House Rules (novel)
||This article consists almost entirely of a plot summary. It should be expanded to provide more balanced coverage that includes real-world context. (October 2012)|
|March 2, 2010|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
House Rules is a novel by Jodi Picoult about a boy with Asperger's syndrome living in Townshend, Vermont who is accused of murder. The novel shows the struggle between the boy and his family, the law, and his disability.
The plot is conveyed from the points of view of the main characters in the novel.
Jacob Hunt is eighteen years old and has Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of high-functioning autism. He lives with his mother and brother, Emma and Theo Hunt, and lives by a structured schedule, feeling comfortable only when all of his daily activities are planned. Any lack of structure or unexpected events cause him to feel anxious. He is obsessed with forensic analysis; the hobby consumes his life. The novel opens with Jacob setting up a crime scene (in which he is the victim) for his mother to solve. Jacob's need to engage in such activities, as well as his obsession with detail, often frustrates his mother and infuriates his brother Theo.
When Jess Ogilvy, Jacob's social skills counselor, is killed, Jacob soon becomes a suspect. After arresting and releasing the first suspect, Mark Maguire, Detective Rich Matson asks Emma if he may talk to Jacob. After Jacob admits that he moved Jess's dead body, Jacob is arrested and charged with murder. The case goes to trial. In court, the prosecutor, Helen Sharp, raises the issues that all of Jacob's symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome are almost identical to the characteristics of those who are guilty. Also, the prosecution argues that most of the evidence proves that Jacob is the murderer (e.g. Jacob's fingerprints on the scene of the crime, an unlabeled crime scene evaluation identical to Jess's found in his notebook, and her backpack he retrieved from her home).
At the end of the trial, Jacob testifies that he found Jess, dead in her bathroom and lying in a pool of her own blood. He admits to cleaning her, dressing her and placing her outside, then cleaning the original scene up and creating a new one that will lead investigators in a different direction. This is because he realized that, while an accident, Jess's death was the fault of his brother, Theo, after he was in the house and saw Jess naked. Jess slipped while getting out of the shower, and Theo fled the scene. In the end, Jess's death was in fact an accident.
- Jacob Hunt - Eldest son of Emma and Theo's brother. He has Asperger's syndrome and he is accused of murdering Jess Ogilvy, his social skills teacher.
- Emma Hunt - Single mother of Jacob and Theo Hunt. She works as a columnist for their town's local newspaper. She has devoted herself to her eldest son, Jacob, as a consequence of his disability. She creates "House Rules" which stipulate the following rules: Clean up your messes, tell the truth, brush your teeth twice a day, don't be late for school, and take care of your brother; he's the only one you've got. When Emma sees the quilt wrapped around Jess, she realizes that it belongs to Jacob. She then calls Detective Matson. After this, Matson interviews Jacob, ultimately arresting him for admitting to moving Jess's dead body.
- Theo Hunt - 15 year old brother of Jacob, claims himself to be independent and rebellious. He breaks into stranger's houses and takes items such as games and food. In the novel, he runs away to see his father, since he claimed to feel unwanted. In another part of the novel, Theo states that he realizes he will have to take care of Jacob on his own someday, but wanted to know "why God couldn't have asked him first". It is later revealed that he broke into Jess's house, saw her in the shower, then saw her slip and fall. He claimed he was scared so he ran. Jacob explains that this is why he went into Jess's house, cleaned his brother's mess, and created a new crime scene with new evidence.
- Rich Matson - The lead detective on Jess's case. He is the first to interview Jacob and get him to confess he was at the scene of the crime and moved Jess's body from upstairs in the bathroom, to outside the house. However, the evidence collected from the interview cannot be used because Detective Matson did not correctly read off Miranda Rights to Jacob before the interview took place.
- Oliver Bond - Jacob Hunt's attorney. He helps Jacob throughout the case by asking the judge for a sensory break every so often and for Emma Hunt to sit with Jacob to keep him calm. Later in the novel, Bond is granted a suppression hearing since Jacob was not read his Miranda Rights correctly by Detective Matson. Bond and Emma share romantic feelings as the trial goes on.
- Jess Ogilvy - Jacob's social skills counselor and murder victim. The cause of her death was subdural hematoma. Her studies involve kids like Jacob. Jacob does develop some degree of a crush on her early on.
- Mark Maguire - Jess's boyfriend and first suspect of the case because his shoe matched the print taken from the crime scene. However, he is soon cleared after Detecive Rich discovers a lack of wounds on Mark's hands, something which should have occurred if he was the culprit.
- Judge Cuttings - Judge presiding over the murder case of Jess Ogilvy
- Helen Sharp - Prosecutor; accusing Jacob Hunt of murder.
- Picoult, Jodi. (2010). House Rules. NYC, NY: Atria. ISBN 0743296435