House Rules

( 2129 )

Overview

The astonishing new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult about a family torn apart by an accusation of murder.

They tell me I'm lucky to have a son who's so verbal, who is blisteringly intelligent, who can take apart the broken microwave and have it working again an hour later. They think there is no greater hell than having a son who is locked in his own world, unaware that there's a wider one to explore. But try having a son who is locked in his own ...

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Overview

The astonishing new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult about a family torn apart by an accusation of murder.

They tell me I'm lucky to have a son who's so verbal, who is blisteringly intelligent, who can take apart the broken microwave and have it working again an hour later. They think there is no greater hell than having a son who is locked in his own world, unaware that there's a wider one to explore. But try having a son who is locked in his own world, and still wants to make a connection. A son who tries to be like everyone else, but truly doesn't know how.

Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject — in his case, forensic analysis. He's always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do...and he's usually right. But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and, for a change, the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger's — not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, flat affect — can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob and his family, who only want to fit in, feel the spotlight shining directly on them. For his mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication of why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacobcommit murder?

Emotionally powerful from beginning to end, House Rules looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way — and fails those who don't.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In life some things are never to be broken—especially if you are an autistic child who takes "everything" literally. For example, some things that can't be broken are the house rules: tell the truth, brush your teeth, and, most important, take care of your brother; he's the only one you've got. In this 18th novel from Picoult (My Sister's Keeper), Jacob Hunt is a teenager with Asperger's syndrome and a morbid fascination with forensic science. He can recite all the intricacies of fingerprint analysis and recall the episode and number of his favorite TV crime show, but he can't feel your pain or emotions. For emotional intelligence Jacob has a tutor—until the tutor is found murdered. When Jacob is questioned, the same hallmark signs of his Asperger's that made him quirky also make him look very guilty—even to those who love him. VERDICT Picoult has many fans, and they won't be disappointed here. She is the master of telling a story that at first glance seems predictable but seldom is.—Marike Zemke, Commerce Twp. Community Lib., MI
Maureen Corrigan
Throughout the long unfolding of House Rules, Picoult keeps so many storyline streamers whirling in the air that it would be easy just to praise her technical mastery. But though the multiple plots and narrators are, indeed, adroitly managed, what most readers will cherish is the character of Jacob Hunt, an 18-year-old high school student with Asperger's syndrome…Picoult's depiction of Jacob and his family is complex, compassionate and smart…But, again, it's Jacob who will linger with readers. Desperate to connect with other people and yet hampered in his ability to do so, he is painfully glassed off from the world of his peers, as well as from most adults. Picoult's superb novel makes us inhabit Jacob's solitude and abide his yearning.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Perennial bestseller Picoult (Handle with Care) has a rough time in this Picoult-esque blend of medical and courtroom drama that lacks her usual storytelling finesse. Eighteen-year old Jacob Hunt has Asperger's syndrome, and his devoted single mother, Emma, has built their family's life around Jacob's needs, sacrificing her career to act as his caregiver and all but ignoring a younger son, Theo. But when Jacob is accused of murder, that carefully crafted life comes apart, and all of the hallmarks of Jacob's diagnosis begin to make him look guilty. Emma hires a young attorney whose attachment to Jacob brings him close to the family as he struggles to mount a defense for Jacob, whose inability to read social cues makes him less than an ideal client. While Picoult's research is impeccable and she deals intelligently with charged questions about autism and Asperger's, the whodunit is stretched sitcom-thin and handled poorly, with characters withholding information from the reader throughout. Picoult's writing, line by line, is as smooth as ever, and she does a great job of getting into Jacob's head, but the wobbly plotting is a massive detriment. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
A young autistic man obsessed with criminology is charged with the murder of his tutor, in Picoult's suspenseful but anticlimactic latest (Handle with Care, 2009, etc.). Jacob, now 18, first exhibited signs of Asperger's syndrome at three, shortly after his first vaccination series. Highly verbal and analytical, but flummoxed by the most ordinary social interactions, Jacob negotiates a world fraught with terrors by adhering to a rigid set of rules and calming rituals. Jacob's life centers around a CSI-esque TV show called CrimeBusters, which he must watch each afternoon as punctiliously as Rain Man watches Wapner. Usually, Jacob beats the CrimeBusters cast to a solution of each episode's mystery by about 20 minutes. He's created his own forensics lab in his bedroom, and, alerted by a police scanner, has snuck out at night to "crash" crime scenes in his small Vermont hometown. His mother, Emma, is a financially struggling, part-time advice columnist. Jacob's father fled the chaotic household after Jacob knocked his younger brother Theo's highchair over, wounding the infant. Theo, now 15, resents the oxygen sucked out of his family life by Jacob and, yearning to observe "normal" domesticity, has begun breaking into homes. Circumstances converge, resulting in the death, from blunt head trauma, of Jacob's tutor, Jess, a college student. Theo enters a home where, unbeknownst to him, Jess is housesitting, and flees after surprising her in the shower. Her loutish boyfriend Mark had been observed quarreling with her earlier. Jacob, arriving for an appointment with Jess, finds her body and expertly sets up a crime scene to focus suspicion on Mark. The body of Jess is discovered in a culvert, and,on the pretext of seeking his advice, a police detective interrogates Jacob, who handily incriminates himself, even reciting his own Miranda Rights from memory. Emma hires a rookie attorney who gamely cobbles together a defense, with Jacob's coaching. Worth the read for the detailed dramatization of Asperger's; however, like Jacob, the reader will solve this whodunit far in advance of the principals.
Publishers Weekly
Having clear house rules has proven to be the most effective way for single mother Emma Hunt to raise her two sons: brilliant 18-year-old Jacob, who has Asperger's syndrome, and 15-year-old Theo. Jacob's obsession with criminal forensics has brought him to the notice of local law enforcement, and when a murder is committed, Jacob becomes a suspect. Gripping suspense, sensitive treatment of Asperger's, and brilliant characterizations make for an outstanding listen. Playing Jacob and Theo respectively, Mark Turetsky and Andy Paris sound youthful but never childish or mannered. Rich Orlow as the police detective, and Christopher Evan Welch playing the defense attorney are mature and assured. And Nicole Poole as the mother delivers a star performance; her Emma comes alive, and while never imitating the other narrators, her representations of the other characters in dialogue are so true the reader could forget it wasn't the designated cast member in the role. An Atria hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 21). (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“Picoult is a skilled wordsmith, and she beautifully creates situations that not only

