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House Rules

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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?

532 pages, Hardcover

First published March 2, 2010

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About the author

Jodi Picoult

234 books73.8k followers
Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-eight novels, including Wish You Were Here, Small Great Things, Leaving Time, and My Sister’s Keeper, and, with daughter Samantha van Leer, two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page. Picoult lives in New Hampshire.

MAD HONEY, her new novel co-authored with Jennifer Finney Boylan, is available in hardcover, ebook, and audio on October 4, 2022.

Website: http://www.jodipicoult.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jodipicoult

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jodipicoult

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 12,307 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah Rosenberger.
733 reviews33 followers
April 23, 2010
Painfully obvious and predictable and filled with so much repetitive exposition about Asperger's Syndrome that it ultimately made me feel like i was being lectured by someone who has it and would not take the hint that I understood them the first time and get the freaking point okay??? Very disappointing.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,910 followers
December 27, 2012
A good solid 3 1/2 stars

I applaud Jodi Picoult for using her best-selling author position to educate people about Asperger's syndrome. She did extensive research and tried to present as much information as she could within the confines of a novel. At times this effort to educate interrupts the flow of the narrative, but I think she was striving for completeness. House Rules is a sort of "Primer on Asperger's" for people who may not otherwise seek out information on the condition. Picoult gives Jacob every possible symptom of Asperger's in its most extreme manifestation. So of course, Jacob isn't like a real life "aspie" you might meet. He's a composite---the better to help people recognize the various behaviors and behave compassionately toward the person displaying them.

Picoult also very effectively shows the impact on the entire family of a child with special needs. Henry, the absent father who walked out long ago because he couldn't deal with Jacob's situation. Emma, the mother who desperately loves her boy and sacrifices her entire selfhood to maintain Jacob's strict schedule. Theo, the "normal" younger brother who is often invisible to Emma and is treated by his peers as a sort of "freak by association" because of his brother. Jacob's needs always get priority, so Theo is usually left to fend for himself and finds secret ways of acting out to compensate for lack of parental attention.

Don't expect much from the "mystery" itself. If you've read a few Picoult books, you probably do like I do---scoff at the implausibilities and the truly lame stuff, but devour them all the same. The woman can write! I complain a lot about present tense writing, but Picoult is one of the few who can do it so well that I barely even notice it.

There's a lot of great humor in the book, much of it related to Jacob's Asperger behaviors. He's always quoting song lyrics and lines from movies because it helps to calm him or gives him something to say when he doesn't know an appropriate response. And the way he takes everything literally is sometimes hilarious. I never realized how much subtlety we assume in our communications that would be lost on a totally literal person. Jacob's attorney tells him to "pass me a note" if he needs a sensory break. So Jacob hands him a piece of paper that says "F#"(F sharp). Literally, a "note"!

I hope I've focused on the things Ms. Picoult did RIGHT, because this is a worthy book on a timely subject, and I really liked the characters. There were places where I was laughing and crying for them at the same time.

The thing Picoult did WRONG is the reason I can't go up to four stars. The ending sucketh! Big time. It felt like a huge cop-out and I don't understand what she was thinking. Don't we at least deserve an epilogue after we've invested so much in the characters? It's as if she said, "Okay, I've told you all you need to know about Asperger's syndrome, so I'm outta here."

Profile Image for Becky.
1,339 reviews1,633 followers
April 23, 2012
Confession time: I had no intention of ever reading a Jodi Picoult book. To me, her books were pretty much equivalent to Nicholas Sparks' books.* Formula: Mix one part "issue" with one part "sap" and one part "luuuuuurve", then swallow. If nausea occurs, try Pepto to keep it down.
*Sparks' books are still ones that I have no intention of ever reading. I watched 'A Walk to Remember' and 'The Notebook'. That's enough for one lifetime. There's like 50 movies based on his books now or something, and you know they're scraping the bottom of the barrel when Miley Cyrus is the best they can get to star act be filmed in one. *shudder*

So when this was chosen for my bookclub, I wasn't exactly looking forward to it, and prepared myself to be reticent at the next meeting.

Aside from that, I was worried about the portrayal of a teen with Asperger's Syndrome, particularly because the only other book that I've read with an autistic character was very disappointing for me. I couldn't help but mentally compare the two books, and my opinion of that other book was constantly reinforced: it just lacked substance, depth. It was just mediocre. House Rules was anything but mediocre. It was interesting, insightful, informative and fulfilling.

I'm no Asperger's expert, but I thought that the book worked on many different levels at portraying not only the thought processes and behaviors of one who has it, but also of everyone that is affected by it. I felt that Picoult did her homework, and that she presented the traits, and possible causality, fairly and honestly. There are perspectives on whether heredity, or immunizations, or just randomness cause autism to develop, and I liked and appreciated that it was not treated as an excuse to demonize vaccines.

I particularly empathized with Emma and Theo. Their perspectives were so raw and honest that I couldn't help but love them for it. Emma's raised two sons on her own for 15 years - something that is hard enough without throwing autism into the mix. Her whole life has centered around it. She's done everything in her power to give him the best life she can, and if she suffers for it, that's just part of the job.

