House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Title:  House Rules
Author:  Jodi Picoult
Release date:  March 2, 2010
Publisher:  Atria
Pages:  544
Genre:  Adult fiction
Source:  Library

Jacob Hunt is an eighteen-year-old boy who has Asperger’s syndrome.  When his tutor is murdered, the police turn first to her boyfriend, and then to Jacob, for questioning.  Because of Jacob’s lack of emotion and inability to understand social cues, he begins to look very guilty very fast.  Jacob’s mom, Emma, has spent her entire life catering to his every need, shaping the lives of herself and her younger son, Theo, around Jacob’s, so she hires a young attorney to defend him in court – an attorney who has exactly zero experience with murder trials or Asperger’s.  As is typical for a Jodi Picoult novel, the story is told by several of the characters, giving the reader to get a chance to understand this story from each individual point of view, and making for a solid story-telling experience.

I’ve read everything Jodi Picoult has written (one of only a few authors I’ve been able to accomplish that with), and some of her books I’ve loved, others I’ve hated, still others I’ve been indifferent toward.  Recently, I have been annoyed with the way her books have become a bit formulaic and too “comfortable” for my tastes.  But with House Rules, I think she’s back to what I loved about her originally – great characters, an interesting story that keeps me turning pages, and an unexpected resolution.

I have not personally known someone with Asperger’s syndrome (at least, not that I know of), but from what I’ve read about Asperger’s, I think that Picoult did a good job with Jacob.  He was a believable character, and more than believable, he was likeable.  Picoult definitely set up the story to make Jacob look guilty, and even when Jacob would narrate the story, I was still unsure of his innocence, even though I wanted to believe he didn’t do it.  I also enjoyed reading from Emma’s point of view, I liked her as a character too, even though I got a bit frustrated her when she displayed obvious neglect toward her younger son, Theo.  She wrapped her entire life around Jacob, asking Theo to do the same, and didn’t allow Theo to grow up like a “normal” kid because of that.  Speaking of Theo, I had the most sympathy for him out of all these characters.  He was only fifteen, yet had this huge burden on his shoulders – to protect his brother, to love him even when he was most unlovable, and to shape his entire life around the whims of his older brother.  Not many fifteen-year-olds would want to do this, and even though Theo had no choice in the matter, I definitely felt for him.

The book was a little long for my tastes, but it was definitely satisfying.  I could have dealt without the love story, and I didn’t love what happened with the boys’ father (I just think it could have been handled differently), but in the end, I really enjoyed the novel.  The ending was solid, with a “twist” of sorts, but one that made perfect sense to the rest of the story.

If you have read and enjoyed any of Picoult’s other novels, this is a must-read.  And if you’ve always been meaning to read something by her, definitely check this one out.  I think it’s one of her better books.


41 thoughts on “House Rules by Jodi Picoult”

  1. I’m glad you found this one to not be formulaic because the last few of her books I’ve read have been and because of that, I’ve been putting off reading this one.

  2. I plan on reading this really soon! I’ve read most of her books and love them, but I think I was starting to feel the same about them being too much the same. Glad to hear this one is different and good. I think I’ll plan on reading this on the plane on my upcoming trip! (actually my mom’s been bugging me to borrow it so I need to hurry up, lol)

  3. Thanks for this review! I read My Sister’s Keeper a while ago and have been meaning to try something else by Picoult, this one definitely sounds like a great read!

  4. Thanks for the review – this book has been in my nightstand pile for a while. I love Jodi Picoult, sounds like this one will be enjoyable!

  5. I’m glad you enjoyed this one! I’ve had my eye on it for awhile, but haven’t gotten to it yet. She’s one of my favorites, so I’m glad this new one is worth a read!

  6. Asperger’s seems to be so popular these days! I will say (though I am up and down on Jodi Picoult) that she is good at writing about the impact of one sick kid in a family can have on the siblings. So I might read this! Soon, before the DSM-V comes out and abolishes Asperger’s forever. 😛

      1. As I understand it, they’re grouping it in as an autism-spectrum disorder, because the criteria that used to set Asperger’s apart from autism-spectrum disorders don’t really work in clinical practice – Asperger’s can’t be differentiated from other high-functioning autism. It’s not a final decision, but the website sounds pretty definite about it.

  7. Like you, I’ve read just about all of Jodi Picoult’s books (I skipped her last one, since it sounded a bit too similar to My Sister’s Keeper), and I’ve been hearing mostly positive things about House Rules. I won a copy of it not too long ago, and I hope to read it before it comes out in paperback! Glad you liked it.