provoke the mind but touch the flawed souls in all of us.”

—The Boston Globe

“It’s hard to exaggerate how well Picoult writes.”

—The Financial Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743296434
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 3/2/2010
  • Pages: 532
  • Sales rank: 584,320
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult received an AB in creative writing from Princeton and a master’s degree in education from Harvard. The recipient of the 2003 New England Book Award for her entire body of work, she is the author of twenty-one novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers House Rules, Handle With Care, Change of Heart, and My Sister’s Keeper, for which she received the American Library Association’s Margaret Alexander Edwards Award. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Visit her website at JodiPicoult.com.

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    1. Hometown:
      Hanover, New Hampshire
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 19, 1966
    2. Place of Birth:
      Nesconset, Long Island, NY
    1. Education:
      A.B. in Creative Writing, Princeton University; M.A. in Education, Harvard University
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

House Rules

A Novel
By Jodi Picoult

Atria

Copyright © 2010 Jodi Picoult
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9643-4


Chapter One

Emma

Everywhere I look, there are signs of a struggle. The mail has been scattered all over the kitchen floor; the stools are overturned. The phone has been knocked off its pedestal, its battery pack hanging loose from an umbilicus of wires. There's one single faint footprint at the threshold of the living room, pointing toward the dead body of my son, Jacob.

He is sprawled like a starfish in front of the fireplace. Blood covers his temple and his hands. For a moment, I can't move, can't breathe.

Suddenly, he sits up. "Mom," Jacob says, "you're not even trying."

This is not real, I remind myself, and I watch him lie back down in the exact same position-on his back, his legs twisted to the left.

"Um, there was a fight," I say.

Jacob's mouth barely moves. "And ...?"

"You were hit in the head." I get down on my knees, like he's told me to do a hundred times, and notice the crystal clock that usually sits on the mantel now peeking out from beneath the couch. I gingerly pick it up and see blood on the corner. With my pinkie, I touch the liquid and then taste it.

"Oh, Jacob, don't tell me you used up all my corn syrup again-"

"Mom! Focus!"

I sink down on the couch, cradling the clock in my hands. "Robbers came in, and you fought them off." Jacob sits up and sighs. The food dye and corn syrup mixture has matted his dark hair; his eyes are shining, even though they won't meet mine. "Do you honestly believe I'd execute the same crime scene twice?"