There were points in Theo's chapters where he'd be thinking something that an outsider would think is horrible, and even berating himself for it, and I would just sit there commending him for the things he didn't say. For example:
"True confession number four: I don't sit around thinking about having kids, nor­mally, but when I do it scares the shit out of me. What if my own son winds up being like Jacob? I’ve already spent my whole childhood dealing with autism; I don’t know if I can handle doing it for the rest of my life."
This is a superficially selfish thought, yes, but then I read the subtext to be that he's assuming he'd be around to take care of any kid of his who has autism. He'd stick it out, not leave like his own father did. He'd try to do the right thing, even if he doubts his abilities to do it. It makes me proud of him, and sad for him, at the same time. Because he's lived on the sidelines of autism for his whole life already. His childhood was constantly colored by the routines and the contingencies and the chaos of his brother's condition. To never have "normality" would have to be a terrifying, daunting thought.

Regarding the mystery aspect, I pegged it pretty quickly - about 30% in. All the clues were there, and it wasn't hard to figure out. But I was still interested to see if I was right, or if there would be some twist, other than the one I predicted, to shock me. I kept being a little frustrated with the investigation too. This kid is extremely literal, and extremely honest. Why did nobody think to just ask him directly? I guess I understand why, honestly, but it was still kind of frustrating. And so for that, I knocked off a star. But the rest of the story, the personal and familial aspects, were fantastic. I loved it.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book, and I will probably be picking up more of Picoult's books now that I know they aren't likely to be tapped for maple syrup anytime soon. ;)
Profile Image for Connie.
Author 2 books10 followers
March 17, 2010
Disappointing. While I enjoy Picoult's easy flow of writing and the creative way she informs the reader about issues and conditions like Asperger's syndrome, in this case, I found myself in constant "oh, come on" mode, as in:

Spoiler alert -

"Talk to your son, for crying out loud! You know he can only tell the truth and once he tells you he didn't kill her, why wouldn't you ask for more details? He's on trial for murder!"


"Talk to your brother! Once you know that he knows you were there, why wouldn't you ask him what else he knows and what he saw?"


"Everyone - talk to Jacob!" He always tells the truth, so ask him very slowly, step by step, what happened."

I suppose there wouldn't have been much left to the story if people had spoken with Jacob early on but the truth of Jess' death was pretty clear midway through the story anyway.

Then, all of a sudden, everything gets wrapped up in a neat little bow in the last 5 minutes, 15 seconds of the book (the audio version, anyway). Jacob really can care about others. Awwwww. Please.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,563 reviews862 followers
November 11, 2022
Emma Hunt has pretty much sacrificed a large portion of her day-2-day life, if not all of it, to ensure her 18 year-old Asperger's son Jacob can live some sort of a normal life. It doesn't help that she hasn't noticed that her younger son Theo is acting out. When Jacob is arrested and out on trial for murder, she just can't see how his tics, inappropriateness, inability to make eye contact etc. won't make him look like he's behaving like a guilty person.

Although the characterisations and duress of living with, and rearing an Aspergers has been clearly well researched and is compelling reading, the premise of this read rests on police and court authorities not being aware of the plights of people with Aspergers, which to me is just way tooo unrealistic. A firm Three Star, 7 out of 12 from me.

2022 read
Profile Image for Nikki in Niagara.
3,866 reviews122 followers
March 27, 2010
As a person with Asperger's I am dismayed with Picoult's portrayal of an adult with Asperger's Syndrome. Picoult starts off by showing us all the sources she has used for her research but once one starts reading it is obvious she is so full of research she doesn't know what to do with it. She has taken every possible symptom of both Asperger's and autism (which are two different diagnoses) and put them all into the character of Jacob. Not only is Jacob loaded down with every single symptom, each of his symptoms are of the most extreme variety. A real-life 'aspie' (as we call ourselves) will have some, perhaps even many, but certainly not all textbook examples, of the symptoms and then they are at varying degrees. What Picoult has done here is a disservice to the Asperger's community.

From the mother: "Since there's no cure yet for Asperger's, we treat the symptoms ...". Asperger's is not a disease or an illness! There is no cure because one is not needed. Just from reading the positive reviews of this book I see the word "illness" being used over and over to describe Asperger's and that is because the book has left readers unfamiliar with AS with that impression. I could sit here and write an essay refuting all the quotes on the dog-eared pages I created while reading, but I won't. If you want a realistic view of a young man with Asperger's I urge you to read the book "Marcelo in the Real World" by Francisco X. Stork. The main character is 17 years old and is very comparable to Jacob only the author has done an excellent job in portraying Asperger's, showing the struggles we face but also shows that we do indeed function and do not need anyone's sympathy.

BTW, I did give the book 2 stars because if I removed the whole Asperger's element I thought the mystery was quite interesting with a fun little twist to the solution.
Profile Image for Meghan.
247 reviews
April 5, 2010
"House Rules" bills itself as a murder mystery with an Asperger's twist, but Picoult brings nothing original to either the mystery genre or books featuring characters on the Autism spectrum.

