House Rules: A Novel

House Rules: A Novel

by Jodi Picoult

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Overview

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and the modern classics My Sister’s Keeper, The Storyteller, and more, comes a “complex, compassionate, and smart” (The Washington Post) novel about a family torn apart by a murder accusation.

When your son can’t look you in the eye...does that mean he’s guilty?

Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. He has a special focus on one subject—forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are thrust directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob.

And for the frightened small town, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?

House Rules is “a provocative story in which [Picoult] explores the pain of trying to comprehend the people we love—and reminds us that the truth often travels in disguise” (People).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501190506
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 09/25/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 656
Sales rank: 338,121
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

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-six 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.

Hometown:

Hanover, New Hampshire

Date of Birth:

May 19, 1966

Place of Birth:

Nesconset, Long Island, NY

Education:

A.B. in Creative Writing, Princeton University; M.A. in Education, Harvard University

Read an Excerpt

House Rules


  • I’ve had to get twenty-four stitches on my face, thanks to my brother. Ten of them left a scar cutting through my left eyebrow, after the time that Jacob knocked over my high chair when I was eight months old. The other fourteen stitches were on my chin, Christmas 2003, when I got so excited about some stupid gift that I crumpled the wrapping paper, and Jacob went ballistic at the sound. The reason I’m telling you this has nothing to do with my brother, though. It’s because my mother will tell you Jacob’s not violent, but I am living proof that she’s kidding herself.

    I am supposed to make exceptions for Jacob; it’s one of our unwritten house rules. So when we need to take a detour away from a detour sign (how ironic is that?) since it’s orange and freaks Jacob out, that trumps the fact that I’m ten minutes late for school. And he always gets the shower first, because a hundred billion years ago when I was still a baby Jacob took the first shower, and he can’t handle having his routine messed up. And when I turned fifteen and made an appointment to get my learner’s permit at the DMV—an appointment that got canceled when Jacob had a meltdown over buying a pair of new sneakers—I was expected to understand that these things happen. The problem is, something happened the next three times I tried to get my mom to take me to the DMV and, finally, I just stopped asking. At this rate, I’ll be riding my skateboard till I’m thirty.

    Once, when Jacob and I were little, we were playing in a pond near our house with an inflatable boat. It was my job to watch Jacob, even though he was three years older than I am and has had just as many swimming lessons as I have. We overturned the boat and swam up underneath it, where the air was heavy and wet. Jacob started talking about dinosaurs, which he was into at the time, and he wouldn’t shut up. Suddenly I began to panic. He was sucking up all the oxygen in that tiny space. I pushed at the boat, trying to lift it off us, but the plastic had created some kind of seal on the surface of the water—which only made me panic even more. And sure, with twenty-twenty hindsight, I know I could have swum out from underneath the boat, but at that moment it didn’t occur to me. All I knew, at the time, was that I couldn’t breathe. When people ask me what it’s like growing up with a brother who has Asperger’s, that’s what I always think of, even though the answer I give out loud is that I’ve never known anything different.

    I’m no saint. There are times I’ll do things to drive Jacob crazy, because it’s just so damn easy. Like when I went into his closet and mixed up all his clothes. Or when I hid the toothpaste cap so that he couldn’t put it back on when he was done brushing his teeth. But then I wind up feeling bad for my mom, who usually bears the brunt of one of Jacob’s meltdowns. There are times I hear her crying, when she thinks Jacob and I are asleep. That’s when I remember that she didn’t sign up for this kind of life, either.

    So I run interference. I’m the one who physically drags Jacob away from a conversation when he’s starting to freak people out by being too intense. I’m the one who tells him to stop flapping when he’s nervous on the bus, because it makes him look like a total nutcase. I’m the one who goes to his classes before I go to my own, just to let the teachers know that Jacob had a rough morning because we unexpectedly ran out of soy milk. In other words, I act like the big brother, even though I’m not. And during the times when I think it’s not fair, when my blood feels like lava, I step away. If my room isn’t far enough, I get on my skateboard and tool somewhere—anywhere that isn’t the place I am supposed to call home.