He unfolds a fist, and for the first time I see a tuft of corn silk hair. Jacob's father is a towhead-or at least he was when he walked out on us fifteen years ago, leaving me with Jacob and Theo, his brand-new, blond baby brother.

"Theo killed you?"

"Seriously, Mom, a kindergartner could have solved this case," Jacob says, jumping to his feet. Fake blood drips down the side of his face, but he doesn't notice; when he is intensely focused on crime scene analysis,

I think a nuclear bomb could detonate beside him and he'd never flinch.

He walks toward the footprint at the edge of the carpet and points. Now, at second glance, I notice the waffle tread of the Vans skateboarding sneakers that Theo saved up to buy for months, and the latter half of the company logo-NS-burned into the rubber sole. "There was a confrontation in the kitchen," Jacob explains. "It ended with the phone being thrown in defense, and me being chased into the living room, where Theo clocked me."

At that, I have to smile a little. "Where did you hear that term?"

"CrimeBusters, episode forty-three."

"Well, just so you know-it means to punch someone. Not hit them with an actual clock."

Jacob blinks at me, expressionless. He lives in a literal world; it's one of the hallmarks of his diagnosis. Years ago, when we were moving to Vermont, he asked what it was like. Lots of green, I said, and rolling hills.

At that, he burst into tears. Won't they hurt us? he said.

"But what's the motive?" I ask, and on cue, Theo thunders down the stairs.

"Where's the freak?" he yells.

"Theo, you will not call your brother-"

"How about I stop calling him a freak when he stops stealing things out of my room?" I have instinctively stepped between him and his brother, although Jacob is a head taller than both of us.

"I didn't steal anything from your room," Jacob says.

"Oh, really? What about my sneakers?"

"They were in the mudroom," Jacob qualifies.

"Retard," Theo says under his breath, and I see a flash of fire in Jacob's eyes.

"I am not retarded," he growls, and he lunges for his brother.

I hold him off with an outstretched arm. "Jacob," I say, "you shouldn't take anything that belongs to Theo without asking for his permission. And Theo, I don't want to hear that word come out of your mouth again, or I'm going to take your sneakers and throw them out with the trash. Do I make myself clear?"

"I'm outta here," Theo mutters, and he stomps toward the mudroom.

A moment later I hear the door slam.

I follow Jacob into the kitchen and watch him back into a corner.

"What we got here," Jacob mutters, his voice a sudden drawl, "is ... failure to communicate." He crouches down, hugging his knees.

When he cannot find the words for how he feels, he borrows someone else's. These come from Cool Hand Luke; Jacob remembers the dialogue from every movie he's ever seen.

I've met so many parents of kids who are on the low end of the autism spectrum, kids who are diametrically opposed to Jacob, with his Asperger's. They tell me I'm lucky to have a son who's so verbal, who is blisteringly intelligent, who can take apart the broken microwave and have it working again an hour later. They think there is no greater hell than having a son who is locked in his own world, unaware that there's a wider one to explore. But try having a son who is locked in his own world and still wants to make a connection. A son who tries to be like everyone else but truly doesn't know how.

I reach out to comfort him but stop myself-a light touch can set Jacob off. He doesn't like handshakes or pats on the back or someone ruffling his hair. "Jacob," I begin, and then I realize that he isn't sulking at all. He holds up the telephone receiver he's been hunched over, so that I can see the smudge of black on the side. "You missed a fingerprint, too," Jacob says cheerfully. "No offense, but you would make a lousy crime scene investigator." He rips a sheet of paper towel off the roll, dampens it in the sink. "Don't worry, I'll clean up all the blood."

"You never did tell me Theo's motive for killing you."

"Oh." Jacob glances over his shoulder, a wicked grin spreading across his face. "I stole his sneakers."

In my mind, Asperger's is a label to describe not the traits Jacob has but rather the ones he lost. It was sometime around two years old when he began to drop words, to stop making eye contact, to avoid connections with people. He couldn't hear us, or he didn't want to. One day I looked at him, lying on the floor beside a Tonka truck. He was spinning its wheels, his face only inches away, and I thought, Where have you gone?

I made excuses for his behavior: the reason he huddled in the bottom of the grocery cart every time we went shopping was that it was cold in the supermarket. The tags I had to cut out of his clothing were unusually scratchy. When he could not seem to connect with any children at his preschool, I organized a no-holds-barred birthday party for him, complete with water balloons and Pin the Tail on the Donkey. About a half hour into the celebration, I suddenly realized that Jacob was missing. I was six months pregnant and hysterical-other parents began to search the yard, the street, the house. I was the one who found him, sitting in the basement, repeatedly inserting and ejecting a VCR tape.

