Tag Archives: Jodi Picoult

… and rock ‘n’ roll

This week we’ve mentioned the sex, and the alcohol. That leaves the rock ‘n’ roll. Wine, women and song. All bad stuff.

There’s so much music in novels these days. Perhaps there always was, and I’ve been deaf and blind. Adrian McKinty (yes, him again) puts lots of music in his books. Sergeant Duffy listens to a wide repertoire. He’s a bit of a show-off, that Duffy.

In Adrian’s YA novel The Lighthouse Keepers, which I’ve read but not yet reviewed, the young main character raves about music. Not so sure he’s not too precocious in his musical taste, but never mind.

Might be an Irish thing? When I first ran into John Connolly – outside the Ladies, before an event, and before he knew who I was – he pressed a CD into my hands. I gather he listens to a selection of music each time he writes a book, and those tracks end up belonging to that particular novel.

I added John’s favourites to my iTunes, and every time a track I can’t identify pops up on shuffle, I can be certain it’s one of his. I only added the CD because it contained a Lee Hazlewood track. I used to be a great fan.

A Jodi Picoult novel from a couple of years ago also included a CD. I passed the book and CD on to someone else, while making sure I put the tracks into iTunes first. I like them a lot.

It can be inspiring having an author’s choice of music for when you read. But what if you don’t like the music that helped them write? If every time the characters play their favourite tracks, you just can’t stand the music? Would you rather do without it?

Rather like when you find out which actor inspired someone’s character. If it’s the ‘wrong’ actor, you’ll have to quickly re-imagine them as someone you’d prefer. (Nobody tell me their heroine was inspired by that Keira woman! I’d have to burn your book.)

Music is an age thing, too. Adrian – again – is the wrong age for me. He doesn’t pick the music I listen to, nor the stuff forced on me – I mean, made available to me – by Offspring. I have a whole decade, that’s been almost completely blacked out. (When Son did a GCSE project on a decade in pop music, he was given the 1980s. Naturally. And we could offer no help.)

It’s not only the music behind a book, or the albums enjoyed by a fictional character. The whole book can be based on music. Obviously. Recently Son translated extracts from a couple of music based novels written by a Norwegian author. That was 20,000 words featuring an opera and all the backstage stuff. Luckily it was a made-up opera, so it ended up being less of a fact checking nightmare.

And we get YA books about pop groups, and wannabes. With the current talent programme epidemic on television we will probably end up with many more of them. It beats vampires, though.

Although having said that, I seem to recall that one of Anne Rooney’s vampires played in a band.

And Elvis lives.

Losing yourself in a book

Reviewing Between the Lines a while ago, I was thinking some more about this fantasy idea of getting lost inside a good book. Or a bad book, for that matter.

I mean, I obviously don’t know whether it is really possible. Maybe Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer made it up? But if it is possible, it’s interesting. And what difference would you experience if it’s War and Peace in paperback, totally un-illustrated and just hundreds and hundreds of tightly packed pages of small printed words?

Or even worse, what might happen if you only had an ebook to hand? You go and lose yourself in a story inside an electronic book. There might be pictures, and there will be words. Many or few; it all depends on what the story is.

The thing about ebooks, though, is that they usually contain lots of books. So, maybe you lose your grip on a particularly slippery word, and before you know it, you are somewhere else. Start off inside Five on a Treasure Island (do you get eBlytons?) and you’re having a jolly old time with those gold ingots. But as you descend once more into the cave, you suddenly end up in Kidnapped. Or one of the complete works of Trollope. (Someone close to me went crazy and bought the affordable, complete works of several old literary heavyweights, so it could easily happen.)

I expect untold amounts of damage could be done if you ‘read between the lines’ in an ebook. And I can’t work out if it’d be harder or easier to fall out of one of those stories. An ebook seems more sealed up, doesn’t it? With pages made of paper you stand more chance of dropping out.

And what if the internet book giant recalls you?

Samantha van Leer and Jodi Picoult spill the beans

You’ll be surprised to find that the Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer interview is here already. (I do have a bad track record…) There are some really nice photos of the two ladies, and they admit to not always having seen eye to eye. Jodi might have started out thinking she’d be boss, but reality proved different.

