House Rules: A Novel by Jodi PicoultHouse Rules: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

House Rules: A Novel

byJodi Picoult

Paperback | November 9, 2010

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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. But 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 directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s 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 why nothing is normal because of Jacob.

And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?
Jodi Picoult grew up in Nesconset, New York. She received an B.A. in creative writing from Princeton, and a master's degree in education from Harvard. She is a bestselling author of fifteen novels. Her latest one, number 16, entitled Handle With Care, is sure to become a best seller as well. Most recently she wrote five issues of the W...
Title:House Rules: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:560 pages, 8.25 × 5.31 × 1.5 inPublished:November 9, 2010Publisher:Washington Square PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:145161120X

ISBN - 13:9781451611205

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing amazing amazing! I am a big fan of Jodi Picoult's work, but this book went above and beyond my expectations. She really bring each character to life, and helps you see the story from their point of view.
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from House Rules This book had enough doubt to make it all the more interesting. A great read.
Date published: 2017-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this! This was an amazing book in my opinion. I loved how perfectly it captured Asperger's Syndrome and how raw and touching it was!
Date published: 2017-05-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read! Really enjoyed reading House Rules witch became one of my favorite by Jodi Picoult along with The Storyteller, Nineteen Minutes and Change of Hearts. I liked the investigation and crime story in this one and the characters were really well developed. I kind of guess early on who and how it happens, but I feel that was maybe intentional from the author.
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favorite This is by far my favorite book from Jodi Picoult. What a great story. If you haven't read this one yet, I would highly recommend reading this one.
Date published: 2017-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another favourite! All of her books are great! I loved this one, like all the others. Informative and a great topic.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! You won't be disappointed.
Date published: 2017-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Not only was this book interesting and page turner, it was also insightful.Highly suggest reading this book. #plumreivew
Date published: 2017-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book! I loved this book. I liked to read about aspberger's as well, it's interesting to see how different people think differently.
Date published: 2017-01-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not a disappointment First book I read by Jodi Picoult and wasn't disappointed. A really good read that gives a glimpse into the life of a person with Asperger’s syndrome.
Date published: 2017-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not a disappointment First book I read by Jodi Picoult and wasn't disappointed. A really good read that gives a glimpse into the life of a person with Asperger’s syndrome.
Date published: 2017-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read I enjoy Jodi Picoult very much. It's an easy read that keeps your guessing right until the end. The character development is superb.
Date published: 2017-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Story I thought that this story was very well written and it had me guessing on what happens at the end!
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my Favourite Books I loved every single book written by Jodi Picoult but this one has to be my favourite. Jodi is amazing in making readers understand each and every character in the book. Her words are so powerful and this book makes it apparent. Although I am not yet a mother, I felt like I completely understand what Emma (the mother) was going through. Reading this book really proves that a mother will always have the world's toughest job, especially those incredibly strong mothers who have children with Aspergers. Well-written and definitely recommend!! #plumreview
Date published: 2016-11-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Read I was surprised by this one. Sometimes I feel like the author has a tendency to write a lot of the same stories over and over again. This one was different and also shed some light on a difficult subject for a lot of people. Good, quick read.
Date published: 2016-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favourite book! This is one of the best books I have read. I could not put the book down until I finished reading.
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Moving and Eye-opening A very moving and emotional story, with lots of information about Asperger's. Writing from multople points of view, Jodi Picoult develops an intricate and suspensful story.
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic Picoult Excellent story! Very much in Jodi Picoult's style of looking at every side of the story.
Date published: 2016-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best books I've ever read! This was my first Jodi Picoult read and is definitely not my last! This book made me feel such a wide range of emotion. It is also great because I got to learn a lot about Aspergers.
