What I thought this book was about: a moving story about a poor autistic child and his poor family trying to get a good life for him.
What I really found: a thrilling story about an almost adult autistic boy who is involved in a murder, and how he, his family, the police investigator and his lawyer cope with that situation.
The book has five characters and every chapter is told by one of them. Jacob has got Asperger’s syndrome and he is a brilliant eighteen-year-old boy who can’t empathize or find a good way of communication with others. Emma is Jacob’s mother, a divorced woman whose entire life turns around Jacob, trying to find a routine he is comfortable with and fighting against the barriers others put for her son to integrate. Theo is the youngest brother; he has grown up alone since his mother has always been looking after Jacob and he is now old enough (15 years old) to realize that he is actually the eldest brother and that he will be the one who must carry on in the future with all the work his mother is doing at the moment regarding Jacob. And he doesn’t want to.
When Jess, Jacob’s social integration teacher, disappears, there are a lot of clues that make detective Rich think that Jacob is guilty. Jacob’s passion – and obsession – is criminal investigation: he always goes to the crime scenes of the village to “help” the police to solve the cases, and he enjoys playing his own crime scenes at home for his mother to solve them. But this time his own belongings are with Jess’s corpse. The last character, Oliver, is a young lawyer Emma contracts who really doesn’t know how to deal with Jacob’s case because he doesn’t have experience in that field. And the worst thing is that the boy seems to be guilty.
The reader doesn’t know who killed Jess, so you can just listen to every character in order to find what happened that day when Jacob had his last class with Jess. At the beginning nobody thinks Jacob is the murderer but then he does things and gives some explanations that make you think the worse. Even Emma and Theo don’t know – and don’t want to know – the truth.
While the investigation goes forward, all the characters talk about what living with an autistic boy means, included Jacob, who tries to explain how his mind works and how he analyzes people’s body language and reactions and how hard he tries to integrate into his class and his brother’s friends. Emma would never want a life without Jacob, but she really doesn’t have her own life, and Theo is afraid of living always babysitting his brother in the future.
It’s a shame you can guess what happened to Jess from the beginning of the book, although you get confused later, with Jacob’s statements to the police and the judge, but I really couldn’t put the book down during last week. Not only is it a crime investigation, but also a picture of all the feelings round a boy with Asperger’s syndrome.
I’m looking forward to reading more books of Jodi Picoult!
My review in Spanish here.