When he was diagnosed, I burst into tears. Remember, this was back in 1995; the only experience I'd had with autism was Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. According to the psychiatrist we first met, Jacob suffered from an impairment in social communication and behavior, without the language deficit that was a hallmark of other forms of autism. It wasn't until years later that we even heard the word Asperger's-it just wasn't on anyone's diagnostic radar yet. But by then, I'd had Theo, and Henry- my ex-had moved out. He was a computer programmer who worked at home and couldn't stand the tantrums Jacob would throw when the slightest thing set him off: a bright light in the bathroom, the sound of the UPS truck coming down the gravel driveway, the texture of his breakfast cereal. By then, I'd completely devoted myself to Jacob's early intervention therapists-a parade of people who would come to our house intent on dragging him out of his own little world. I want my house back, Henry told me. I want you back.

But I had already noticed how, with the behavioral therapy and speech therapy, Jacob had begun to communicate again. I could see the improvement. Given that, there wasn't even a choice to make.

The night Henry left, Jacob and I sat at the kitchen table and played a game. I made a face, and he tried to guess which emotion went with it. I smiled, even though I was crying, and waited for Jacob to tell me I was happy.

Henry lives with his new family in the Silicon Valley. He works for Apple and he rarely speaks to the boys, although he sends a check faithfully every month for child support. But then again, Henry was always good with organization. And numbers. His ability to memorize a New York Times article and quote it verbatim-which had seemed so academically sexy when we were dating-wasn't all that different from the way Jacob could memorize the entire TV schedule by the time he was six. It wasn't until years after Henry was gone that I diagnosed him with a dash of Asperger's, too.

There's a lot of fuss about whether or not Asperger's is on the autism spectrum, but to be honest, it doesn't matter. It's a term we use to get Jacob the accommodations he needs in school, not a label to explain who he is. If you met him now, the first thing you'd notice is that he might have forgotten to change his shirt from yesterday or to brush his hair. If you talk to him, you'll have to be the one to start the conversation. He won't look you in the eye. And if you pause to speak to someone else for a brief moment, you might turn back to find that Jacob's left the room.

Saturdays, Jacob and I go food shopping. It's part of his routine, which means we rarely stray from it. Anything new has to be introduced early on and prepared for-whether that's a dentist appointment or a vacation or a transfer student joining his math class midyear. I knew that he'd have his faux crime scene completely cleaned up before eleven o'clock, because that's when the Free Sample Lady sets up her table in the front of the Townsend Food Co-op. She recognizes Jacob by sight now and usually gives him two mini egg rolls or bruschetta rounds or whatever else she's plying that week.

Theo's not back, so I've left him a note-although he knows the schedule as well as I do. By the time I grab my coat and purse, Jacob is already sitting in the backseat. He likes it there, because he can spread out. He doesn't have a driver's license, although we argue about it regularly, since he's eighteen and was eligible to get his license two years ago. He knows all the mechanical workings of a traffic light, and could probably take one apart and put it back together, but I am not entirely convinced that in a situation where there were several other cars zooming by in different directions, he'd be able to remember whether to stop or go at any given intersection.

"What do you have left for homework?" I ask, as we pull out of the driveway.

"Stupid English."

"English isn't stupid," I say.

"Well, my English teacher is." He makes a face. "Mr. Franklin assigned an essay about our favorite subject, and I wanted to write about lunch, but he won't let me."

"Why not?"

"He says lunch isn't a subject."

I glance at him. "It isn't."

"Well," Jacob says, "it's not a predicate, either. Shouldn't he know that?"

I stifle a smile. Jacob's literal reading of the world can be, depending on the circumstances, either very funny or very frustrating. In the rearview mirror, I see him press his thumb against the car window. "It's too cold for fingerprints," I say offhandedly-a fact he's taught me.

"But do you know why?"

"Um." I look at him. "Evidence breaks down when it's below freezing?"

"Cold constricts the sweat pores," Jacob says, "so excretions are reduced, and that means matter won't stick to the surface and leave a latent print on the glass."

"That was my second guess," I joke.

I used to call him my little genius, because even when he was small he'd spew forth an explanation like that one. I remember once, when he was four, he was reading the sign for a doctor's office when the postman walked by. The guy couldn't stop staring, but then again, it's not every day you hear a preschooler pronounce the word gastroenterology, clear as a bell.

