House Rules (novel)

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House Rules
First edition
Author Jodi Picoult
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Atria
Publication date
March 2, 2010
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 532 pp
ISBN 978-0-7432-9643-4

House Rules is a story by Jodi Picoult about a boy with Asperger's syndrome living in Townsend, Vermont[1] who is accused of murder. The novel shows the struggle between the boy and his family, the law, and his disability.[2]


Jacob Hunt is eighteen years old, lives with his mother Emma and brother Theo, and has Asperger's syndrome, then considered a form of high-functioning autism. Jacob lives by a structured schedule and feels comfortable only when all of his daily activities are planned; Emma indulges him by bending her and Theo's lives around his needs. Jacob is obsessed with forensic analysis to the point of compulsion.[2] His need to engage in structured, single-minded activities, as well as his obsession with detail, often frustrates his mother and infuriates his brother. The novel opens with Jacob setting up a crime scene (in which he is the victim) for his mother to solve. Jacob is later accused of murdering his tutor Jess Ogilvy. Eventually it is revealed that Theo snuck into a house Jess was housesitting at and startled her, causing her to accidentally hit her head on the sink and die. When Jacob showed up for tutoring, he staged a crime scene to make it look like Jess's boyfriend Mark Maguire had committed the murder and then Mark had tried to make it look like a kidnapping. Jacob states that he did this to take care of his brother, in accordance with a "house rule" set down by Emma, and that he would do it again.


  • 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 tutor.
  • 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: "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."[2]
  • Theo Hunt – 15-year-old brother of Jacob, claims to be independent and rebellious.[2]
  • Rich Matson – The lead detective on Jess's case.[2]
  • Oliver Bond – Jacob Hunt's attorney.
  • Jess Ogilvy – Jacob's social skills tutor and the murder victim.
  • Mark Maguire – Jess's boyfriend and first suspect in her murder
  • Judge Cuttings – Judge presiding over the murder case of Jess Ogilvy
  • Helen Sharp – Prosecutor prosecuting Jacob Hunt for murder.

Murders discussed[edit]

The novel contains short discussions of murder(s) committed by Ted Bundy, Richard Crafts, Christopher Hightower, Darryl Littlejohn, Jeffrey MacDonald. Stella Nickell, Dorothea Puente, Dennis Rader, Gary Ridgway, and Bill Sybers.


  1. ^ "Book Review: House Rules by Jodi Picoult". 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Picoult, Jodi. (2010). House Rules. NYC, NY: Atria. ISBN 0743296435