Saturday, September 25, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

The thing about critiquing books is that you feel the obligation to be critical. Be that as it may (I love saying that), critiquing House Rules by Jodi Picoult (pronounced pee-koe) is a challenge. I tend to be a little snobbish about what I call “serial writers,” authors publishing one or more books a year. I’ve given up reading Grafton, Grisham, and a few others I’m too pompous to admit, simply because they are so commercially successful. I have an innate aversion to being mainstream.  Jodi Picoult’s books tend to be the exception because she writes exceptionally well about morally provocative topics, i.e., a child who doesn’t want to give her dying sister a kidney (My Sister’s Keeper – a personal favorite), the trauma of a horrific school shooting (Nineteen Minutes – another favorite).

In House Rules, Picoult takes on a typically hot topic. Jacob is an eighteen-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome who is accused of murdering his social worker. There’s a younger brother suffering from lack of attention from a mother struggling to maintain a life for her child with a disability, an incompetent but lovable attorney, a barely there dad who was in fact never there, and the social worker’s asshole boyfriend. I’m not sorry that I read House Rules (Picoult’s books are impossible to dislike), but I did finish it feeling a little angry. Here’s why:
1.     Obviously the book would have only been 50-pages long if someone simply had asked Jacob, “So Jacob, what happened?” But it was irritating that no one did – not the mom, the detective on the case, nor Jacob’s attorney!
2.     How the story would have played out if Jacob had told what happened might have made a more engaging story, i.e., how the law would deal with it, the kids' relationship with their reappearing father, etc.

So read the book? Sure. But if pretty good just isn’t good enough for you, read “My Sister’s Keeper,” or “Nineteen Minutes.” Picoult shines in those two. House Rules left me feeling like it just wasn’t leaving quickly enough.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, SueAnn. My book group is reading this book for next month... Hope you're well. Best, Amy Carr