Book Review - House Rules by Jodi Picoult

House Rules

by Jodi Picoult

About twenty times a day I think, “If I only I knew then what I know now.”  For example, today I thought:

  • I probably could have accomplished more at the age of 34 if I’d watched a little less MTV and studied a little more during college. 
  • I regret counting calories and not eating more french bread slathered in Nutella on my trip to Paris last year. 
  • What was I thinking when I decided to channel my inner Madonna back in the 80′s by sporting very unattractive stirrup pants and big floppy hair bows?

Considering that I have my share of regrets it probably seems odd that I also recently concluded ignorance can be bliss. 

I am a professional worrier.  I am the type of person who worries about how I’m ever going to clean the freezer if the sponge keeps sticking to it?  Or better yet, how am I going to fill up my gas tank when Ali took the gas card with him to NYC?  Since I obviously worry about the most ridiculous things, you can imagine how much more I would have freaked out about Maya if I’d known more about autism and the potential link between vaccinations and autism.

My already gray hair thanks me for not knowing.

In Jodi Picoult’s latest book House Rules we meet Jacob Hunt, a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  As a high functioning autistic Jacob is brilliant academically but is unable to handle most social situations.  Among other symptoms, Jacob finds it difficult to make eye contact, to form emotional connections, and is very sensitive to things like bright lights and loud noise.  He takes everything very literally and needs order and routine in order to function.  As a coping mechanism Jacob immerses himself in the world of forensics and begins to “help” the police solve cases.  But things backfire when Jacob finds himself on trial for the murder of his social skills teacher.

As with most of this author’s work I enjoyed Jodi Picoult’s extensive research into autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.  I also found her exploration of the potential link between vaccines and autism both thought-provoking and worrisome, and her court scenes were as thorough and impressive as always.  But even I, as a non-expert, can say that the author misrepresents ”aspies” throughout the book.  I mean how can someone like Jacob, with so many debilitating symptoms, still function at such a high level?  I also had issues with Jacob’s mom Emma.  It is a mystery why she never outright asked her son if he committed the crime!  And since I guessed the book’s ”twist” early on in the story I was quite disappointed in the sloppy, loose ending.  For the first time I actually found myself wondering why I’d bothered to read a Jodi Picoult book at all.

I fear that Jodi Picoult is going the way of Danielle Steel, i.e. her cookie-cutter books are beginning to lack the heart and soul that made me fall in love with her writing in the first place.  While I was okay with cutting ties with Danielle Steel’s sub-par books years ago, I would definitely be sad to eliminate this talented author from my life.  I do hope she gets back on track with her next book.

What are your thoughts on the link between vaccinations and autism?  While I understand there is no concrete proof that a link exists, I definitely would have staggered Maya’s vaccinations as a precaution, knowing what I now know.

PS – Check out my Examiner.com post about the La Provence Patisserie in Brentwood - http://www.examiner.com/x-50949-West-Los-Angeles-Examiner~y2010m5d25-La-Provence-Patisserie-Authentic-French-Cafe-in-Brentwood

Ameena Din http://www.fancythatfancythis.com

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