I pull into the parking lot. I ignore a perfectly good parking spot because it happens to be next to a shiny orange car, and Jacob doesn't like the color orange. I can feel him draw in his breath and hold it until we drive past. We get out of the car, and Jacob runs for a cart; then we walk inside.

The spot that the Free Sample Lady usually occupies is empty.

"Jacob," I say immediately, "it's not a big deal."

He looks at his watch. "It's eleven-fifteen. She comes at eleven and leaves at twelve."

"Something must have happened."

"Bunion surgery," calls an employee, who is stacking packages of carrots within earshot. "She'll be back in four weeks."

Jacob's hand begins to flap against his leg. I glance around the store, mentally calculating whether it would cause more of a scene to try to get Jacob out of here before the stimming turns into a full-blown breakdown or whether I can talk him through this. "You know how Mrs. Pinham had to leave school for three weeks when she got shingles, and she couldn't tell you beforehand? This is the same thing."

"But it's eleven-fifteen," Jacob says.

"Mrs. Pinham got better, right? And everything went back to normal."

By now, the carrot man is staring at us. And why shouldn't he? Jacob looks like a totally normal young man. He's clearly intelligent. But having his day disrupted probably makes him feel the same way I would if I was suddenly told to bungee off the top of the Sears Tower.

When a low growl rips through Jacob's throat, I know we are past the point of no return. He backs away from me, into a shelf full of pickle jars and relishes. A few bottles fall to the floor, and the breaking glass sends him over the edge. Suddenly Jacob is screaming-one high, keening note that is the soundtrack of my life. He moves blindly, striking out at me when I reach for him.

It is only thirty seconds, but thirty seconds can last forever when you are the center of everyone's scrutiny; when you are wrestling your six-foot-tall son down to the linoleum floor and pinning him with your full body weight, the only kind of pressure that can soothe him. I press my

lips close to his ear. "I shot the sheriff," I sing. "But I didn't shoot no deputy ..."

Since he was little, those Bob Marley lyrics have soothed him. There were times I played that song twenty-four hours a day just to keep him calm; even Theo knew all the verses before he was three. Sure enough, the tension seeps out of Jacob's muscles, and his arms go limp at his sides. A single tear streaks from the corner of his eye. "I shot the sheriff," he whispers, "but I swear it was in self-defense."

I put my hands on either side of his face and force him to meet my eyes. "Okay now?"

He hesitates, as if he is taking a serious inventory. "Yes."

I sit up, inadvertently kneeling in the puddle of pickle juice. Jacob sits up, too, and hugs his knees to his chest.

A crowd has gathered around us. In addition to the carrot man, the manager of the store, several shoppers, and twin girls with matching constellations of freckles on their cheeks are all staring down at Jacob with that curious mix of horror and pity that follows us like a dog nipping at our heels. Jacob wouldn't hurt a fly, literally or figuratively-

I've seen him cup his hands around a spider during a three-hour car ride so that, at our destination, he could set it free outside. But if you are a stranger and you see a tall, muscular man knocking over displays, you don't look at him and assume he's frustrated. You think he's violent.

"He's autistic," I snap. "Do you have any questions?"

I've found that anger works best. It's the electric shock they need to tear their gaze away from the train wreck. As if nothing's happened, the shoppers go back to sifting through the navel oranges and bagging their bell peppers. The two little girls dart down the dairy aisle. The carrot man and the manager do not make eye contact, and that suits me just fine. I know how to handle their morbid curiosity; it's their kindness that might break me.

Jacob shuffles along behind me as I push the cart. His hand is still twitching faintly at his side, but he's holding it together. My biggest hope for Jacob is that moments like this won't happen.

My biggest fear: that they will, and I won't always be there to keep people from thinking the worst of him.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from House Rules by Jodi Picoult Copyright © 2010 by Jodi Picoult. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 2129 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 2145 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Making Contact: What is it like to live with Asperger's Syndrome? Read this moving and insightful portrayal

    Jodi Picoult's latest novel is a sensitive and moving insight into the lives of one family affected by Asperger's Syndrome. Jacob is an eighteen year old young man struggling to appear "normal" in a world that is NOT yet prepared to welcome him as he is. While unwittingly involving himself in a serious crime, Picoult manages to share with the reader the deepest feelings of his mother Emma, his younger brother Theo, and Jacob himself as he is forced to do the one thing that children with Asperger's find most impossible to do...to make contact with world; and in Jacob's case have his voice heard in our judicial system. Through Jacob we learn what it is truly like to live daily with the painful social isolation, eccentric behavior,and circumscribed passions of someone who struggles to just "fit in" and connect to others. From the moment you enter Jacob, Emma and Theo's life, Picoult skillfully teaches us about the pain and pleasure of having an Asperer's child in the family in vivid detail and with powerful imagery. Ironically,with this well written and absorbing novel, Picoult achieves the very contact with the reader that you will wish Jacob and others who struggle with this variant of Autism could do on their own.