I would chalk it up to a mindless, predictable read best left for the times a reader is stuck in an airport, except it is so incredibly long that the reader will have the "mystery" solved and be left to slog through 400 more pages. Much too long for a reluctant reader and too boring and predictable for an intelligent one.
Profile Image for Lormac.
517 reviews63 followers
September 10, 2011
Jodi Picoult is far from my favorite author, so all you Picoultites out there, you might as well skip this review. I am interested in stories about people on the autistic spectrum with Asperger behaviors, so I thought I would give this one a try. Sigh. I should have known better. In Ms. Picoult's heavy-handed hands, the behavior of the protagonist with Aspergers is exaggerated and twisted simply for the benefit of the plot. Eating only foods of a certain color, but on different days, is not traditionally Aspergerian - maybe eating foods of the same color - but not blue food on Tuesday, yellow on Saturday, etc. etc. At one point, the protagonist re-orders some CDs that have fallen in alphabetical order, but children with Aspergers do not usually have a need to order everything they come across - if they have never seen it before and it is not within their area of fixation, they are more likely not to notice the disorder, or if they notice it, to ignore it. But because this is a plot point, suddenly it becomes a symptom of Aspergers. Further I have never read anywhere that Aspergers is a genetic disorder - but in this novel there is a clear implication that this is the case.

And then we have the usual stuff that drives me absolutely CRAZY which is having the characters behave in ways that no one else in the world would do. For example, imagine yourself a mother with a son who has Aspergers and is on trial for murder, and that child has meltdowns whenever things go out of his routine so he is now regularly having meltdowns due to the pressure of the trial. Now imagine it is three a.m. on a February night in Vermont. Would you leave your son, run (yes, you heard me - run) across town to the office of your son's lawyer who has never shown an overt sexual interest in you, and have sex with him? Somehow I think most of us would be trying to get a good night's sleep, not catch pneumonia, and maintain a professional relationship with this man. That is why we will never be Picoult characters.

Now, imagine yourself the defense attorney,and you have just heard at least three witnesses explain how Asperger children answer questions extremely literally (such as tossing a tent at you if you asked them to 'pitch a tent'). Do you think that you would ask your client a question like "Were you sorry you killed the girl?" No, because if the Aspergerian witness did not kill the girl, he would simply answer "No" since he hadn't killed her and therefore could not be sorry that he had done so. Sigh.

Remind me not to try Picoult again.
Profile Image for Carolyn Gerk.
197 reviews15 followers
August 7, 2011
I don't know why I do this to myself. I picked this book up because someone who read it and didn't want to keep it gave it away (thus, it was free). I wanted to read something that would be a breeze ( I have read Picoult before and find her writing style easy to fly through). However, having read Picoult before, I should have remembered that she keeps writing the same damn book!
Yes, family in crisis, insert court case, insert forgotten sibling with bigger problems than others realize, insert one sibling taking the fall for another, insert catty lawyer with dog.....etc etc etc. Hey, is this My Sister's Keeper or what?
Anyway, it took about twenty minutes to figure out what had happened in this murder 'mystery', but I kept fooling myself thinking that there must be some twist I didn't expect. And, after so very many descriptions of Asperger's traits, including the fact that the main character, an 'Aspie' needs to be spoken to very directly and literally, how could Picoult string us along chapter after chapter after chapter as people in Jacob's life continually phrase questions in such a way that he is not forced to explain what happened?? Not to mention the fact that , as a person with Asperger's Jacob would have difficulty with turns of phrase, such as, 'get the picture' and 'what do you say?'. And yet, Picoult continually tosses in phrases that seem to stray pretty far from the literal speech you would expect Jacob to use. One of the first that I noticed was when Jacob mentions the Pythagorean theorem and how it was developed not by him, but by his ancestors.....before he was even 'a seductive twinkle in their eye'. Sounds like something of an odd turn of phrase to me. This happens on a number of occasions and I began to feel irritated by some of the narrative, thinking, this doesn't sound like something this kid should say.
She seemed to flip flop on a lot of her 'symptoms'. Now, if Jacob had been consistently, painfully literal, it may have made for a really dull six hundred pages, but maybe, just maybe, it didn't need to be six hundred pages.
Somehow, Jacob's mother, who shoves her knowledge of Autism and Aspergers down the throats of everyone involved, never thinks that she should ask her son literal step by step questions about what went on the day he allegedly murdered his tutor.
Pfft, yeah right. That alone made this whole novel ridiculous. Filled with a whole bunch of turmoil, angst, and wondering: how did my son do this? How did my brother murder this girl? How did this happen.....but never asking the kid who has already been identified as rather incapable of lying.
The only reason this even gets two stars is because Jacob's story revolving around his treatment and his normal, high school life interested me. I have researched Autism and Asperger's and have worked with children and adults with high and low functioning autism. Jacob was really the only character in this novel who had an excuse to make the mistakes presented. I pretty much wanted to punch every other character in the head.
Wheeeeew. Rage complete. Good bye Jodi Picoult, this is the last time I will waste time on another one of your cookie cutter family crime dramas.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Julie.
1,327 reviews92 followers
May 23, 2010
House Rules delivers everything Picoult fans have come to expect: controversy, multiple perspectives, a legal conflict, etc. Though formulaic, it does not disappoint. Jacob, the Asperger’s afflicted teenager provides the most intriguing point of view. Extremely bright, but lacking in social and communications skills, he attempts to define the way his mind works and his attempts to relate to people. His mother Emma and his brother Theo have struggled to cope with his disability, but when he is arrested for murder, their whole world comes crashing down. They struggle to convince the legal system that Jacob cannot stand trial like a normal individual. I’m glad that Picoult didn’t over-exhaust the whole “vaccines caused my son to become like this” avenue, but that she detailed obscure but effective treatments. By narrating from Jacob’s perspective, Picoult takes us into a mind that is completely logical, brutally honest, yet thoroughly lacking empathy. Another aspect that was captivating was Jacob’s obsession with forensics. He provides interesting facts and case histories, though it is this fixation and his inability to articulate his motives that ultimately gets him in trouble. The conclusion did not drop a disappointing bombshell like in My Sister’s Keeper or Handle With Care. It was well delivered and somewhat open to speculation and left me contemplative, relishing in the brilliance of Picoult’s writing.
Profile Image for Marialyce .
1,983 reviews716 followers
January 24, 2018
The topic of Asperger's covered in this book is handled with precision and care. You can't help feeling sorry for the entire family. They really gave up having a normal life for their son and brother. I did like the concept but did not feel the ending justified the many pages or thoughts put into this novel. The writing just seemed to stop and not give the reader much to think about. That being said, it was a very worthwhile read.
Profile Image for Suzzie.
908 reviews164 followers
January 5, 2018