    That’s what I do this afternoon, after my brother decides to cast me as the perp in his fake crime scene. I’ll be honest with you—it wasn’t the fact that he took my sneakers without asking or even that he stole hair out of my brush (which is, frankly, Silence of the Lambs creepy). It was that when I saw Jacob in the kitchen with his corn-syrup blood and his fake head injury and all the evidence pointing to me, for a half a second, I thought: I wish.

    But I’m not allowed to say my life would be easier without Jacob around. I’m not even allowed to think it. It’s another one of those unwritten house rules. So I grab my coat and head south, although it is twenty degrees outside and the wind feels like knives on my face. I stop briefly at the skateboarding park, the only place in this stupid town where the cops even let you skate anymore, although it’s totally useless during the winter, which is like nine months of the year in Townsend, Vermont.

    It snowed last night, about two inches, but there’s a guy with a snowskate trying to Ollie off the stairs when I get there. His friend is holding a cell phone, recording the trick. I recognize them from school, but they’re not in my classes. I’m sort of the antiskater personality. I take AP everything, and I have a 3.98 average. Of course, that makes me a freak to the skating crowd, just like the way I dress and the fact that I like to skate make me a freak to the honors crowd.

    The kid who’s skating falls down on his ass. “I’m putting that on YouTube, bro,” his friend says.

    I bypass the skate park and head through town, to this one street that curls like a snail. In the very center is a gingerbread house—I guess you call them Victorians. It’s painted purple and there’s a turret on one side. I think that’s what made me stop the first time—I mean, who the hell has a turret on their house, besides Rapunzel? But the person who lives in that turret is a girl who’s probably ten or eleven, and she has a brother who’s about half her age. Their mom drives a green Toyota van, and their dad must be some kind of doctor, because twice now I’ve seen him come home from work wearing scrubs.

    I’ve been going there a lot, lately. Usually I crouch down in front of the bay window that looks into the living room. I can see pretty much everything from there—the dining room table, where the kids do their homework. The kitchen, where the mom cooks dinner. Sometimes she opens the window a crack and I can almost taste what they’re eating.

    This afternoon, though, nobody is home. That makes me feel cocky. Even though it’s broad daylight, even though there are cars going up and down the street, I walk behind the house and sit down on the swing set. I twist the chains around and then let them untangle, even though I am way too old for this kind of stuff. Then I walk up to the back porch and try the door.

    It opens.

    It’s wrong, I know that. But all the same, I go inside.

    I take off my shoes because it’s the polite thing to do. I leave them on a mat in the mudroom and walk into the kitchen. There are cereal bowls in the sink. I open the fridge and look at the stacked Tupperware. There’s leftover lasagna.

    I take out a jar of peanut butter and sniff inside. Is it just my imagination, or does it smell better than the Jif we have at our house?

    I stick my finger in and take a taste. Then, with my heart pounding, I carry the jar to the counter—plus another jar of Smucker’s. I take two slices of bread from the loaf on the counter and rummage in the drawers till I find the silverware. I make myself a PB&J sandwich as if it’s something I do in this kitchen all the time.

    In the dining room, I sit down in the chair that the girl always sits in for meals. I eat my sandwich and picture my mother coming out of the kitchen, carrying a big roast turkey on a platter. “Hey, Dad,” I say out loud to the empty seat on my left, pretending that I have a real father instead of just a guilty sperm donor who sends a check every month.

    How’s school? he would ask.

    “I got a hundred on my bio test.”

    That’s incredible. Wouldn’t be surprised if you wind up in med school, like I did.

    I shake my head, clearing it. Either I’ve imagined myself into a TV sitcom or I have some kind of Goldilocks complex.

    Jacob used to read to me at night. Well, not really. He read to himself, and he wasn’t reading as much as he was reciting what he’d memorized, and I just happened to be in the same general geographic location, so I couldn’t help but listen. I liked it, though. When Jacob talks, his voice rolls up and down as if every sentence is a song, which sounds really strange in normal conversation but somehow works when it’s a fairy tale. I remember hearing the story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears and thinking she was such a loser. If she’d played her cards right, she might have been able to stay.

