Review originally posted [here].
I know some may view Jodi Picoult as a questionable writer as her books are commercial fiction - I am constantly undecided on my views about her; they are always changing. After reading Nineteen Minutes, A Change of Heart and Plain Truth, I was very open, and even willing to read other Picoult novels. Being unable to get through Keeping Faith, I was a bit hesitant. House Rules greatly adds to that hesitant. For the positives: The characters Picoult created are interesting and pull at your emotions. And like in real life, their actions leave you frustrated when they do or say the wrong things. Learning about Autism, Asperger's specifically, was fascinating - an interest of mine which caused me to pick the book up in the first place. The court and legal aspect of the novel was explained well and easy to follow. The telling of past events was also done well and held my interest.
**This review contains spoilers**
Positives being said, there are far more negatives that left me angry and disappointed with the book. First of all, there was a huge hole in the book. A huge gap that created the problem of the plot but could have easily been solved. The book was centered around the murder of Jess Ogilvy with Jacob Hunt as the prime suspect. Throughout the novel Jacob CONSTANTLY says he did the right thing, he is telling the truth, he didn't mean to hurt Jess, it was his only choice, etc. Every time a character - specifically his mother, Emma, and his lawyer, Oliver, get close to asking Jacob the ENTIRE truth, they change their minds. They don't want to hear it. Perjury. She'll love her son no matter what he did, blah blah blah. Let me tell you this is INFURIATING because the entire problem, the entire case, would have been solved if they had asked Jacob what happened from start to finish (albeit that would leave Picoult without a book but this made the plot incredibly weak).
Another issue I had? I solved the crime right away. The second the murder came into play I knew exactly what happened. This left me with 400+ pages of waiting to see when and how the truth would come out. Perhaps if the overall plot was stronger and not so incredibly simple, this would have made for an enjoyable read. Instead it was just aggravating.
The ending of the book was beyond abrupt. It isn't until the last 20 something page the characters finally catch up with the reader and the truth is revealed, leaving no explanation of how things conclude or how the characters come to terms with what really took place. Picoult creates interesting and dimensional characters but leaves them hanging at the end. She doesn't conclude their subplots or rushes them, when they are very interesting and do deserve a proper send off.
The relationship between Emma and Oliver was unnecessary, rushed, unfinished, lacking substance...the list goes on. I won't continue it was THAT unnecessary. (And slightly ridiculous how Jacob just gets over it right away - like come on! you spent the entire book saying Jacob can't empathize and all of a sudden, over night, he's fully accepting of his mother and his lawyer's relationship when the previous day he called his mother a slut for it?!)
There was so much the book was lacking, many loose ends, rushed story lines, and a crater in the plot that ultimately made the book an unpleasant read.