Where was the rest?! I mean I get that we can conclude in general what happened but I wish there had been more to it. There were a few potential outcomes that would have been intriguing to read about. A world of opportunity is a way to put it. I had to flop the pages at the end thinking some were missing. Heck, I was close to shaking the book for more pages to appear. Not a very satisfying ending because it did not feel finished. The themes of Asperger's were covered in this book along with forensic science, and they were interesting reading material but this one was a bit predictable and not as enthralling as some of Picoult's other books. I still enjoyed my reading experience though.

My quick and simply overall: interesting book but predictable.
Profile Image for  Li'l Owl.
398 reviews232 followers
August 6, 2019
Amazing! Emotionally powerful and charged with enough tension your nerves will buzz!

Definition of Asperger's Syndrome according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke.
Asperger syndrome (AS) is a developmental disorder. It is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of a distinct group of neurological conditions characterized by a greater or lesser degree of impairment in language and communication skills, as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior. 
The most distinguishing symptom of AS is a child’s obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other. Children with AS want to know everything about their topic of interest and their conversations with others will be about little else.  Their expertise, high level of vocabulary, and formal speech patterns make them seem like little professors. Other characteristics of AS include repetitive routines or rituals; peculiarities in speech and language; socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with peers; problems with non-verbal communication; and clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements.

When the boy's were little, we had house rules. I'd write them on the bathroom mirror when they were in the tub so that the next time the room steamed up, they would magically appear: commandments for a toddler and his painfully literal autistic brother, laws that were not to be broken.

1. Clean up your own messes.
2. Tell the truth.
3. Brush your teeth twice a day.
4. Don't be late for school.
5. Take care of your brother; he's the only one you've got.

One night Jacob had asked me if I had to follow the rules, too, and I said yes. But, he pointed out, you don't have a brother.
Then I will take care of you, I said.
However, I didn't.
Oliver will stand up in court today, and maybe the next day and the next, and try to accomplish what I have unsuccessfully tried to do for eighteen years now: make strangers understand what it is like to be my son. Make them feel sympathy for a child who cannot feel it himself.
When Theo's done in the bathroom, I go in. The air is still thick with heat and steam; the mirror's fogged. I can't see the tears on my face, but it's for the best. Because I may know my son, and I may believe viscerally that he is not a murderer. But the odds of a jury seeing this as clearly as I do are minimal. Because no matter what I tell Henry—or myself, for that matter—I know that Jacob isn't coming home.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult is a story that's fully loaded with a title wave of mixed emotions! Emma has no life of her own as every minute of every day is eaten up by the needs of her son, Jacob, who has Asperger's syndrome. Brother, Theo, is essentially lost in the shuffle, always in the shadow of Jacob's needs, barely a blip on his mother's radar. Their father, Henry, left them shortly after Jacob's diagnosis.
Jacob's struggles with AS is expertly portrayed and to say that I learned a lot about the disability is an understatement! I found it particularly interesting to discover that one of the symptoms of AS is a heightened sensitivity to touch, like Jacob's description about having to remove tags from clothing and how uncomfortable buttons on shirts are. I actually understand that quite well as my fibromyalgia causes the same thing. It's the reason that I'm most comfortable in soft baggy pajamas that don't rub against my skin as much as fitted clothing does. There are worse things in life!
It gave me a fascinating, up close and personal view into just how difficult it is to raise a child with AS, no less as a single parent. Then there is the profound impact it has on a sibling. It's not hard to imagine just how lost and unnoticed they must feel, with the exception of being laughed at or left out when it comes to making friends.
The emotional toll it takes is nothing short of profound.
As a lover of forensics I was somewhat able to enjoy Jacob's obsessive intrest in forensic criminology. When Jacob is charged with the murder of his social skills tudor, Jess, the sense of apprehension and suspense continues to escalate. By the time the trial began my heart was in my throat and my nerves were on high alert!
I could not put this book down! I was so absorbed in the story that I barely noticed turning the pages, even though it's a 500 page novel! I simply couldn't put it down!