    Last year, when I was a freshman at the regional high school, I got to start over. There were kids from other towns who knew nothing about me. I hung out the first week with these two guys, Chad and Andrew. They were in my Methods class and seemed pretty cool, plus they lived in Swanzey instead of Townsend and had never met my brother. We laughed about the way our science teacher’s pants were hemmed two inches too short and sat together in the caf at lunch. We even made plans to check out a movie if a good one was playing on the weekend. But then Jacob showed up in the caf one day because he’d finished his physics packet in some freakishly short amount of time and his teacher had dismissed him, and of course he made a beeline for me. I introduced him and said he was an upperclassman. Well, that was my first mistake—Chad and Andrew were so psyched at the thought of hanging out with an upperclassman that they started asking Jacob questions, like what grade he was in and if he was on a sports team. “Eleventh,” Jacob said, and then he told them he didn’t really like sports. “I like forensics,” he said. “Have you ever heard of Dr. Henry Lee?” He then yapped for ten straight minutes about the Connecticut pathologist who’d worked on major cases like O. J. Simpson and Scott Peterson and Elizabeth Smart. I think he lost Chad and Andrew somewhere around the tutorial on blood spatter patterns. Needless to say, the next day when we picked lab partners in Methods, they ditched me fast.

    I’ve finished my sandwich, so I get up from the dining room table and head upstairs. The first room at the top is the boy’s, and there are dinosaur posters all over the walls. The sheets are covered with fluorescent pterodactyls, and a remote-control T. rex lies on its side on the floor. For a moment, I stop dead. There was a time when Jacob was as crazy about dinosaurs as he is now about forensic science. Could this little boy tell you about the therizinosaurid found in Utah, with fifteen-inch claws that look like something out of a teen slasher flick? Or that the first nearly complete dinosaur skeleton—a hadrosaur—was found in 1858 in New Jersey?

    No, he’s just a kid—not a kid with Asperger’s. I can tell, just by looking into the windows at night and watching the family. I know, because that kitchen with its warm yellow walls is a place I want to be, not somewhere I’d run away from.

    I suddenly remember something. That day when Jacob and I were playing in the pond underneath the inflatable boat, when I started to freak out because I couldn’t breathe and the boat was stuck on top of us? He somehow broke the suction-cup seal of the boat on the surface of the water and wrapped his arms around my chest, holding me up high so that I could swallow huge gulps of air. He dragged me to the shore, and he sat beside me shivering until I could figure out how to speak again. It’s the last time I remember Jacob watching out for me, instead of the other way around.

    In the bedroom where I’m standing, there’s a whole wall of shelves filled with electronic games. Wii and Xbox, mostly, with a few Nintendo DS tossed in for good measure. We don’t have any gaming systems; we can’t afford them. The crap Jacob has to take at breakfast—a whole extra meal of pills and shots and supplements—costs a fortune, and I know that my mother stays up nights sometimes doing freelance editing jobs just so that she can pay Jess, Jacob’s social skills tutor.

    I hear the hum of a car on the quiet street, and when I peek out the window I see it: the green van turning in to the driveway. I fly down the stairs and through the kitchen, out the back door. I dive into the bushes, where I hold my breath and watch the boy spill out of the van first, wearing hockey gear. Then his sister gets out, and finally his parents. His father grabs a bag of equipment from the hatch, and then they all disappear into the house.

    I walk to the road and skate away from the gingerbread house. Underneath my coat is the Wii game I grabbed at the last minute—some Super Mario challenge. I can feel my heart pounding against it.

    I can’t play it. I don’t even really want it. The only reason I took it is because I know they’ll never even know it’s missing. How could they, when they’ve got so much?

  • Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for House Rules includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Jodi Picoult. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

    Introduction

    Life in the Hunt family is not exactly easy. Emma’s eldest son, Jacob, has Asperger’s Syndrome and lives a life driven by routine. Certain meals must be prepared on certain days, certain television shows much be watched at certain times, and all change must be planned for weeks in advance. Any unannounced break from the routine could send Jacob into a panic.