Date published: 2015-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Book, but some inaccuracies. I originally heard about this book from my mother. She read the book and loved it, but I never got the chance to read it until now. I started reading "House Rules" as a school assignment and I absolutely loved the book. It was a phenomenal read and I definitely recommend it. I really enjoyed the way the book was written. Typical of Picoult, each section of the book was written in the point of view of each of the characters so you really got a feel for how each character felt about an event happening in the story. One inaccuracy of the story was how Jodi portrayed Aspergers Syndrome. The book reflects the amount of effort that she put in to find background information but she forgot one important detail. When the character of "Jacob" is described, he has almost every possible symptom of someone with Aspergers. In reality people with this condition might only have two or three of the symptoms. Although Jacob's condition is slightly unrealistic, it makes for a great read. By including all the symptoms, Jacob is a much more interesting character and can provide more detail to the plot. One of my favorite things about the book is the title. The title for the book is based on the house rules of the Hunt family. Jacobs mother, Emma has created rules that Jacob follows religiously and will not break. One of the more important rules is "to always be honest". The importance of the rule can be discovered when you read the book. There are also the unwritten house rules that are meant for Jacob's brother, Theo. This set of rules are followed by Theo to keep his brother safe and content. Overall, I loved the book and everyone that comes across it should give it a read.
Date published: 2015-03-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Picoult Does it Again I enjoy all of Picoult's novels, and House Rules is no exception. In my opinion, it's one of her most interesting reads to date. She does a great job of exploring what it's like to live with (and love someone with) Asperger's Syndrome, and as usual, it's clear that she took the time to do her research and develop a great plot with interesting and individually complex characters. The only problem I had with this book was with the ending. I felt it was abrupt and unnecessary, and gave a plot that I got very wrapped up in a very anticlimactic feeling.
Date published: 2012-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic I absolutely loved this book, i couldn't put it down. From beginning to end i was mesmerized with this book. it lets you take a peek at how it is or could be to have a child with Aspergers and the ups and downs of life. great book!
Date published: 2012-01-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Way to long! This was my first (and last) Jodi Picoult book. I thought it was pretty good although unsatisfactory ending after 529 pages! The many mistakes distracted and frustrated me. I kept flipping back pages to make sure i hadn't misread something.
Date published: 2011-08-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Intense read, but underwhelming I thoroughly enjoy every book I have read by Jodi Picoult thus far and I've read quite a few. House Rules was a very good read throughout and I could not for the life of me put the book down. I, myself, have worked with a few kids who have been on the autism spectrum and am very interested with the subject but you do not have to be to like this book. I just feel that the novel was somewhat underwhelming. Normally in a Picoult book there is always a twist, however, I knew what happened the entire time. It was missing the big Picoult twist.
Date published: 2011-06-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pretty good! This is only the third book I have read by Jodi Picoult, but I of course expected this book to be good. I mean, Picoult isn’t the #1 New York Times Bestseller for no reason. And this book was really good! I should have remembered from reading the back of the book that the main character, Jacob Hunt, was a teen. But when I first read it, I thought it was about a young boy. When I think of someone with autism, I usually think of a child. So the fact that Jacob is 18 was really interesting. Some might have guessed the end, but I only thought of it has a possibility. Picoult had you thinking of many different theories as to what really happened, so I was never really sure how it would end. I think however that Picoult would hit me with a surprise, because she was leading towards one theory for quite a bit. So since she made you think that was how it was going to end, it was kinda obvious that she probably wouldn’t actually end it that way. Being 532 pages, I can honestly say it wouldn’t have hurt if that story was shorter. I mean most of it was interesting, but all of it was probably not needed. I mean not only is it that many pages, but the writing also isn’t big. At first it took me a few days to get into it, because it felt like I would be reading it forever. But when I got a quarter to half way in, I started reading it quicker. Overall, I really liked it and I would read it again. I think Jodi Picoult is a very good writer. I wish I could write as good as her. I can’t wait to read more of her books.
Date published: 2011-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such an AMAZING READ I absolutely loved this book. The first time I saw it was when I was with my aunt in Shoppers Drug Mart. I saw it on display, read the summary and knew instantly that it would be an amazing book! I definitely encourage you to pick up this book because it is a great read and it will touch your heart. You will fall in love with Jacob and how he does things that are different then the ways that you do things. You will learn a lot from thins book! READ HOUSE RULES
Date published: 2011-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from House Rules AMAZING My first Picoult book and I absolutely loved it. From start to finish, I was hooked and couldn't put it down. A MUST read, especially if you have interest in disabilities or the justice system. My mother-in law and sister-in law both read it as well and loved it just as much as I did, and we all have very different interests. Warning! Read this book when you have time to because I promise you will not be able to put it down!
Date published: 2011-01-21

Read from the Book

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 sixfoot- 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. Copyright © 2010 by Jodi Picoult

Editorial Reviews

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

—The Financial Times