I've read Handle with Care which I really enjoyed, especially because I'm a pediatric nurse and have taken care of a baby with osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bone disease.
I'm looking forward to reading more of Jodi's books, including Small Great Things.
Profile Image for K.M..
Author 2 books36 followers
March 5, 2011
This book has so many problems with it that I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t want to be too specific, in case you decide to read it for yourself. The plot is such a mess that I was continually wondering how the author was going to clean it all up at the end. Well, I guess she couldn’t figure it out, because the book just stops! There is no resolution of the main conflict. I have read the book cover to cover, but still I don’t know how the story ends! There is at least one mistake in the book, regarding a detail of how someone was dressed. One of the main characters in the book, Jacob (whose mother Emma keeps calling him “Baby” even though he is 18 years old, which I found to be very annoying), has Asperger’s Syndrome, and has a penchant for “always telling the truth”…but when push comes to shove and it really counts, he only tells parts of the truth, which is then left open to (mistaken) interpretation by people who should know better, for example, his mother and his therapist. In fact, much of my frustration with the story is that I was silently begging Jacob to just tell them what happened, and begging everyone else to just ASK him what happened. Instead, what he does is tell what happened AFTER the major tragic event occurs, when all anyone needed to do was ask what preceded that. Of course, had they asked Jacob that question, there would have been no credible premise for a book, which come to think of it, may have been preferable.
Profile Image for Barb.
80 reviews2 followers
February 1, 2011
House Rules has everything I look for in good fiction. It's a superb, character-driven story that made me laugh, made me cry, and kept me intrigued until the very end. As with other Jodi Picoult novels, the author's extensive research allowed me to learn a great deal about a particular topic, in this case both autism (specifically Asperger's) and forensic science.

Many people criticize this book as being highly predictable. I disagree, mainly because I don't view it as a murder mystery. The author explains the circumstances surrounding Jess' death long before the trial is over so I don't see how the reader is 'predicting' the end. To me, the big question in this book is how does this young man with Asperger's Syndrome navigate his way through a legal system designed for non-autistic people and finally get through to those around him to keep himself out of prison, a fate that would surely destroy anyone with his condition.
Profile Image for Kris Hilliard.
46 reviews
August 3, 2011
As a mother of a child with autism, I was leery about reading this novel as it's probably every mother's worst nightmare to learn their 'normal' child committed a crime, but for those of us with children who cannot speak for themselves let alone defend their actions it is truly something I fear for him in the future. I know enough of Picoult's writing to know there would be a twist to this story, but really did not expect the way it ended. She clearly did her research learning about Asbergers, PDD-NOS and autism. It brought back a lot of memories and also gave me much insight into what my daughter probably feels 100% of the time. I look at my beautiful son and am slowly learning to appreciate that he is trapped in a mind that can't take it all in - and that he is a brilliant boy who just wants to fit in. I loved Emma and her character and her development. She really spoke from the perspective of a parent with a child who 'has' autism. Think about it - if 1 our of 90 kids are diagnosed as being on the spectrum, those kids will grow into adults who may eventually enter our legal system. That is frightening, but realistic. I really applaud Jodi for doing her research and writing a fantastic novel. I was so fearful of reading it - but oh so glad that I did. ♥ thank you Jodi!
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,355 reviews124 followers
January 22, 2021
This is the story of Emma and her son Jacob. Jacob has Asperger’s and when his teacher is murdered the attention focuses on Jacob.

I really enjoyed this, as is normal practice with Picoult it was very well researched. Her books do tend to follow the same formula but I enjoy looking closely and learning about a subject in the accessible format she is so good at.

Five stars.
May 6, 2015
I swore I'd never read another Picoult books - they are so written to template, and the endings tend to be cop-outs. But here I am with the latest one on my bedside table. My excuse is that I have Asperger's and I'm always interested to see how other people overcome the social problems. So far though, the book hasn't hooked me, its reading like a lecture on a kid with low-functioning Asperger's, a Rain-Man obsessive and brilliant character who can just about live in the world. It doesn't read like the majority of people you work with, but do not lunch with, those of us who can't read you.

So what to say about the rest of the book? It was stupid, a lot of basic questions weren't asked which made a bit of a mockery of the story and the ending, just for a change was exactly what you expected. Sadly, it seemed that Picoult ran out of steam and what could have been an enjoyable few pages or even a chapter, was reduced to a single explanation. I bloody hate books with disappointing endings. I want my money back!