Samantha van Leer

Sammy’s fondness for Liz Kessler’s books gets a mention, and Mr van Leer got a brief grilling, to see if there was anything he could add to the writing partnership between the ladies of the house. He could.

I thought that Sammy might have expected only bad things about writing, with a mother who goes off to type all day long, but apparently the only thing she was aware of was how glamourous it all was. Until she tried it herself.

And if you want to read Between the Lines (and why wouldn’t you?), go carefully. There are vague spoilers in the interview. So perhaps half close your eyes?

Mothers and daughters, and it’s goodbye from mcbf 2012

Samantha van Leer and Jodi Picoult

The double mother and daughter thing was too good an opportunity to miss. And a first time is always special, and no matter how many more times you do something, the first one is the only first one you get. So when Jodi Picoult returned to Manchester on Sunday, to sign new book Between the Lines, co-written with her daughter Samantha van Leer, I knew I wanted to be there, and I knew I wanted a chat with the two of them, and I knew I wanted my trusted photographer to make a better job of taking pictures than I have managed in the last two meetings with Jodi.

Samantha van Leer

It all came true, including my weird dream from a few weeks back. (So don’t tell me I’m not a witch.) Basically there were no people waiting at the Arndale. In my dream it had to do with being Good Friday, but in real life the queue had to stand inside WHS, instead of outside. So the fans were all there. Phew. (And I know it’s not Easter.)

Jodi Picoult

Glad to see the fans were as keen as ever, and happy to lay their hands on this great new fairytale-meets-real-life novel. Mum Jodi might have helped write it, but the idea was all Sammy’s. We watched as each fan (and there were a good number of men) sat down next to Jodi and Sammy for a photo and brief chat. Couldn’t help noticing Sammy is lefthanded like her mum, and no doubt she will soon be the second fastest signer in the west.

There was a cute baby, as always.

Jodi Picoult and baby

And then it was my turn. Jodi almost lied, saying it was nice to see me again. (It was obviously nice. It’s the again I don’t believe she remembers.) And at least I got my interview in before the BBC this time. If you’re up early, try Monday’s breakfast show for their version.

Sammy and Jodi had a tea engagement with another mother and daughter team, who had won a meeting with the two writers in a competition. (See, it is a marvellous idea.)

Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson at the Royal Exchange

Our own luck held, and we finished in good time for the mcbf finale, which didn’t come a moment too soon. Any later and James would have expired. As it was, all major players were still upright when Carol Ann Duffy and her best friend John Sampson told the sad tale of The Princess’ Blankets. It was my third time, but it’s still good. And this time I was sitting in a great seat upstairs at the Royal Exchange, while my photographer had the time of her life, clambering all over the central space capsule.

John Sampson

Carol Ann issued orders not to tell her how the tennis was going. John played his unusual instruments and pretended to be Mozart again. We in the audience got to do our shouting, and this time I was Picasso. After the poor Princess had warmed up, Carol Ann read us a new book called The Gift.

Carol Ann Duffy

And finally, James and Kaye could stand in the limelight and declare the last eleven days over, and John provided a classy trumpet solo to mark the moment. It has been really good. Rest a while now, and then get on with planning 2014! You know you want to.

Kaye Tew and James Draper

We’ll be back.

Between the Lines

How about a fantastic new fairy tale written by bestselling adult author with her teenage daughter? If you have an open mind you will think this is great and a wonderful achievement, and you’ll want to read it, and when you do, you’ll find a lovely multi-dimensional fairy tale about a handsome prince and an ‘ordinary’ girl, where neither the route taken nor the goal reached at the end is what you thought it would be.

We are talking about Jodi Picoult, who writes a novel every year, and does a lot of research for every one. She also has several children, and I think a husband who folds the laundry, or some such thing. That must be why she felt she could squeeze in writing a book with her daughter Samantha ‘while she had nothing better to do.’ The idea for the plot was Samantha’s, and it took them a couple of years to write Between the Lines.

Basically we have a (wise but cowardly) prince in a fairy tale, and as you know, when a book isn’t being read, the characters in it have their own lives and can do what they like, rallying to their positions when a reader opens the book. And this prince (Oliver) wants to get out of his book, and when he finally discovers he can talk to (and be heard by) a teenage girl (Delilah), they fall in love and then they try to come up with a way for Oliver to get out.