    Like many other kids with AS, Jacob has a fixation on a particular subject—in his case, forensic science. Jacob keeps a police scanner in his room and likes to show up at crime scenes, providing analysis of the situation to stunned police officers—and, Jacob’s analysis is usually correct. But when his social skills tutor is found dead, the police turn their attention to Jacob. He is ultimately arrested and charged with murder, and he has to stand trial to prove his innocence.

    Due to Asperger’s Syndrome, Jacob has trouble making eye contact and has constant tics and twitches, which seem suspicious to law officers and a jury. Jacob knows he is innocent, but he can’t seem to make anyone around him understand.

    In House Rules, bestselling author Jodi Picoult explores how a family deals with the effects of autism, and how those who communicate differently are challenged by a justice system that will not accommodate them.

    Discussion Questions

    1. House Rules is narrated by five characters: Emma, Jacob and Theo Hunt, lawyer Oliver Bond, and Detective Rich Matson. How do each of these characters bring a different perspective to the novel? How would the reading experience have been different if one of the narrators’ perspectives was removed from the novel?

    2. How do you feel about Jacob’s initial decision to cover up Jess’s death and falsely implicate Mark Maguire? Do you think he was fully aware of the consequences of his actions from the beginning? If not, is there a point in the novel where he begins to realize the enormity of what he’s done?

    3. “I don’t get into trouble because rules are what keep me sane. . . . I do what I’m told; I just wish everyone else would do it, too.” Discuss what an ideal world for Jacob would be like. Other than a strict adherence to the rules, what values do you think Jacob would like for others to hold as strongly as he does?

    4. Emma maintains that she loves both of her sons equally, although she acknowledges that most of her time and attention is taken up by Jacob. What are your feelings regarding the way Emma treats Theo? Do you hold her or Jacob accountable for letting Theo go unnoticed and friendless to the point of breaking into other people’s homes? Why or why not?

    5. “It’s wrong, I know that. But all the same, I go inside.” Discuss Theo’s hobby of breaking into and stealing from other people’s houses. What are his reasons for doing so, and what does he gain from these experiences—other than a few cups of tea and a video game he can’t use?

    6. “It’s a room with no windows and no doors, and walls that are thin enough for me to see and hear everything but too thick to break through. I’m there, but I’m not there. I am pounding to be let out, but nobody can hear me.” Children with Asperger’s Syndrome can have what Emma refers to as an “autistic meltdown,” where they are helpless to their sudden, overwhelming panic. This quote describes how Jacob feels when he has entered this state. Discuss the range of emotions Emma feels during Jacob’s meltdowns. Do her feelings differ when they are in public as opposed to when they are in private?

    7. After seeing Jacob’s rainbow quilt on the news, Emma describes herself as feeling “caught between what you want and what you should do” (159). Ultimately, she decides to call Detective Matson and bring Jacob down to the police station. Do you think Emma does the right thing? What do you think she is trying to accomplish by doing so?

    8. How does Theo’s interaction with his father in San Francisco change his attitude toward Henry? Why does he erupt into laughter when Henry offers him a few twenty-dollar bills? Is the short trip also a turning point for Emma? If so, how?

    9. Henry plays a significant role in the novel, even if he didn’t play a significant role in Jacob and Theo’s lives prior to the trial. Yet despite his importance, the author does not grant him the opportunity to narrate a single chapter from his point of view. Why do you think this is?

    10. “…if I can convince a suspect I’m the second coming of his long-dead grandma and the only way to salvation is to confess to me, so be it.” The delicate balance between right and wrong is a balance Jodi Picoult often explores in her novels. Detective Matson may be the perfect example. Take a look at some of his actions throughout the novel. Can any of them be considered absolutely right or absolutely wrong? Or do they all fall into the gray area in between? Ultimately, what is your group’s verdict on him? Is he a “good cop” or a “bad cop”?

    11. Emma and Oliver come together romantically when they are both in times of distress; Emma is drained from the trial and a lifetime of trying to protect her son, and Oliver is frightened and insecure about his competence as a lawyer. Do you think their relationship will last past the trial? What are some of the obstacles they face, and how might they overcome them?