Profile Image for Heather.
55 reviews
July 8, 2010
I think I need to stop reading Picoult. I picked this up from the "new!" shelf at the library, and thought I'd give it a shot over the holiday weekend, even though I've been taking a break from her writing. As I was telling someone a few weeks ago, Picoult's books are fairly formulaic: mama bear fiercely protects child (who generally has some disability or serious problem) from the world; optional so-called "normal" sibling is angry and neglected but understanding. Estranged/divorced/remote other parent is not involved with situation. Enter crisis that tests child/mother in some way. Enter optional love interest for mother, which muddles things. Finish story with strange and unsatisfying twist that leaves the reader wondering why she invested several hours of time caring about these characters. Why did I think (hope?) that this book would be different? When I read the first one, it was novel. Now that I've read all of them, I know that this is her schtick, and this book fits right in with the rest.
I'd love to read Picoult's take on other kinds of situations (non-parenting, friendships, other kinds of relationships) but I'm tired of the mothering books. [I know that there's a book where the father is the main protector of the child (The Tenth Circle), but the rest of the basic description holds true.:]
Profile Image for Toby.
1,616 reviews59 followers
July 29, 2015
Oooh I've been waiting to write this review... because there's so much bullshit in this book that it is incredible. And (obviously) not in a good way.

And before I get into the meat of this review, I'm just going to stick this out there: I'm normally a Jodi Picoult fan. But I'm also going to put this out there: I'm a social worker, I've worked with kids on the autism spectrum (anywhere from low-functioning to high-functioning), and my husband has Asperger's. So, I'm going to dare to say that I probably know more about ASD than the average person.

Let's start off with how Picoult did her research and ended up confusing low-functioning autism with Asperger's syndrome (and although Asperger's is no longer a diagnosis in the DSM-5, I am still gonna be using that term instead of "high-functioning autism" because it's what the book uses, and is also what some clinicians still use as well to make that demarcation between low-functioning and high-functioning autism).

"He has Asperger's syndrome.

I've heard the term, but I'm not about to pretend I'm an expert. "So he's autistic?"

"Technically, yes, but not in a Rain Man kind of way. He's very high-functioning.
- p. 176.

Emphasis mine. Okay, so Emma -- Jacob's mom -- has spent years learning about autism. And she calls her son high-functioning. Hmmm. Yes, Jacob is intelligent... but let's look at this a little closer...

"I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. That's Asperger's. Sometimes Jacob seems totally normal -- brilliant even -- and sometimes the tiniest thing can set him off into a full-fledged fit."
- p. 195.

"Full-fledged fit" seems to be defined, by Picoult, as screaming, screeching, flopping around, head-banging, and stimming (self-stimulating, in this case generally by flapping hands or rocking). This is not a sign of high-functioning autism, folks. This is a sign of low-functioning autism.

And then later on in the book, we get into the discussion of why autistic kids are incapable of feeling empathy for others. You guys, I may not be an autism expert, but I've met enough kids who are diagnosed with either low-functioning autism or high-functioning... and none of them lack in empathy. None. Not a single one. They just struggle to show it like us "neurotypicals." But that doesn't mean that they don't feel it.

I'd really rather avoid having the discussion of why authors need to do their research but also make sure that they're not just jam-packing their protagonist full of symptoms of various diagnoses (for that particular discussion, see my review on Daniel Keyes' The Asylum Prophecies). In House Rules, Jacob exhibits some symptoms of Asperger's, but he also exhibits many symptoms of the opposite end of the autism spectrum (i.e., low-functioning autism). You don't see both ends of the spectrum in one person.

I have more quotes from the book that pissed me off, but I'll just stop here with the quoting and emphasizing text and stuff, because I'm wasting a lot of energy on being angry at a book that's already been published, that's been out there, that people have read.

Obviously, I'm disappointed. I was excited when I first bought House Rules because autism/Asperger's is a hot topic (from anti-vaxxer views to "are people with Asperger's sociopaths?" due to the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy). But Jodi Picoult did the diagnosis a huge disservice in this book. Even if it's not widely read, it's still bullshit.

To clarify the difference between high-functioning autism (formerly known as Asperger's) and low-functioning -- and yes, this is going to be somewhat of a generalization because autism is a spectrum. I can't possible cover all of the potential places on that spectrum.

- People who are diagnosed with Asperger's tend to be very intelligent. They are able to live on their own, they are able to hold down jobs, attend school/college/grad school. They can be fixated on one or two specific topics, which is why I believe that autistic traits are seen fairly commonly among college professors (i.e. -- college professors focus on one particular field, say history, and they often have a specialization within that field). They don't pick up on social cues very well, but they can learn to do so, even if it never feels 100% natural to them. They come across as being "a bit quirky" but not usually much more than that. They generally don't have meltdowns nor do they need sensory breaks (although I have met some kids who are under the age of 10, have high-functioning autism, and who do find sensory breaks to be helpful). They also don't normally feel the need to stim in order to calm down when upset. They like routine, but they don't flip out if their routine deviates.

- People with low-functioning autism generally cannot live on their own. They may be very intelligent, but they may also be nonverbal, which is frustrating to them AND their caregivers (but note: nonverbal is not the same as selective mutism, which is usually associated with trauma). They are more likely to need sensory breaks; to not be able to handle deviations from routine; to stim; to organize things in a particular way and flip out if that is disrupted or changed in any way (like Jacob's clothing in ROYGBIV order or the colored food routine that his mom has to endure). They are also not very good at picking up social cues, but generally with low-functioning autism, they are unable to learn to use social cues even if they aren't natural.

