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Harmless Paperback – September 9, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055349497X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553494976
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,190,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up—Dana Reinhardt's ripped-from-the-headlines novel is told in the first person, in alternating chapters, by three teen protagonists—Anna, Emma, and Mariah—all freshmen at a private day school in a New York state college town. Mariah, one of the hottest girls in school, befriends best friends Anna and Emma and invites them to a party at the home of her boyfriend, who is older and attends the local public school. The girls easily get away with lying to their parents about where they are going. When the teens decide to meet the boys for a second time, they tell their parents that they're going to a movie. When they're caught in this lie, they concoct what they consider to be a harmless story about being down by the river and a man trying to attack one of them and the others fending him. The story works, until an innocent man is arrested and things mushroom out of control. Listeners are privy to how each girl is coping with the events as they unravel and what she thinks about the other girls' reactions. Teens will be drawn into the drama of how smart people can sometimes do stupid things, and will be satisfied with the difficult resolution each girl ultimately must face. Three female narrators do a convincing job of portraying each character in a realistic manner. As a bonus feature, there's an interview with the author about her motivation for writing the novel.—Jo-Ann Carhart, East Islip Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

What price a lie? This is the all-important question when Anna, Emma, and Mariah spend the night with Mariah's boyfriend and his friends, and are caught by their parents. Terrified that they will be grounded, they concoct a story of a foiled rape, clueless that their parents will pursue the case by contacting police and that the school and university communities will hold them up as role models. When a vagrant is arrested for the crime, their lies come full circle. Reinhardt's thought-provoking story avoids preachiness in part because of the girls' strong, complex characterizations. Geeky Anna, encouraged by all the attention, buys new clothes and makeup; Mariah dumps DJ and continues her rebellion against her domineering stepfather; Emma, more affected by the actual party, cocoons into herself. A subplot about Emma's father doesn't add much substance to the story, but overall, Reinhardt offers a well-constructed object lesson in responsibility that will set teens thinking. Frances Bradburn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Why don't you have a bio section?

Because I hate writing about myself.

But wouldn't that be easier than answering a whole bunch of FAQs?

Maybe. Probably. Go on...

So where are you from?

I'm from Los Angeles, but now I live in San Francisco. Except for the summers where I go back to Los Angeles in search of the sun.

What are you doing when you aren't writing?

Laundry, usually. Sometimes dishes. And I really like to walk near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Why don't you run instead of walk?

Running is hard. And I'm sort of lazy.

Have you ever had a real job?

Yes. Of course I have. I've waited tables, worked with adolescents in foster care, read the slush pile at a publishing house, and fact checked for a movie magazine. I also worked for FRONTLINE on PBS and Peter Jennings at ABC. I went to law school, which I know doesn't count as a job, but hey, that was a lot of work.

What's your writing day like? Do you stick to a routine?

I like to write in the mornings. Sometimes that means I have to get up really early. I try to write 700 words a day -- about three pages. I know there are lots of writers out there who can write way more than that. I know this because writers like to tell you about how many words they've written on FACEBOOK. So I try not to look at FACEBOOK when I'm writing. And anyway, I've learned that 700 words are about all I'm good for on any given day, and if I write more than that I usually end up getting rid of most of it later.

What, are you lazy or something?

I already told you I'm lazy. But seriously, 700 words are a lot of words. 700 of them, to be precise.

Where do you get your ideas?

From someplace inside my head.

That's not really an answer.

Yes, it is. And it's as honest an answer as I can give.

Are your books autobiographical?

Not really. I'm not adopted, I've never told a lie that sent someone to jail, I've never built a house or had a brother go to war. But there are always things in my books that come from my life or from the lives of the people around me. It would be impossible to make up everything.

Why do you write young adult fiction?

Because I was a young adult when I fell in love with reading and I can remember how books made me feel back then. How they provided both comfort and escape. That might make me sound like a shut-in, but I wasn't. I was just open to the experience books offered, probably more open than I am now as an adult. And I like writing for that sort of audience.

What exactly is young adult fiction?

Lots of people have thought long and hard about this question and have had many intelligent things to say about voice and how YA books can't spend too much time on adult characters, etc. I don't have anything to add to the debate except to say that YA should be a place to go in the bookstore or library if you are looking for a coming of age story, no matter how old you are.

Do you have a favorite book?

Yes.

Don't be coy, what is it?

To Kill a Mockingbird.

How come there aren't any vampires or wizards in your books?

Hmmmm... good question. Maybe I should write about vampires and wizards.

No, you shouldn't. You wouldn't be very good at that.

Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Did you wear a Soupy Sales sweatshirt when you were seven?

Does anybody even know who Soupy Sales is?

That's what the Internet is for. Don't avoid the question.

I'm sorry, is this really a Frequently Asked Question?

No. But, c'mon, tell us anyway.

Yes, I did. But I'm trying to portray myself as someone who wasn't a total loser. So maybe you shouldn't bring that up. And it also makes me sound ancient, which I'm not. Yet I had a Soupy Sales sweatshirt. And I loved it. It was yellow. And really soft.

You're right. It does make you sound like a loser. Especially when combined with your earlier answer about escaping into books.

