'House Rules' by Jodi Picoult Anxiety-Inducing

house rules jodi picoult
Amazon; $16.38
An expert at complicated sibling relationships, Jodi Picoult takes on another challenging family issue in her newest novel, House Rules.

If you have a child on the spectrum, this book just might do you in; or it could be a cathartic release of all of those "what if" emotions in a fictional setting. Either way, I'm warning you it will be a tough read, emotionally speaking.

Jacob is an 18-year-old Asperger's kid with a 15-year-old little brother, Theo. Emma is their single mother who, like most parents of children on the spectrum, has worked tirelessly to create a home and school life that reduces Jacob's anxiety while emphasizing his strengths.

That all comes crashing down when Jacob's social skills tutor, a local college student, is found dead.


In addition to following the heart-wrenching murder mystery -- with two out of the three suspects being Theo and Jacob -- Picoult creates a palpable feeling of frustration on Emma's part as Jacob is thrust into situations that destroy all of the hard work she's done on his behalf. (I can already see the movie trailer -- calling Laura Linney!)

As someone who is raising neurotypical children, my heart sunk into my stomach as Emma wrestled with the question that all parents of kids on the spectrum must: What happens when I'm not around to protect him? I can only imagine what Jacob, Theo, and Emma's story would do to anyone who is living with this fear right now.

I do wish the wrap-up would've been fleshed out a bit more in House Rules. Some more exposition would've delivered a more powerful emotional punch and release, especially given all of the effort and word count of the rest of the book. Still, this New York Times Bestseller delivers. Fans of Picoult's will be satisfied and a little devastated.

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