Yes, I know the above two paragraphs are generalizations. People who are on the autism spectrum are people -- just like any neurotypical -- and they're different, just like any neurotypical. They have likes and dislikes, they do have feelings (including empathy, damnit, Picoult!), and they can be an absolute joy to have around.

Do not recommend (which is, hopefully, very obvious) -- unless, of course, you want to write a scathing review... which is the main reason I decided to read House Rules after I saw the poor reviews written here on GR.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,462 reviews8,568 followers
March 19, 2010
House Rules is the story of teenager Jacob Hunt, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome. The disease is somewhat like autism, but on the higher end of the spectrum. In fact, Jacob can dish out facts and has a higher IQ then most of the kids his age. However, his increased intellect comes with a price - he cannot relate to human emotion, and cannot understand what it means to love, hate, or even sympathize - even if he tries. All of a sudden Jacob is accused of a terrible murder. The shocking revelation shakes up the entire town, and the only way they can deal with the trauma is if they convict the person guilty of the crime. Unfortunately, Jacob cannot answer the police's questions as they would like: after all, he does have Asperger's syndrome, so he can't meet their gaze, answer practical questions, or even sit still in bright lights. This only makes Jacob seem more guilty and his family struggles to keep themselves afloat in the desperate situation they find themselves in.

I loved this book! I would have finished it faster if I didn't have school to deal with. The story constantly hooked me in and I had trouble putting the book down, even during school (to the great disdain of my teachers). I loved the story and the characters - the characters were each exciting and easy to relate to in their own way.

I also love the way Picoult writes. She has this eloquent finesse in her writing that makes it flow so smoothly. The way she intertwined the scandalous murder with Jacob's Asperger's syndrome shows that she can juggle multiple plot lines together. Definitely one to read if you're a fan of Picoult, or even if you just want to try something from her.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,308 reviews20 followers
October 4, 2016
This was my first Jodi Picoult novel and I have to say that it sucked me in from the word go. I found all the characters interesting and likable (for the most part), I found the story really engaging and thought the premise was built off a really good idea. I found it very moving in places.

Why only three stars, then?

Well, for one, the pacing. It starts really well; for the first third of the book it jogs along at a brisk pace and I didn't get bored once. Then the middle section hit and it slowed right down to a crawl... Picoult starts repeating expositionary information that we'd already covered earlier in the book, mainly on the nature of Asperger's, and then repeats it again. I work with several people with Asperger's, so I was already very familiar with it, but even if I hadn't heard of it before I think I'd've got tired of the same info being repeated over and over.

That would have knocked it down to a four. It lost another star because of the ending. Again, it's a pacing issue. After many, many, many chapters of build-up... it just ends. To say the book doesn't have a satisfying conclusion would be a serious understatement. There's a big twist (which, to be honest, I saw coming a mile off) and then it just stops. We hardly get any information about the results of said twist and the consequences for certain characters are barely touched upon.

It's a shame, because there's so much that's good in this book I feel a bit like I'm drop-kicking a kitten, but the flaws are too big to ignore.
Profile Image for Dora Santos Marques.
659 reviews349 followers
March 11, 2017
A minha opinião em vídeo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx1WO...

Mais uma grande história da Jodi Picoult que me deixou viciada e intrigada desde a primeira página.
O assunto relativamente a síndrome de Asperger está muito bem documentada e a construção de personagens está muito boa.
Profile Image for Mallory.
3 reviews2 followers
January 11, 2011
This was my first attempt to read a Picoult novel, and I can't say that I'm inspired to read any more. When Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" came out last year, Picoult was incredibly critical of the praise that the book was receiving. She seemed to believe that Franzen was lauded for being a male writing about families, while she was virtually ignored by major book reviews, such as The New York Times, because she was female. Her books were branded as "women's fiction" because she was a woman writing about families, while Franzen's novels were considered high literary fiction because he was a man.

The point she made was a good one, and probably applies to many other female writers, but it doesn't matter if this book is women's fiction or not; this is just plain bad fiction. Predictable, stilted, and about 300 pages too long, "House Rules" is tiresome, and at times even insulting to the reader. Picoult can be heard screaming through her characters, "See how much autism research I did!" rather than letting the characters speak for her. (Also, much of her autism research is flawed and based on studies that have always been questionable, and have recently been debunked as completely fraudulent.)

The story is written from the point of view of 5 different people--The mother, Emma, the autistic son, Jacob, his younger brother, Theo, the lawyer, Oliver, and the police officer, (forgive me, I have forgotten his name.) This would be an interesting way of approaching the material if the voices of these characters were at all varied, but they all sound the same, except the voice of Theo, who can be identified by the terribly forced voice of an adult trying to sound like a teenager. I found myself flipping back to the chapter openers to remind myself of what character's perspective I was reading at the time--never a good sign.

What the reader is left with is a boring trudge through a story so obvious that you find yourself skipping pages just to get to the resolution, which is ultimately contrived, predictable, and unsatisfying.