Told on three levels, the fairy tale, Oliver’s ordinary life and Delilah’s life, we meet the characters from the fairy tale both as the characters they are supposed to be, as well as who they are in their spare time.

And I just love Socks, the prince’s faithful horse!

Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer, Between the Lines

At one point I did wonder if I should side with Delilah’s mother who thinks her daughter has become unhinged, talking to a children’s book. No one else seems to hear Oliver, although it doesn’t help that he clams up when others are near.

You wonder how on earth this can be resolved, and I very much doubt that anyone can guess correctly. It’s different, and it’s a great deal of fun.

Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer, Between the Lines

Illustrated throughout with lovely pictures by Yvonne Gilbert and Scott M Fischer. Just think, if the pictures weren’t there, Oliver and Delilah wouldn’t be able to meet, or fall in love.

Dame in a nebula outfit

The weirdest thing was running into Andy Mulligan at Euston. Not that he knows me, but there he was. Probably going towards ‘Up North’ like Formby (for tomorrow’s event), whereas we (trusted photographer and witch) were heading for Branford Boase, which is an award and it’s in London. (There is a point to that which you will not get.) And then there was Jodi Picoult in the tube station, but she was merely a poster, if a life size one.

Walker Books employee

I’d have got lost at Vauxhall tube station. I have been before. Once. Thankfully Daughter, who has never been, put us on the right path. So we were not lost after all.

Sarah McIntyre and Candy Gourlay, Branford Boase

So, there they all were, the shortlisted authors, apart from Gregory Hughes (I deduced he was not the winner). Candy Gourlay seemed to have brought Sarah McIntyre along, which was wise, and one of the men in the Fickling basement was present. That’s Simon Mason of Moon Pie fame. So we had met before, which the clever-clogs Daughter remembered and I didn’t. You can’t memorise all men kept in basements everywhere.

Keren David, Branford Boase

Keren David was surrounded by admirers at all times so was hard to get close to. But her shoes were marvellous. And her glasses. (Sorry, is this a book blog?)

J P Buxton, Branford Boase

Had no idea what Jason Wallace looks like, but the photographer identified him with her eagle eye. There was something about her wanting his shirt for her bedroom…

J P Buxton was someone I didn’t know at all, but he turned out to be the tall guy with the impressive hair.

Pat Walsh, Branford Boase 2011

And Pat Walsh had a crutch with her that I very nearly stole. Being kind, I only held it for her during the photocall. Pat was what you have to call the experts’ favourite, so I am very interested in her book (which is another one published by someone I’m not managing to establish a – professional – relationship with).

Clare S

Klaus Flugge

David Lloyd

John McLay

Lots of other lovely book world types, including Andersen’s Clare, Nicky with the impressive memory, Philippa Dickinson, former winner Frances Hardinge and many more. Klaus Flugge, whose chair Goldilocks sat in. Super agent Hilary Delamere, Julia Eccleshare, Walker Books’ David Lloyd. And I have finally met and been introduced properly to John McLay of the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature.

And then there was Jacqueline Wilson (Dame, OBE, etc, etc) in a starry outfit that Daughter will have when Jacky is finished with it. Please.

Jason Wallace and Charlie Sheppard, Branford Boase winners 2011

Henrietta Branford winners 2011 with Jacqueline Wilson

Jason was not the only winner last night. There was a whole bunch of talented children who had won the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition. One girl was so keen to come that she’d travelled on the coach from Scotland since five that morning and going back overnight. Maybe the future of writing is safe, after all?

Anne Marley and Jacqueline Wilson

Julia Eccleshare

In her speech, Branford Boase organiser Anne Marley slipped in a Freudian Wife of Never Letting Go for Patrick Ness, son of the Walker house, which made us laugh. David Lloyd pointed out what a fun – and easy – job editing books is. Julia Eccleshare spoke about the history of the Branford Boase Award.

