When Emma Hunt’s son is diagnosed with Asperger’s, she knows she will do anything to help him.
She expects other people not to understand. She expects the stares and whispers. She even expects trouble with the police. But she doesn’t expect Jacob to be charged with murder. And when all the hallmarks of your son’s condition – his tics, his inappropriate actions, his inability to look you in the eye – can be read as guilt; when you cannot put your hand on your heart and swear he is innocent… How can you help your child then?
Shamefully, this is the first Jodi Picoult book I’ve ever read. I didn’t realise what I’d been missing and from the very first page, I was hooked. This story follows a teenage boy called Jacob Hunt who has Asperger’s, a form of autism. He can’t communicate like the rest of us, takes everything everybody says literately and can’t empathise. His routine cannot be changed, he can only eat certain coloured foods on certain days and he gets agitated extremely easily. He also has a fascination for crime scene investigation. In order to try and fit in better, Jacob needs extra help. One day his social skills tutor Jess, is found dead and Jacob is the prime suspect. This is a gripping story of Jacob’s struggle to fit in with everyday society, a mother’s unconditional love for her son and the unconventional relationship between two brothers.
I love the way this book is written as she writes from the point of view of all the characters; Jacob, his mother, his brother, his lawyer and a detective. I felt much more involved in the story, the characters, their lives and the problem they face. Rather than feeling like an outsider looking in, I was able to look at the story from different perspectives. For example, Jacob’s mother would have found Jacob’s behaviour fairly normal, having to live with him whereas the Lawyer found it strange because he was unfamiliar with Jacob’s condition. I found Jacob’s chapters particularly interesting, as I have zero knowledge of Aspergers and Autism, It was fascinating to get into the mind-set of a person with the condition and I praise the author for the amount of research that must have gone in to this novel to make it as raw as it is. With regards to Jacob’s condition, I was impressed that there is no sugar-coating. It’s very emotional. It’s very dark and it’s very real and being in his world is as equally intriguing as it is scary and it’s hard to imagine that there are people in the real world that have similar everyday struggles. Due to the plot of the story, a large amount of the book is based in a courtroom during Jacob’s trial and sometimes I find novels like this quite tedious after a while due to the excessive use of legal terms which I simply don’t understand but this was different because of the unique circumstances of the story which made it all the more enjoyable and page turning. One of the things I like most is how carefully Jodi fails to reveal anything until the very end. I was equally confused as some of the characters in the book were which is another reason I found it more enjoyable in first person because essentially, you’re on the same page as they are. The very last sentence of this novel literately sent a shiver down my spine and I think that’s when you know you’ve just read something really amazing.
The only critiscism I have is that I found the book a bit long. I don’t mind long books and as much as I enjoyed it, I felt this was a bit unnecessarily long at times and she could possibly have compressed some of it into a few less chapters however I can’t blame her for wanted to be thorough. All in all, a fascinating subject, an intriguing plot and likeable characters which leaves you rooting for them until the very end.