    12. Oliver has to fight for the accommodations necessary to give Jacob a fair trial. In your opinion, whose responsibility is it to ensure each suspect is given this fair trial? Ultimately, do you think Jacob receives the fair trial he deserves?

    13. Discuss how the balance of honesty versus deception is played out in the novel. Which characters are willing to compromise honesty to get what they want? Are any of the characters not willing to compromise honesty, no matter what the cost?

    14. The final case study in the book—“Case 11: My Brother’s Keeper”—outlines the events that occurred in the course of the novel. It ends with a single line: “I’d do it all over again.” Does this line reveal anything new about Jacob? Does it change your feelings toward him in any way?

    Reading Group Enhancers

    1. Learn more about Asperger’s Syndrome and autism by visiting the Autism Society of America’s Web site at www.autism-society.org.

    2. Emma mentions that she had to fight for Jacob’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), just like she and Oliver had to fight for Jacob’s accommodations in the courtroom. Research the availability of IEPs in your state. What is the process for obtaining one?

    3. There are many ways to help children with Asperger’s Syndrome and autism, whether by volunteering your time or donating money to research programs. Visit www.networkforgood.org/topics/health/autism/ to learn about programs in your area.

    4. Emma prepares gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) meals for Jacob because she believes this type of diet helps him function. Research what foods can be consumed on this type of diet, and try to plan a day’s worth of GFCF meals. Discuss with the group what it would be like to suddenly make this dietary switch in your own family.

    5. If your group is interested in learning more about Jodi Picoult’s upcoming projects, try following her on Facebook, Twitter (@jodipicoult), or visit her Web site at www.jodipicoult.com.



    A Conversation with Jodi Picoult

    How did you first decide upon Asperger’s Syndrome as the focus for this novel?

    JP: I have a cousin who’s autistic. Several times, my aunt found herself in a public place trying to control one of his meltdowns – and people who didn’t understand why she was restraining him contacted authorities and made allegations of abuse. As he got older, and moved into a group home, his frustrations became more intense because of his size – he’d break in windows with his fist, for example – and several times the police were called. It got me thinking that the legal system works really well, if you communicate a certain way. But if you don’t, it all goes to Hell in a handbasket really quickly. A lot of the hallmark behaviors of autism – flat affect, stimming, not looking someone in the eye – could very easily be misinterpreted as signs of guilt.

    You have been known to do extensive research about the topics in your books. What was the research process like for this novel?

    JP: In addition to meeting with attorneys to get the legal information accurate, I met with six teens with Asperger’s, and their parents – face to face. Even though some of the kids were very awkward in a direct setting, I needed to experience that to understand how the rest of the world would feel coming in contact with Jacob. But kids with Asperger’s, who are so smart, shine when you let them answer questions on paper. So another 35 teens and their parents answered lengthy questionnaires for me about themselves, their reactions to situations, their lives, their hopes, their frustrations. It made for some incredible reading, and many of their direct experiences wound up in Jacob’s life. One of these young women with Asperger’s Syndrome was so detailed in her writing and so open about her experiences that she volunteered to help me further. She read the manuscript for accuracy and told me, based on Jacob’s voice, what seemed consistent and what, in her opinion, Jacob would never say or do. The last bit of research I did was incredibly fun – I shadowed a CSI for a week. I got to learn blood spatter analysis, to do presumptive semen tests, to check out crime scenes, and to observe an autopsy. It was fascinating!

    When your central characters are in a real-life situation that affects so many people around the world—in this case, dealing with the effects of Asperger’s Syndrome and autism on a family—is there more pressure on you as the author to “get it right”?

    JP: It doesn’t really matter whether it’s Asperger’s or a rape victim or a cancer patient – when research subjects open up to me with such honesty I ALWAYS feel a responsibility to “get it right.”

    If you could say one thing to the families who are dealing with the effects of having an autistic child, what would it be?

    JP: That you’re not alone – and that, hopefully, more and more people will come to understand that a child who’s “different from” is not one who is “lesser than.”

    In a previous interview, you referred to your novels taking part in a long line of “moral and ethical fiction.” When you first began writing, did you have the intention of using your work as a springboard for conversation about moral and ethical issues? Or did that come later on?