And then it should have been last year’s winner Lucy Christopher, but she was off on some very important business elsewhere, so had written a lovely speech to be delivered by Damien Kelleher who was one of the judges. The Branford Boase is awarded not only to authors like Jason, but to editors like Charlie Sheppard. What Lucy had to say about editors is that authors need them ‘like crazy people need therapists’. She can talk. According to Charlie, editors occasionally spend time polishing turds. I fully expect Out of Shadows not to have been anywhere near turd status.

Although, Jason did mention ‘gutted fish at feeding time’. Andersen Press is the nicest bunch of people. (I had noticed.) Jason also muttered something incomprehensible regarding cats, empty bottles and loneliness. And most importantly, he talked about Zimbabwe, where his novel is set. Things are still not good and people are still suffering. Let’s hope books like Jason’s will make a difference.

Branford Boase winning books

Anne Marley warned us off stealing the display of former winners’ books. Apparently Philip Ardagh tried it last year. (Could be why he wasn’t there?) The good thing about neither Candy nor Keren winning was – as they said – that now they don’t have to kill each other. Competing against friends is never fun.

Branford Boase 2011, authors and editors

As usual Paul Carter was taking photographs, and he is not above sharing the task with others. Which is why I brought my own picture person. As they do in real life sometimes, the photographers ended up taking pictures of each other.

We were chatting to Jacqueline Wilson just before leaving, when Candy sneaked up, wanting to be photographed with a star. One of these days she’ll realise that no sneaking is necessary. She too, is a star.

Jacqueline Wilson and Candy Gourlay

Jodi Picoult – with bells on

Jaime with Ellen Wilber and Jodi Picoult

Hodder's Jaime and WHS staff

Apart from the fact that Hodder’s Jaime, who’s as beautiful as I’d been told, thought I was virtually at death’s door, it was fine. I just said she’d have to scrape me off the floor at the Arndale’s WHS branch if I wasn’t up to it. So, another lovely PR person from Hodder, in other words. But that’s not why I have a photo of her back. It just happened.

Queue for Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult was back in town on Friday, and I simply had to pop along to see what length queue she’d generate this time. Pretty long. I gather the first people turned up two hours before Jodi’s signing, and the queue was tripling back on itself when I got there with 30 minutes to spare. I wormed my way in past the security guy and found friendly and helpful staff, who not only put me in my place (a good corner from which to observe the proceedings), but offered to hide my large bag.

Sing You Home at WHS, Manchester Arndale

It’s there, under the display of books. (I’d like to think the tulips were in my honour.) Copies of Sing You Home were selling like hotcakes, which is good news.

Ellen Wilber

Jodi’s latest novel is about the lives of same-sex families, and it comes with a CD. The soundtrack has the songs sung by one of the women in the book. Jodi’s good friend Ellen Wilber wrote the songs and also sings them on the CD, which I’ve been listening to since I got home. I like it. Ellen has a fantastic voice.

I was my normal confused self and totally forgot that Ellen was coming to the signing as well, so spent a few minutes wondering who on earth the woman sitting next to Jodi could be. The penny dropped eventually. I suppose the pile of CDs being handed out was a clue. But I had sort of hoped she’d stand up and sing there and then.

Ellen Wilber and Jodi Picoult

It was like last year; adoring fans, cameras at the ready, a charming toddler and a cute baby. People with birthdays, high-fives for fans, and a man who wasn’t two-timing the two women he got books signed for. Jodi asked. Two ‘excited girls’ were permitted extra squeals and even got hugs. Someone else was known to Jodi on Twitter.

The queue seemed never-ending. I went for a little walk and it was still a double line 45 minutes in. But, as so often happens, it melted away suddenly and I had to quickly find my own copy from under the tulips.

Jodi Picoult, Sing You Home

Jodi Picoult

I have to say the tiara looked very fetching. Not everyone can carry off the wearing of tiaras in the middle of the day, in the middle of the Arndale. Personally I wouldn’t even try. But there you are.

And apparently Jodi’s in need of a jester’s hat…

(All photos by the Bookwitch herself. Which explains a lot.)

