cliches.

9. The "twist" ending is completely given away by a scene that happens early in the book.

8. None of the characters are likeable. (Seriously, not one.)

7. The only reason that the plot works is because, inexplicably, none of the family members ever talk to each other about the big event in their lives.

6. Exposition. It's everywhere. Apparently, Jodi Picoult is not familiar with "show, don't tell."

5. The novel is oblivious to the fact that its police are negligent and incompetent (because, if they weren't, the plot would fall apart.)

4. The reason behind the plot twist made my eyes get stuck in the back of my head because I rolled them so hard (though, in better hands, it may have been effective; the idea was actually quite good.)

3. Characters are introduced into the plot and then are given absolutely nothing to do.

2. Plot holes you could drive a truck through.

1. The way that Asperger's is used to further the plot in this train-wreck of a book is cheap and offensive. The positive reviews here make me fear for the way that my son (who has ASD) will be judged and treated by people who think that Picoult's representation of the disorder is accurate. Shame on you, Jodi!
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