    JP: I think I started gravitating toward that sort of niche as I kept writing. I have always written about subjects that engage me – questions I can’t answer myself. They apparently tend to be big moral and ethical issues! But I never lose sight of the fact that before I was a writer, I was a teacher. I still am. My classroom’s just gotten a little bigger.

    House Rules is your seventeenth novel. Do you feel your writing has changed since your first novel? If so, was it an intentional change, or is it something you’ve noticed over time?

    JP: I think my writing has become “cleaner.” By that I mean that technically I’ve improved – I might turn a metaphor in five words now, where years ago, it would have taken me a paragraph. I can’t say it was intentional – but you know what they say about practice making perfect…!

    Why did you choose to end the book when you did, rather than going into what happens to the characters in the aftermath of the trial?

    JP: Because at heart, this is Jacob’s book. And remember, to Jacob, there was never any real mystery here, was there?

    Could you talk for a moment about Emma’s character and her struggles throughout the book? You’ve said that your characters’ voices come to you, that they take on a life of their own. Did you find yourself agreeing with Emma’s choices as the novel progressed?

    JP: I think Emma is a very typical, very overwhelmed mom. A lot of the moms of autistic kids I met are so consumed with being their child’s advocate that there’s no room for anything else – least of all themselves. It’s why so many marriages end in divorce, when a child is diagnosed on the spectrum. Emma’s journey in this book is one of unwinding – allowing herself to define herself as more than just Jacob’s mother, because that’s been completely eroded by his autism.

    If the main characters in this novel had favorite books, what do you think they would be?

    JP: What a great question! I think Jacob’s would be, clearly, anything written by Dr. Henry Lee. Oliver would love Presumed Innocent by Turow – it’s probably why he decided to go to law school. Theo would read Vonnegut. He wouldn’t understand Vonnegut, but he’d think it’s the kind of thing a rebel would read. Rich – I think he’s a closet softy, the kind of guy who’s got a dog-eared copy of The Sun Also Rises in his nightstand. And dare I hope that Emma reads Jodi Picoult novels?

    Could you give us a glimpse into your next project?

    JP: Sing You Home, the 2011 book, is the story of Zoe Baxter, who has spent ten years trying to get pregnant. After multiple miscarriages and infertility issues, it looks like her dream is about to come true – she is seven months pregnant. But a terrible turn of events takes away the baby she has already fallen for; and breaks apart her marriage to Max. In the aftermath, she throws herself into her career as a music therapist – using music clinically to soothe burn victims in a hospital; to help Alzheimer’s patients connect with the present; to provide solace for hospice patients. When Vanessa – a guidance counselor – asks her to work with a suicidal teen, their relationship moves from business to friendship and then, to Zoe’s surprise, blossoms into love. When Zoe allows herself to start thinking of having a family, again, she remembers that there are still frozen embryos that were never used by herself and Max.

    Meanwhile, Max has found peace at the bottom of a bottle – until he is redeemed by an evangelical church, whose charismatic pastor – Clive Lincoln – has vowed to fight the “homosexual agenda” that has threatened traditional family values in America. But this mission becomes personal for Max, when Zoe and her same-sex partner say they want permission to raise his unborn child.

    Sing You Home explores what it means to be gay in today’s world, and how reproductive science has outstripped the legal system. Are embryos people or property? What challenges do same-sex couples face when it comes to marriage and adoption? What happens when religion and sexual orientation – two issues that are supposed to be justice-blind – enter the courtroom? And most importantly, what constitutes a “traditional family” in today’s day and age?

    Also – in a very unique move – readers will get to literally hear Zoe Baxter’s voice. I am collaborating with Ellen Wilber, a dear friend who is also a very talented musician, to create a CD of original songs, which will correspond to each of the chapters. This CD will be packaged with each hardcover book. So – literally – stay tuned!

