Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"House Rules" Doesn't

House Rules- Jodi Picault

I've always hated to admit that I've been a Jodi Picault fan.  Even though she's no Danielle Steele, I always feel somewhat ashamed that I am reading such formulaic and predictable writing.  To me, a Picault book embodies Chick Lit, and not very original Lit at that.  Each story is the same-- there is some issue, usually somewhat controversial, there's usually a single mother (for the romance angle), and there's always a twist.  That said, The Pact was a fun, albeit sad, read and 19 Minutes was an incredibly good story.

Her latest book, House Rules, received a bit more publicity than some of her others.  The main character, Jacob, has Asperger's Syndrome and Picault's illumination of the Autism Spectrum created a lot of interest within the educational community. Knowing very little about the Spectrum, I was intrigued.

Unfortunately, the book didn't live up to the hype.  I was actually quite disappointed and, after a few weeks of reflection, I've narrowed down my frustrations into three categories: Predictability, Problematic Characters, and Inaccuracies.

First, Picault has become much too reliant on her formulary.  It's really not enjoyable reading a book knowing that there will be a twist but it's even worse when you figure that twist out super early in the story.  Good books are about characters and plot; I was too busy noticing the various hints to really enjoy the story.

Of course, the story wasn't very good, mostly because the characters were really annoying.  Jacob himself was fine, I suppose.  Having no familiarity with Aspergians, I can't say whether or not Picault created a realistic character.  Having familiarity with overprotective and annoying mothers (no, not my own.  I'm speaking in general, as there are many out there...) I can state with certainty that Jacob's mother, Emma, was the poster child for overprotective and annoying.  She coddled her son, ignored her other child, used Jacob's syndrome as a crutch, fought when she should have listened, and stayed silent when she should have tried to fight.  I know that I'm neither perfect nor a mother, but I truly hated Emma.  Thus, I spent a great deal of my time yelling at the book and telling Emma how stupid she is!  Due to the fact that I often read books in public places, Emma's stupidity was a problem not just for me, but for everyone around me!

Lastly, the story focuses on a murder and how the police proceed.  For the three of you who may still want to read the book, I won't give you details.  But, I will say that I've watched enough Law and Order to  know that Picault's  police and  district attorney were far more lenient on the suspects than would have been the case.  Charges of Obstruction, Hindering Prosecution, Breaking and Entering and many others would have been leveled at the suspects.  Because she chose to put plot points above accuracy, Picault lost my respect.

So, what it comes down to is this: 19 Minutes rules.  House Rules doesn't...

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