55. House Rules by Jodi Picoult

House Rules by Jodi Picoult (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 532 pages
Ages: 18 +
Finished: Mar. 26, 2010
First Published: Mar. 2, 2010
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: realistic fiction, mystery
Rating: 2/5

First sentence:

Everywhere I look, there are signs of a struggle.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: I have Asperger's. My son is autistic. I have never read a Jodi Picoult book before as they have never interested me but when I heard the topic of this one was Asperger's I obviously just had to read it.

Comments: 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.


  1. Nicola, I'm so glad that you gave us your thoughts on this book. I have not read it yet, but I've certainly been reading lots of reviews of it. I appreciate your honesty. Glad to hear the mystery is adequate. Thanks!

  2. Well, I certainly appreciate the review by someone who has experienced this firsthand! If I choose to read the book (I'm undecided at the moment), I will keep your review in mind while I read. It's sad how sometimes authors will misrepresent a person or group of people unintentionally, yet do them a disservice at the same time.

    I would actually love to have you blog more about your experiences with Asperger's and autism if you ever get the chance or inclination-it would give me a new perspective!

  3. Thank you, Nicola. You have given us a better look at Asperger's. I want to read the book you suggested now.

    I must say I did like the story, but I didn't realize that Picoult didn't portray Asperger's in a true light.

    Here is my review on House Rules: http://seizethebookblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/book-review-house-rules-by-jodi-picoult.html

  4. I had been wanting to read this book, so I'm very glad I came across your review. I think I'll skip it and add Marcelo on my wish list instead. Thanks for a great review.

  5. Thank yo for sharing your thoughts about House Rules! Without your input, I probably would not know that it is not normal for a person with Asperger's to have all the symptoms Jodi Picoult gives her character. The first book I heard mention Asperger's was Dear John by Nicolas Sparks. Thank you for mentioning Marcelo in the Real World because I would like to learn more...

  6. Thank you so much for your honest opinion.

    I haven't yet read House Rules but I do want to. My older brother has severe autism so I do have personal experience with people on the autism spectrum.

    I can also see how easy it would be for Picoult to create an unrealistic character from having only done research. To know what Asperger's or Autism really is like, you need to have personal experience, and by that I mean having lived with it, or worked with it... not just researched and maybe met a few people.

    There are so many symptoms, and as you say, each person experiences different degrees of them, and simply does not have some of them at all.

    But I feel that saying Ms Picoult has done the Asperger's community a disservice is harsh. She is a best-selling author, think of the awareness she has raised for Asperger's, just by writing this book.

    I know it is not normal for someone to display all the symptoms, but this way might not readers of the book be able to recognize them? Might it not make them stop and think when they see someone with a little 'quirk' instead of being rude and nasty?

    Once again, thank you for your review. I hope I haven't offended you with anything I have said. I just know how much nicer it would be for my brother if people were more aware of Autism.

    After all, today, 2nd of April, is Autism Awareness Day.

  7. Aye.Me - no offense at all! You have a very sound argument.

    I felt I could be harsh in my little review for the reason that Ms Picoult *is* such a popular author. Many people will read this book and then have the wrong impression of people with Asperger's. I, and other aspie's, don't want that kind of false advertising.

    As you say there are so many aspects to autism, your brother who is severe, my son who is mild and myself who has Asperger's, all each indeed with different symptoms, presentations and needs.

    Awareness is certainly needed and lets hope more of it comes in the form of great books with a positive message and respect for the individuals on the spectrum.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your opinion on my blog!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts