Jacob Hunt is an eighteen-year-old young man with Asperger’s, a form of high-functioning autism. He goes to school like everybody else, his IQ is superior to the norm, he sometimes annoys his teachers by correcting their mistakes, but despite his need to make friends, he is unable to understand the social codes and remains an outsider. Only Jess Ogilvy, his tutor, shows the patience to listen to his endless talks about forensic science, his current passion. His mother Emma works from home to be able to take care of him in case of a crisis, and his younger brother, Theo, 15, is a bit resentful that the world seems to revolve around Jacob. But when Jess is found dead and Jacob is accused of murdering her, suddenly the world of Emma is about to collapse and she has to fight to defend her son and make a jury understand all the ways in which Asperger’s affects her son’s emotional take on the world…

House Rules is a typical Jodi Picoult’s story. She takes a controversial subject involving several member of a family, turns the problem to see it from all possible angles, the characters usually end up as part of a trial, and there is a twist in the end. The formula works, but after a while, you get tired of it. I know I do… For the last three or four books I have thought: “this is more of the same”, and every time I still buy her latest, thinking maybe this time there will be something new. Not this time…. Picoult wrote My Sister’s Keeper, about a girl who had to help her sister suffering from leukemia by giving her blood and bone marrow, then in Handle with Care she also wrote about a girl with serious problems (osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle-bones disease) and how this disease affected the healthy sister, who felt neglected, and here again, Theo feels resentful because her mother is dedicated to Jacob and his own needs often pass unnoticed. He also knows and resents the fact that he will have to take care of his brother once his mother is not there any more. I agree this is an interesting theme but after three novels, we are starting to get it, even if the implications are a bit different each time! Also, almost all of her novels end up with a trial, which is OK, but after a while, you know what to expect…

I wish Jodi Picoult would take risks and not end up like Mary Higgins Clark, applying the same formula over and over again. Her best novel so far (Second Glance) is the one which departs from it (no trial, part of the story set in the past, part in the present), so I know she can do it. The question is: why doesn’t she, more often? Then again, if you haven’t read too many Picoult’s novels, this one is as enjoyable as the rest, and Picoult is always very thorough when researching her subjects. And if you are not used to her way of writing, you might not be able to guess the ending (which unfortunately I did, very early on)…

Rating: 3/5