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    House Rules 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2249 reviews.
    Nancy-Dash More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    harstan More than 1 year ago
    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
    Didun More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Sojaded More than 1 year ago
    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.
    hannahprescott More than 1 year ago
    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.
    plou More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Betharu More than 1 year ago
    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!
    MgMG More than 1 year ago
    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.
    elbell More than 1 year ago
    I love Jodi Picoult but though the premise is interesting and the factual information enlightening, the whole story is contrived and hard to follow. The ending is not Jodi's usual shock, but again just frustrating. Do not buy this book and if you are a Picoult fan wait until you can borrow it. Also, I agree with the other commetns about the ebook price - hard to believe that you can get paper and book binding for little more than this price.
    thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
    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.
    bookloverdeb More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anna_Louise More than 1 year ago
    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!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.)
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Fantastic novel that I couldn't put down! Get it!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Good enough to keep me reading but, predictable like many Piccoult books. They're like Lifetime movies...watchable but predictable.
    kuhlcat More than 1 year ago
    My reading of this book was horrifically interrupted when I neglected to bring it back with me from Maine last weekend. Ok, maybe not horrifically, but I was at a really good part, and I didn't realize I left it until I was 1/2 way back to Massachusetts. I was this close to taking the next exit and going back for it. Fortunately my mother was kind enough to offer to send it through the mail and I could finally find out what happens. My brother has never officially been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, but there's a good chance that he has it. Reading from the point of view of an "Aspie" gave me such insight into their thought process and lack of empathy, I almost feel that if I had known this when we were growing up we may not have fought so often. My brother's not quite as fanatic (we didn't have Blue Days and Yellow Days), but he definitely has some traits. I understood Theo quite often because that's often how I felt about my own relationship. Jodi weaves her characters so well that they jump off the page. She can write as a 40-year-old single mother as well as she can write as a 15-year-old teenager. Her seamless ability to hop between the minds of the different characters adds to the flavor of the story. It's almost like you get more than one story because it's told from all those different viewpoints. Jodi is one of few authors who are able to go from character to character without getting confusing or annoying. One thing I found interestingly odd was that Emma and Oliver and the psychiatrists kept saying how literal Jacob is and that he doesn't understand normal idioms used in everyday languages, yet no one asks him directly whether or not he killed Jess. One question could have saved everyone a lot of trouble! I very much enjoyed how everyone skirted around the question because "I don't want to know" (Oliver, the lawyer), but if they had, the trial would have gone a lot differently. As usual, Jodi has written a wonderful story about an unique family and their struggle just to survive. You can't help but feel sympathy for all of the characters no matter what their situation. In "House Rules" she takes a family that could live next door or even be your own and shows how they stick together to make it through the tough times. One of the "house rules" in the book is to take care of your brother, no matter what, because he's the only one you've got, and that is the underlying theme through it all.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    debmor5590 More than 1 year ago
    this was a very enjoyable read. Highly recommend.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I know a lot of people say that Jodi Picoult's books can be repetitive and depressing, but I cannot get enough of her. I love how she chooses current controversial issues as topics. Even though I'm always expecting it, the twist ending always keeps me captivated right up until the end. This book in particular gives the reader insight into the world of a family with an autistic son and the difficulties that they endure every day. I love how in all of Picoult's books, the perspective changes in each chapter, allowing the reader to see the story from each character's point of view. I can't wait for her next book!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I have read everything Jodi Picoult has written. I love her style of telling the story from each character's perspective. This story was interesting to read and as always her characters were well developed. The ending was easy to figure out early on in the book. You wonder how the characters could be so obtuse and then when the truth is revealed the book just ends.
    coffee_luvr More than 1 year ago
    I really enjoy Picoult's books; I have not read them all, but what I have read have been so thought provoking. After reading Picoult's books they stay with me for a long time. The subject matter is always so sobering and relevant. This one did not disappoint. Although I agree with some of the other posts, not all the characters were as well developed in this one as in her other books. I could not put the book down and was surprised by the ending. It left me a little bit unsatisfied, but yet it leaves room for the reader to come to their own conclusion on how it all works out.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This was my first Picoult book (and won't be my last), and I enjoyed learning about Asperger's syndrome as the story unfolded. I was intrigued by the writing style and couldn't wait to get back to the book after putting it down. The ending left me empty, however. What occurred after we learned what happened? In fact, I got a bit angry that the story seemed incomplete.