Picoult takes readers deep into the world of autism, specifically Asperger's syndrome. At a hefty 500-plus pages, this is no streamlined novel. The narrative is told through multiple viewpoints that introduce several different perspectives, which continually widen the scope of the story. If at times it feels like there's almost too much going on, by the end the time spent with interesting characters and issues you've probably never thought about much makes it all worthwhile.
Welcome to Jacob Hunt's world. He's an 18-year-old who's smart as a whip, with a steel-trap mind for facts and figures. He also has Asperger's syndrome. It's virtually impossible for him to be touched, look someone in the eye or make friends. Like others with his affliction, he has a specialty. What Jacob can do is accurately analyze a crime scene. He uses episodes of the television program Crime Busters to test himself.
Jacob has a routine that is carefully planned and executed by his mother, Emma. It's almost a full-time job for her to make sure he rarely strays from it because, if he does, chaos usually results. But when Jacob's social skills tutor, graduate student Jess, is found dead, he's arrested for her murder and suddenly his carefully crafted world spins wildly out of control. (ATRIA, Mar., 544 pp., $28.00)