Bookwitch bites #10

Some books are more doomed than others. Or is it me who is doomed? Whatever. I realise you have all been waiting very impatiently for me to tell you what I think of Monsters of Men, the final part in the trilogy by Patrick Ness. But the book is just failing to appear, and there are only so many times I feel it’s OK to ask. It could be that there is a massive ‘steal a Patrick Ness book today’ plan in the Post Office, but somehow I doubt it.

Will it come as a surprise to you that Melvin Burgess has been accused of being a racist? It did to me. And to him. Well, Melvin went to India as as nice a man as he always was, and returned home a racist. That’s according to someone who heard him speak while he was there, and who was offended. There has since been an exchange of thoughts on Melvin’s blog, including comments from Bali Rai. And from me. Should have known better, since I was also told off, and underwent a sex change in the process; ‘and to respond to the bookwitch person’s experience, I would ask him to refrain from generalising about the Indian Pakistani relationship.’

Quite.

I’m reading The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. There will be an event with Carlos at Foyles on June 2nd at 18.30. I’ve been invited, but have that very inconvenient holiday problem again. So maybe if a few others go along to hear him, it will make up for my absence? His book has been so successful elsewhere, and it’ll be interesting to see how the British take to it.

Talking of success, I noticed that House Rules by Jodi Picoult sold better than any other hardback fiction last week. I’d like to think that it’s the topic of Asperger Syndrome that caused the sales, but it might simply be down to the name Jodi Picoult. The birthday card I asked Jodi to sign for Daughter’s friend went down well last week. I suppose it’s not every day you have a birthday card from your favourite author. Not even every birthday. Think she quite liked the book, too.

It might turn out to be an embarrassment to win €250 of Irish book tokens if you’re somewhere else. But the pleasure of winning would still be yours. So unless they disqualify foreigners, here is a link to vote for the best Irish novel in the last ten years. As you will realise almost immediately, it’s not hard to choose at all. ; )

Hurry before the 27th of May.

Jodi Picoult – the mini interview

At a quarter to twelve yesterday we found a small queue of Jodi Picoult fans waiting outside WH Smith at the Trafford Centre. Considering the signing started at one o’clock, I felt they were a little bit early. But just because I’m a bad queuer doesn’t mean everyone else is. The Resident IT Consultant and I went off to buy shoes. He nearly fainted with the shock of it, but when it comes to shoes, I’m boss. In fact, I’m boss when it comes to most things.

Two pairs of shoes and a Lancashire cheese and pickle sandwich later I went back to WHS, with a few minutes to spare before one o’clock. I was slightly surprised to find the queue wasn’t much longer than before. That was until I turned round and found that it also snaked up the circular stairs to the level above, and that actually there were quite a few fans.

Jodi Picoult

Jodi’s PR lady is the lovely Kerry who also travels with Sara Paretsky, and she had asked me if I wanted to come along and meet Jodi, seeing as they were a little closer to me than Nottingham. (Closer yes. Not much faster to travel home from. But that’s the M60 for you.) We seem to synchronise well, Kerry and I, so yet again I found myself standing by the door at much the same time as the star herself. Which was handy, as I was allowed into the enclosure without first going and standing on the stairs.

The waiting press photographer had a go with Jodi, who is pretty and has beautiful long curly hair. And she smiles a lot. I had a go too, seeing as she was posing, though I have to admit that I could have done with my photographer, but she had to be at school. The fans charged ahead in an organised and orderly fashion. Customer number two admitted to Kerry that he had been queueing since 9.30 (and I’d thought 11.45 was bad).

Jodi Picoult

A pattern emerged with female customer buying book and getting it signed and chatting to Jodi, while boyfriend/husband did the camera thing. That was until the baby turned up and posed. Very cute baby. WHS staff processed the over one hundred strong queue very efficiently, and I was most impressed by their post-it notes and book-opener and pointing-the-way person and the capable man who took photos for those who hadn’t brought a photographer (maybe I should have used his services, too?) and generally thought in advance what needed doing.

The left handed Jodi assisted by being the fastest signer in the country, and by being someone who can sign and smile and chat and pat babies and pose for photos, all at the same time. She even said hello to someone’s sister on the phone, and we lost count of how many people’s birthday it was. Jodi now knows where Salford is, and as if her adventure on Scottish television eating brussels sprouts and pickled onions dipped in chocolate wasn’t enough, WHS managers presented her with a bag of jellybabies. They probably found it lying around in the shop, somewhere. At least it can aid Jodi’s culinary advancement.