    1. You skipped her last?! The one with Willow? That was surely her best yet, I couldn’t stop crying. Don’t skip it!

  8. Must-read??? Good, that’s what I wanted to hear. I was very disappointed in her book last year, so much so, that I thought about not reading her books again. I will request this one from my library today!

    1. I think you’ll like it if you’ve enjoyed her earlier works. It reminded me more of a Plain Truth, My Sister’s Keeper type read than some of her more recent ones.

  9. This is on my to read list.I have read a few of her books and feel she does write too much of the same style.I really loved her “19 Minutes” one though.

  10. i’ve been off picoult for a while now because her books started feeling too contrived for my tastes. i did have an opportunity to meet her at my library a few years back and she was quite personable and very approachable. glad you enjoyed this one…maybe i’ll pick it up from the library as an audio book.

  11. I read this last month and honestly was disappointed with it. I have read 4 other Jodi Picoult books and I am growing to feel that most of her books all fit the same format. I didn’t feel the ending was informative enough either. I felt let down in the end. I did think it was interesting in parts and that you, as with all of her books, see the situation from all of the characters view points but I wasn’t wowed by it. Sorry.

  12. I really disliked her last book (Handle With Care), but I do admit it kept my attention while I was reading it. (I also confess I read it shortly after finally reading My Sister’s Keeper for the first time, so it seemed formulaic and not as good.) I’m glad to hear this one is less formulaic. I’m looking forward to reading it!

  13. I’m with Laura – I felt really let down by the ending. I think JP’s trying to write too many books too quickly, and her endings are starting to suffer. It’s like she runs out of time and can’t be bothered finishing her books off properly.

    1. I just finished House Rules. I was so confused at the end, I thought perhaps I got a corrupt file, as I was using a Kindle to read it. Why on earth would an author revert back to previous chapters word-for-word instead of giving a satisfying ending with a verdict and at least a revelation of what actually happened between Jacob and Jess on the day of her murder? I think it is a total cop-out! It reminded me of those review sit-com episodes where they show short excerpts of many of the shows from the whole season. I did not want to be reading two chapters I have already read!!! I was reading this voraciously the whole time in anticipation of the revelations mentioned above. Now I feel I have wasted my time entirely. I will never read another book by this author. It is my first, and, sadly also my last! (If anyone else read this and you did not find two repeated chapters at the end, please post here and let me know if my file was actually corrupt.)

      1. Did you find your answer? I’ve just finished it and was dismayed At the lack of ending and repeated chapters…

      2. Oh my goodness. I have just finished House Rules on my e reader and like you I thought my file was incomplete or something was wrong. I cannot believe that is how the book ended. A couple of Picoults other endings have infuriated me but this leaves me speechless!!

        1. I think it’s an extreme cop out and if the author thinks she’s being clever, she clevered her way off my list of favorite authors. A complete waste of time!!

          1. i am on here for the same reason, knew all along it was an accident in the shower , but no ending and 2 repeat chapters….so no ending why?

          2. Thank you I have been desperately trying to find out if my ebook was faulty sooooooo disappointed don’t think I could bring myself to read another of her books now and I used to be a huge fan 😦

  14. Asperger’s is a tough road. I’ve only read a few Picoult, bnut have several waiting to be read this year.

  15. Can you believe I’ve never picked up one of her novels! I have a few of them on my shelf.

    Which would you recommend as a good starter book for delving into her works?

  16. hi! i’m currently this book and so far, i’m enjoying it. the story is fast-paced and is not dragging. i even read it during office breaks! hopefully i could finish this by weekend so i could start reading My Sister’s Keeper. 🙂

    1. edit:

      hi! i’m currently READING this book and so far, i’m enjoying it. the story is fast-paced and is not dragging. i even read it during office breaks! hopefully i could finish this by weekend so i could start reading My Sister’s Keeper. 🙂

  17. I got this one for Christmas & finished it last week, and while I really enjoyed her writing & story telling, I totally had the “twist” pegged as soon as the death occured… even down to what was hidden in his stuffed animal… maybe I’ve just read too many of her books that I see the twists coming now! I did enjoy it though, just didn’t get that surprise I was used to.

  18. Hi, i thouroughly enjoyed House Rules and read the whole thing in less then 48 hours, could not put it down. However i’am completely baffled by the ending! Was Jacob found guilty (even though he was innocent) or did the truth come out and they were both free? Bizzare.

  19. Or is it another eposide of ‘Crime Busters’ that Jacob had recreated and has his family and friends as characters. Now it is on rerun.

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