    27 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    One bright light in a sea of mediocrity

    Jodi Picoult's latest book is redundant of her previous works, with the substitution of Jacob, a young man with Asperger's syndrome, for the character in previous disease (or social ill)-of-the-week plots. It's obvious Picoult's done a lot of research, and she appears to "nail" the character of Jacob. It's worth reading the chapters in his voice to learn about the thought process and behavior of a person with Asperger's. The other characters, however, are hardly more than cardboard cutouts. The mother is especially disappointing. How did this woman of strong educational background, great heart, and earnest endeavor, who has worked tirelessly and successfully to champion her son in the bureaucracy of education, do so without finding allies along the way to aid her when facing the challenge of a new bureaucracy in the court system? And how is it that the skills learned in a school setting were so difficult to transfer to the bureaucracy of a court setting? That just didn't ring true. Also, parents who work so hard through the system on behalf of their special-needs children are generally not taken by surprise when the child turns 18 and is considered an adult by the outside world; they work ahead of time to prepare for that eventuality, especially in this day and age when medical personnel can't even discuss care matters of an 18+-y.o. child without a signed release.

    My advice: ignore the substandard plot and flat characters of most chapters, and just go for the gold: Jacob's voice. There's much to be learned there from a character worth getting to know.

    17 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is a superb look at Asperger's Syndrome, but not just the person suffering from it, but also the impact on family members

    Emma Hunt has dedicated her life to her son Jacob who suffers with Asperger's syndrome. Her sacrifice has come with personal lost and cost as her career was pushed aside; her ex-husband Henry the computer programmer left as he worked at home and could not concentrate with the tantrums; and her other son Theo three years younger than Jacob is expected to watch over him when mom cannot, but ignored otherwise by her as he cannot even get his permit. She lives to protect Jacob and Theo understands that the prime house rule is take care of your brother.

    However, her efforts to give her soon a life fall apart when the police charge eighteen years old Jacob with the murder of Jess Ogilvy. His inability to understand non verbal signs and comprehend social nuances puts Jacob at risk. Desperate, she hires Oliver O. Bond as Jacob's lawyer.

    This is a super look at Asperger's Syndrome, but not just the person suffering from it, but also the impact on family members especially Theo. The murder mystery tales a back seat even in the courtroom to how Henry thinks and reacts to senses overload, which can be simply crinkling of paper. Rotating perspective between family members, the lawyer and others, fans obtain a deep look at the total impact of Asperger's Syndrome.

    Harriet Klausner

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2010

    Too Long - Disappointing Ending

    I don't mind at all reading big books if they're engrossing. This one was not. Although the main character of Jacob, who is autistic, was interesting, I found myself getting really annoyed with some of the rest of the people (his mother, his lawyer, the cop). The "mystery" dragged out way too long and then was "solved" within 2 practically throw-away paragraphs on page 526 (of 532), and we don't find out what happens to any of the main characters after the "big reveal." After investing a fair amount of time in reading this book, I found it to be very disappointing.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Not Great but not bad

    This book had a great story to tell. I have yet to read a book with this kind of story line from the perspective of someone with Autism. The story line was in fact engaging but where it falls short are the characters. Normally Jodi Picoult's books have so many fascinating characters and with this one I really have to say that only one or maybe two of the characters caught my attention. I even found myself speed reading the chapters of the characters I had no interest in. I will say that she made Jacob very believable. I can only assume because I have personally never had the pleasure of knowing anyone with autism but it did seem very believable to me. Sadly this one not one of her best. Allot of her first books they hold you from page one and you just can't put it down, this one not so much. It is a great thing when your favorite authors become popular because then you get to read more of their books at a faster pace BUT at the same time they start to churn them out so fast and they fall short. In the end I was glad I borrowed it from the library and not paid the money to purchase it.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Very moving

    Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. But then when a terrible murder happens, the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger's - not looking someone in the eye, can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob and his family, who only want to fit in, feel the spotlight shining directly on them. I's a very moving reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding of others.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2010

    Is that all there is?