Jodi Picoult

As the fans got thinner on the ground, Kerry suggested I could start my questions. Needing Jodi to put me out of my misery by sorting out the colours of Jacob’s quilt in House Rules, I began with what might seem like an irrelevant detail;

‘Jacob’s quilt, does it not have orange in it?’

‘Probably not.’

‘Are you sure, because the book mentions all the colours of the rainbow, and it had me very, very worried…’

Jodi laughs, ‘I don’t think his mom would have anything created for him that would set him off.’

‘It just didn’t feel quite right.’

‘It’s people like you who scare me, as a writer, for thinking that way.’

‘Just shows how aspie I am about things.’

‘It is very well to own up a little bit…’

Jodi Picoult

‘The case histories; whose are they, are they Jacob’s or are they yours?’

‘The case histories. Those are real, Jacob’s speaking them. You know that at the very end. The very last one, you realise he’s talking about his own case and he speaks in the first person.’

‘What kind of feedback to the book have you had?’

‘It’s just come out here, the people who have read it here … I’ve had fantastic feedback from America and it was nice that the Autism Society in America, for instance, and people who have kids with autism have written to say, “have you been living in my closet because it’s pretty much what my life is like,” which is really, really great. There have been a couple of people and I mean less than five, who’ve said, “well my son has Asperger’s and does not look like that,” and you know what? That’s true, because every kid is different. Jacob is a compilation of fifty plus kids that I met when I was interviewing them to get research. And I picked and chose little bits of various lives and behaviours to compile one kid. Jacob could look completely different, but I do think that he is an authentic Asperger’s kid.’

‘I think so. Yes, he’s lovely, really.’

Jodi laughs.

‘How long do you spend on research?’

‘It actually depends totally on the book, for instance in this case it was probably about three solid months of research, because I was sending out and receiving questionnaires, plus there was the time I stopped with the CSI. Then I came back in and wrote for about six months.’

‘Have you written your next book yet?’

‘Yes, it’s done.

‘And have you started the one after that?’

‘Yes I have. I’ve started the research for it. I haven’t started the writing yet.’

Hodder's Kerry

At this point Kerry says to me ‘you want to stand over there for a picture.’

‘No I don’t…’

Jodi laughs.

‘You know I don’t.

Kerry – ‘Yes I know you don’t, but you will.’

So I do. Crouch down next to Jodi, just like her adoring fans did before me.

‘Now you’re there. For ever and ever,’ Jodi says.

‘Yeah.’

‘How do you think I feel?’

‘That’s all right, you’re used to it!’

The assistant at WHS tells us that before Jodi arrived, the press photographer asked her to sit down at the signing table for a couple of test shots, and ‘I found that really horrible.’

‘It’s really bizarre,’ Jodi says. (And I think she means fame in general and not the adventures of the WHS girl.)

‘Do people come up to you in the street?’

‘Yeah. In fact I was in Times Square and a boy was following me, a teenage boy, and he goes, “I’m sorry, but you look very familiar,” and so my husband – because I would never say – goes “because she’s Jodi Picoult”, and the boy said he had read half of my books, and he was so upset because he didn’t have a phone and he said “I can’t even take a picture.” So we took a picture and emailed it to him. It was great. It was fun.’

Jodi Picoult

More fans turn up with books to be signed, and they mention the film of My Sister’s Keeper, and the way it ended differently from the book. ‘Yes I was aware of it,’ says Jodi. ‘Were you OK with the ending?’ ‘No, I was very angry, and I had very specifically asked the producer to keep the ending, and the director lied to me, said straight to my face “I’m keeping the ending. I will tell you myself if I change it, and I’ll tell you why.” And I found out from a fan who had got the script, and the director to this day will not tell me why he changed the ending. And the movie was not as successful as they wanted, because the demographic viewers, were all people who’d read the book.’

‘I’m glad they asked that question,’ Jodi remarks.

‘You appeal a lot to young adults, but you’re not specifically thinking of them, are you, when you write?’

