learning new ways to hone my craft.
My latest read was House Rules, the story of a teenager with Asperger’s who gets caught up in an unexpected murder and can’t find his way out. I wonder at Ms. Picoult’s proclivity for dealing with legal issues, for all (or most) of her books eventually weave in the law. But it does make for interesting reading, especially when penned by such a clever hand.
Jacob, the teenager with Asperger’s, is obsessed with forensic analysis. He watches his favorite crime show every day at 4:30 p.m., takes detailed notes, and even constructs crime scenes in the house. I don’t have children but I remember how trying my younger brother could be. I can’t imagine a mother dealing with Asperger’s or in-house crime scenes, but combining the two must be utter hell. Ms. Picoult’s attention to detail—clearly painting the character’s thoughts and emotions, drawing us into their worlds—is phenomenal. I felt like I lived with Jacob and his younger brother. I could see him stimming (flapping his hands or beating his fingers on his legs). I anticipated his next crime analysis. I wanted to yell at the people who didn’t know or understand him better and tell them to just lay off. Those are the signs of an expert writer.
I did have a little trouble near the end of the story. A scene between Jacob and his mother and a question and answer at the trial didn’t ring true to how the characters had been portrayed. I felt they wouldn’t have said what they did. [If anyone wants more specifics, let me know. I don’t want to spoil it for the rest.]
If you haven’t read House Rules, I highly recommend it. The information that you’ll gain about Asperger’s is life-changing, even if you don’t know someone affected by it. I’m always a little wary about her subject matter—murder, kidnapping, missing children, etc.—but Ms. Picoult doesn’t emphasize the gore or the violence. She’s more interested in the emotional impact on her characters and how it affects their relationships. And since I’m fascinated by relationships and why we choose to do what we do, her books are perfect for me.
Lastly, my favorite line from the book: it’s about the name Frank and adverbs. You’ll know it when you read it.