    I was thoroughly engaged in this book - even thought I had the ending figured out. And then --- are you sure there aren't pages missing from my book? That's it?

    Very disappointing ending - I guess Jodi had an appointment to get to or something!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    ATTENTION GRABBER!

    Emma Hunt, who is almost entirely focused on helping her eighteen-year-old son, Jacob, who has Asperser's syndrome, learn to communicate with his family and peers. Emma's life is complicated by the fact that her husband, Henry, left shortly after their younger son, Theo, was born. Fifteen-year-old Theo deeply resents the amount of time and money that his mother lavishes on his older brother. Jacob possesses so much knowledge on the subject of forensics; he could truly aid the investigators, which gets him into deep trouble However, although Jacob is very intelligent, what he sorely lacks is social skills. To help Jacob, his mother Emma hires, Jess, a pretty grad student to tutor Jacob in developing social skills. This is a compelling, thought-provoking story that grabs you right off the bat and holds your attention throughout.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2010

    When I first began reading the book, I thought that it would be primarily about Autism. I soon realized that it was also a mystery and romance novel. Autism was the central theme used to create the plot and move the tale along its path.

    This novel illustrates how being different can cause tremendous hardship and can disrupt ordinary family life; it is a tale of how dysfunction affects each member of the family in a different way; it is a tale about how hard it is to attempt to function in a normal world when everything about you and your world is not the norm.
    The story is told in the voices of the five main characters.
    1-Jacob is the main character. The author gets inside his head and really shows what it is like to have Asperger's, to be locked out of the normal world and to live in a space where all outside stimuli are larger than life. She has captured what it feels like to be an outsider, always looking in, trying to belong but never being accepted because the necessary skills are absent.
    Jacob's inability to function normally in the world has had devastating effects on the life of his entire family. He cannot read the clues people send out and he often misinterprets behavior and makes inappropriate responses. The family is preoccupied with preventing an outburst from too much sensory stimulation.
    He is an exceptionally bright senior in high school. His hobby is forensics and he uses a police scanner to learn about crime scenes, offering advice to the trained detectives.
    2-Emma, Jacob's mom, is very devoted to him, often leaving her other son to fend for himself. She works from home writing an advice column, which is ironic since she has a hard time dealing with her own problems, let alone those of strangers. Money is always tight because Jacob needs an enormous amount of intervention in order to be mainstreamed so he can function somewhat, in the real world.
    Her marriage has ended in divorce because Henry cannot cope with Jacob and his effect on their daily and married life. Emma is often preoccupied with Jacob and neglects, of necessity, everyone else. Although Henry supports them financially, he is emotionally and physically absent from the family.
    3-Theo is Jacob's brother. Because of Jacob's bizarre abnormal reactions to normal situations, Theo's needs are often ignored. Although Theo is not autistic, he also exhibits some anti-social behavior as a result of his loneliness and feelings of neglect. He wants a normal home life.
    While Jacob has no friends because his mental problems keep people away from him, Theo has no friends because when his brother appears on the scene, they shun him too. The stain of his brother's Asperger's colors him as well.
    4- Jess is Jacob's social skills tutor who is writing a paper on Autism. She has helped him when it comes to interacting in the world in ordinary social situations. He really relates well to her and likes being with her because she makes him feel comfortable. When she is found murdered, Jacob is accused and arrested. His arrest sets the story in motion.
    5-Oliver is the lawyer who represents Jacob in the murder trial. He relates well to Jacob and is helpful to Emma. The relationship that develops between them makes the story a bit contrived. It seems convenient and not very plausible. He is 28 and she is the mother of an 18 year old.
    Once you become drawn into the story, however, the harder it becomes to put the book down. It is upsetting because of the injustice of the way society treats people who march to a different drummer, but it is also very exciting and keeps you guessing as to the ultimate outcome.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A great read and an exceptional enlightening learning experience. Should be required for every educator and any others who work with children.