’I’m probably just thinking of what I need to write, and I think that’s what makes the best book to be honest. If I’m writing what I need and want to write. I love hearing that a kid hasn’t read until they picked up one of my books, and now they love reading. That’s a great wonderful  benefit. You know, I love my teenage fans. They are slavishly devoted, and they come to events and they write me emails all the time.’

‘Do your children read your books?’

‘All three of them read my books, yes.’

‘What about fan mail; do you have time for that? Does someone do it for you?’

‘I get two hundred letters or so a day, and I answer and read every single one. I do not have an assistant, and you’ll find fans all over who say “oh my god, she wrote back to me!” and it means an awful lot. I don’t have time to do my laundry, though.’

We laugh at this, because laundry isn’t really all that important when you’re Jodi Picoult. Maybe her husband does the laundry?

Jodi Picoult

‘Well Ann, it was very nice to meet you,’ Jodi says picking up her bag of jellybabies and thanking everyone at WHS before she and Kerry leave to get to Rickmansworth for the evening’s event.

I reckon I could do with some of Jodi’s energy. They could bottle her. The Picoult pick-me-up, or something. With or without chocolate flavour. Without for me.

And you know, I went home and looked in the book again. I think Jodi was wrong about the quilt. It says ROYGBIV. O for orange. So there.

If you want to know what I’m going on about, read House Rules.

Jodi Picoult and autism

Never having read Jodi Picoult before, I was a little surprised to be asked by her publishers if I wanted to read her latest novel. That was until I realised that it’s about Asperger Syndrome and autism. So yes, I did want to read it. It’s easy to feel cynical about writers jumping on a perceived aspie bandwagon, but anyone who can write something new and true is welcome. So Jodi is welcome. Very.

She’s done her homework, and she has filled the 500+ pages of House Rules with an easy-to-read story, except because the topic is hard to take sometimes, it’s not all sunshine and happiness. But I gather this goes for Jodi’s novels in general. Daughter told me about another of Jodi’s books (she doesn’t read them, either, but her friend does – avidly) which did not seem to have a happy ending, meaning I didn’t expect a marshmallow finish to what was an extremely gripping story.

Let’s be honest. There is a little too much aspie-ness in the book. Her research has clearly given Jodi a tremendous amount of useful and very heartfelt and above all very true facts. However, maybe her protagonist Jacob is just that little bit too textbook aspie. Maybe. House Rules has apparently been ‘tested’ by an aspie teenager, which is good. Many of us will recognise a lot of what Jacob’s mum Emma experiences. But because this is popular fiction I’d say that Emma is too perfect and so is Jacob’s brother Theo. The thing is, just because family members work hard for their aspie son/brother, doesn’t mean they don’t have any problems of heir own, apart from the Asperger Syndrome they have to live with.

Anyway, let’s get to the plot, which is very devious and interesting. And different. 18-year-old Jacob is an intelligent young man with an obsession for crime scene investigations, which seems innocent enough until he’s arrested for the murder of his social skills tutor Jess. His single mum Emma has to work even harder than she has before, to get the legal system to accept his Asperger Syndrome, and for it to adapt to some of Jacob’s needs.

Throughout the book we don’t know what really happened that day with Jess, though my guess came close enough. Knowing the truth is not the only important thing, however, as it’s the outcome of Jacob’s trial which matters.

There are chapters seen from the points of view of all the main characters, i e Emma and Jacob and Theo, but also the police officer who arrests Jacob and Jacob’s lawyer. This gives interesting insight into how people think, but also deals with how the reader knows what some of them don’t. Knowing that Jodi may well not end her story happily, I was prepared for just about anything.

Even if you don’t care about the aspie angle, this is a compulsive read. If you do, it’s even more so, and it will bring back any bad experiences you may have had yourself, and then some. You may have struggled with your child’s school. Well, consider struggling with the law over murder instead.

This is an American tale of being on the autistic spectrum, with access to any number of professionals (they may cost an arm and a leg, but they exist) and lots of advice about diet and medicines and supplements that can be taken. But for the most part it’s about a family that has Asperger Syndrome. Because it’s one for all, and all for one, even where there is only one aspie family member. That in itself is perhaps not so cut and dried in real life.