Well, if it helps, I was also a really good athlete. In fact, I was voted athlete of the year in 1983. Not nationally or anything. Just at my school.

No, that's not really helping.

Well, I also played the electric bass.

Now you're talking. That's cool. Were you in a band or anything?

No. I gave it up after a few months. But I did play it once in public dressed up in a chicken costume.

Okay. I think we might be done here.

You sure? Isn't there anything else you want to know about me?

If I think of anything I can just email you my questions, right?

Right. You can always send me an email to: info@danareinhardt.net

Customer Reviews

"Harmless" is highly recommended for teen readers ages thirteen and up.
Kelly Herold
I could really relate to the characters in this book, and see how under a pressure situation, I might have made the wrong decision, too.
TeensReadToo
This is almost pure background information, which is not enough to move the story forward.
NebraskaIcebergs

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on March 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Everyone's told lies. Most lies aren't even that bad. They don't hurt anyone...they're just harmless.

One night, Mariah, Anna, and Emma are off at an older boy's house, instead of at the movies like they said they would be. But when their parents show up at the movies and can't find them anywhere, they are caught in their lie. They're okay, but they don't want to be grounded for life. Telling a little lie would be a lot easier than telling the truth, and nobody would get in trouble.

So for fear of getting in huge trouble with their parents, the girls concoct a simple story. They were on their way to the movie, walking along the river, when a man attacked Emma. They didn't get a chance to see his face, and they don't remember what he looked like because they were scared. Luckily for Emma, Mariah and Anna threw a rock at the man's head and they were able to get away. The three best friends vow to stick by this story, but they have no idea how much this one lie will envelop their lives.

They didn't count on their parents involving the police. They didn't count on everyone at school finding out. They didn't count on the entire community rallying around the girls and calling them "heroes." And they definitely didn't count on anyone being arrested for their imaginary crime. The girls are in too deep, buried in their lie. The lie that was supposed to be their savior now nags their conscious with every waking moment. But will they be able to find the courage to tell the truth?

I could really relate to the characters in this book, and see how under a pressure situation, I might have made the wrong decision, too. HARMLESS by Dana Renihardt is the story of how a seemingly small lie can take on a life of its own. But, more importantly, it shows how anyone can make a stupid mistake, and that everyone deserves forgiveness.

Reviewed by: Amber Gibson
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Herold on February 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Dana Reinhardt created a splash last year with her charming and brilliant first novel, "a brief chapter in my impossible life." I'm happy to report that her second YA novel, "Harmless," is equally accomplished.

"Harmless" is much darker than a brief chapter in my impossible life. In the grand tradition of "I Know What You Did Last Summer," it's the story of a lie and its consequences.

Three ninth-grade girls narrate the story and tell the lie--that they were attacked and one of them nearly raped. Each of the girls is insecure and unsure of herself. Anna is a coddled and much-loved only child who has never been popular. Her best friend Emma was transported to their small town--a town anchored by a college and CompuCorp--and misses New York City desperately. Like Anna, she has two loving parents. Unlike Anna, her parents argue, and they moved away from the city a few years earlier because of a sexual harassment charge against her father. New girl Mariah shows up at Orsonville Day School because her mother marries a wealthy man Mariah does not like much.

Mariah rebels by hooking up with a public school kid named D.J. When she invites Anna and Emma to a party, the lies begin. At first, Anna and Emma tell their parents that they are at one another's house. When they're finally caught, the lie is told.

Reinhardt is particularly skilled at first-person narration. Each girl's voice is so distinct, that I no longer had to read the chapter title by the time I was halfway through the novel. Emma is confused and hurt. Anna is intelligent and self-absorbed. Mariah is angry and desires attention, but is good at heart. What I especially appreciated about "Harmless" is that these girls are recognizable.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Richie Partington VINE VOICE on April 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What happens when the stakes suddenly grow so steep that it feels as if there is no turning back, that there is no real option other than to add a few new stories to a house of cards that is swiftly growing into a teetering high rise?

"White ones and red ones

And some you can't disguise

Twisted truth and half the news

Can't hide it in your eyes."

--The Thompson Twins, "Lies"

Anna:

"Mom and Dad always made this big deal all the time about what a perfect kid I was and that made it difficult for me to lie to them. They always told me that I was so smart and mature and that I know how to make the right decisions for myself. They tell me that the best part about being my parents is, no, not watching my bad karaoke, it's just sitting back and watching me figure out my way through the world. Well, that's what I was doing, wasn't I? Sometimes figuring your own way through the world means lying to your parents. Sometimes it means taking risks. Making new friends, Meeting new people from different neighborhoods and different backgrounds. Sometimes it means doing things that nobody would ever imagine Anna Banana would do."

Emma:

"Parents don't really want to know the truth. They just want to know that everything is perfect and that their children are smart and happy and popular and out of danger so they can concentrate on their own problems."

Mariah:

"Funny. I'd lied to my mother, stolen her money, spent the night with my boyfriend, and managed to get her to feel sorry for me. I was a genius."

HARMLESS is the story of three ninth-grade girls who attend a private school in Orsonville, a small town along the Hudson River. For years there have been Anna-and-Emma.
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