    Once more Jodi Picoult has given us an outstanding novel which not only entertains, but also clearly brings to light the dilemmas which families who have children with a behavioral disability have to live with every day. I couldn't wait to read this book and had a hard time putting it down when there were other things that needed to be done. It gave me insight into autism and specifically Aspergers Syndrome. The characters were so real. Emma, the mother of Jacob, was a very real person who had to change her whole life to help her son live in his world with minimal conflicts. I am a great admirer of Picoult's and can't begin to understand how she is able to do all of the research which her novels frequently demand.
    This book kept me on the edge throughout and I couldn't wait to see how it was going to end, but when I finished it I missed not being able to read any more!! I admit to being a fan of Jodi Picoult's but she has written several I wasn't wild about, however, this was really tops them all. I heartily recommend this to book clubs and everyone else.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2011

    had problem with the portrayal of an aspie child

    As a mom with a aspie child, I had a problem with how Jacob talked about himself in the first Jacob chapter. Most aspie kids write in logical format and cannot describe why they are feeling a certain way, they just know that they do, therefore, they react. They have a problem with being insightful and I could not get past the first person of Jacob to get through the rest of the book. I am sure the author did much research on the traits of the child, as the "mom" describes the behaviors to a T - it's the Jacob part that I had a problem with - just too chatty vs logical straight forward thinking.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    sterotypical

    My friend recommended this book whose son is Autistic, I found it very steorotypical and not very entertaining, granted the justice system treats disabled people different,I didn't need 500 pages worth.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2010

    Controversial diagnosis

    I have enjoyed other books by Jodi Picoult and appreciate the amount of research she puts into her work. Although diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a complicated matter, I believe the Jacob character would fall more into the high-functioning autism area. I have a child with Asperger's, and also know multiple others with this diagnosis. In addition to multiple issues probably not interesting to the average person to elaborate here, it seems to me 'Aspies' can get by on their own in adult life, not having such dramatic meltdowns and withdrawing so severely by such mundane events such as crumpling paper. The Jacob character does not seem like he would have any chance of living independently, with way too many 'quirks' to overcome.
    I also figured out what happened very early on in the book - she stated it pretty clearly in my opinion - so at the end I was disappointed when for me there was no surprise ending. Ha unless the surprise was that we don't find out what happens to any of the characters. Overall I found this one very disappointing, and misleading about Asperger's Syndrome.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    absolutely loved this book

    Sometimes this author is hit and miss but this book was phenomenal. I could not put it down and read it in a few days. You fall right in love with the main characters and really feel like you are in the story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    Loved it, but ....

    House Rules was a very well-written, informative and entertaining book. While I loved the character of Jacob, my heart went out to Theo. I learned alot about Asperger's Syndrome and felt the author did a great job getting the reader inside the head of Jacob. However, I was disappointed by the ending. I don't always expect a happy ending, but it would have been good to have a few of the loose ends tied up.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Another winner for Picoult!

    This is a story about Jacob Hunt who has Asperger's syndrome. He just wants to fit in as does his family but suddenly they are cast into the spotlight when Jacob's social skills tutor is found dead. This is a compelling story about how an entire family has to deal with Asperger's syndrome; not just the person who has the syndrome. Very compelling and compassionate; that we shouldn't judge a person from their cover (or book! :) ). Picoult is known for twists in her stories and this is no different. Wonderful story and writing; another story to make us all stop and think!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2012

    Disappointing

    I wanted to read this book because my son has AS and I wanted to read about a character like him. I wanted to like the book and the author and tried to separate my feelings on autism (blaming it on vaccines? Really?) from the plot and characters. In the end I was disappointed in the entire plot, characters, and ending. I couldn't believe the contrivances that were so neatly thrown together in the last few pages, and was disappointed in the abrupt ending and stereotypical characters. In contrast, "Nineteen Minutes" wove a real story and led up to a painful ending and had closure (for lack of a better word)for the main characters. Here, Jacb's mother is supposed to understand him and how he processes information beter thanevery other character, but even she gets caught up in the misunderstanding? The trial was a trial to read, when it should have been the most interesting part of the book.

    (On a personal note, my son doesn't take 3 dozen supplements, he gets a Flintstone vitamin, he eats what we all eat, there are no Blue Fridays. Emma as a mom of a son with AS was not believable to me, because she and Theo were slaves to Jacob's routine, no exceptions, instead of helping him cope with the world, she enabled him to never have to do those things and expected everyone else to do the same.)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

    Great!

    Fantastic novel that I couldn't put down! Get it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    Great Book

    I read this book at 13 and thought it was very well written. Living with a special needs younger brother, this gave me some insight into what gos through his mind as things occur througout the day. The book was very moving and at times brought me to tears, wanting wat was best for Jacob, but also seeing justice done. I would HIGHLY reccommend this book to annyone, especialy if you know someone with special needs.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    Predictable Piccoult

    Good enough to keep me reading but, predictable like many Piccoult books. They're like Lifetime movies...watchable but predictable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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