I haven't totally written off Picoult yet, and I would be interested to hear how fans of hers reacted to this book, but if this is an accurate representation of the quality of the rest of her work, I'll have to pass.
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews525 followers
March 2, 2015
I have read a great many Picoult books and I must say that so far, this one, is my least favourite of all.

In fairness Picoult has clearly researched Asperger's syndrome and goes to great lengths to ensure the reader also understands the symptoms and nuances of this type of autism and the impact it would have on a family, the community and society at large. It is the rest of this story that fell flat for me. I found the plot to be unrealistic and largely predictable. I figured out what happened before I was even a third of the way through the story. Even so I found the ending to be disappointing but perhaps that was because the entire tale was simply too contrived to be believed, which is truly unfortunate, especially since Picoult most often tackles, current, lesser known, sensitive and oft misunderstood, hence controversial issues. Had the story surrounding Jacob's Asperger's been more plausible and the plot more suspense filled, it would surely have served to further elevate the reader's ultimate understanding and acceptance of the subject matter. That said, I did not buy it!
Profile Image for Love Fool.
284 reviews115 followers
July 6, 2016

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. Did Jacob commit murder?

Jodi Picoult knows how to rip your heart out and wanting more. She is such a beautiful writer. And, such a creative writer. She writes about different people and storylines, you can't tell its her because she is a broad writer.

I have a niece who is mentally challenged so this book touched me on a personal level. I also like that it was a mystery and a mystery that was a challenge to figure out!
Profile Image for Betsy.
4 reviews
December 27, 2010
I don't usually like to admit this but I can almost NEVER solve the mystery or crime in a book before the end. This time it was ridiculously easy which actually really disappointed me. I was drawn to the book because I was previously a special education teacher who is now a guidance counselor. I did find the social issue of diagnosis and treatment of a person with Asperger's interesting. It is important to shed more light on this topic. Picoult is a popular author. If a greater awareness of Asperger's and individuals on the PDD spectrum is bolstered by this book, I think that would be great.

A recurring theme in Jodi's novels that bothers me is always the other sibling being completely left out and ignored because of the "higher maintanence" sibling's issues. Is it really hard to imagine a parent finding time to parent both children? Or find a way to nuture both of their needs? It leads me to believe Jodi was the forgotten child in her family. (Of course I don't even know if she has siblings or not!) At any rate, her stories have gotten to be ridiculously formulaic as can be the case with many best selling authors. (Dan Brown is another that comes to mind.) And while I did think that the entire story could have been over in 75 pages if someone had just asked Jacob to tell them what happened when he got to Jess's house, I also found myself eagerly turning the pages to get to the conclusion. Unfortunately it was very rushed. An epilogue more detailed that Jacob's last "Case Study" might have helped. So much lead-up to a giant fizzle at the end.
Profile Image for Emily .
285 reviews31 followers
January 15, 2011
I'm going to say, up front, this book is intense, and made me feel every emotion a person can feel. The lives of those in the Hunt family have never been easy. Jacob's Asperger's Syndrome makes it impossible for him to connect well to others and, sometimes, his tantrums can become violent. He has special accomodations at home, and at school, but those things don't help him when he is accused of murdering his Social Skills tutor, Jess Ogilvy. From there, everything becomes increasingly harder, and breathtaking for the reader up until the last page. It's sad, and at some times, hard to read, but it also gave me hope for a reason that I cannot write for fear of revealing spoilers, which I dislike doing. Aside from the storyline about the murder, Jacob's mother also has her own side-story, and his brother, Theo's point of view is also shown throughout. the different outlooks are refreshing and the voices are extremely distinctive. One thing I don't like in some books, are how the voices sometimes all sound the same. You won't find that here. Jacob, Theo's, and Emma's voices are all different and unique. I love this book and I would definitely read it again, but if there was one thing I could change, it would be how things ended.

But I won't tell you that. (:
Profile Image for Fátima Filipa (Mimodoslivros).
242 reviews23 followers
September 5, 2020
Neste livro conhecemos Jacob Hunt , um rapaz autista com 18 anos que sofre da Síndrome de Asperger e com um Q.I elevado mas com muitas dificuldades em interagir com outras pessoas.
Ele apoia-se muito no seu irmão mais novo ,o Theo, na sua mãe Emma e na sua terapeuta Jess .Por vezes Jacob tem crises e torna-se violento e precisa das suas rotinas e terapias para o acalmar.
A sua terapeuta Jess é encontrada morta em sua casa e Jacob nesse dia teve aula agendada com ela em sua casa...será que Jacob era capaz de ter tido uma crise e ter assassinado a sua terapeuta?
Em capítulos alternados com vários pontos de vista das diferentes personagens deste livro iremos descobrir os pensamentos de cada um ....mas fiquei com pena porque antevi o final do livro bem cedo e não foi surpresa.😵
Adorei a forma como a autora descreve o autismo muito bem especialmente a síndrome de Asperger.
Mas na minha opinião acho que o meio do livro tornou-se um pouco do mesmo, a autora focou-se muito neste síndrome e o desenrolar do livro não foi assim tão novidade.
A capa do livro também induz-nos a erro quanto à idade da criança descrita 🤔.
Mas apesar destes pontos focados é um bom livro e recomendo.
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