From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Harper Evans is spending her summer with Homes from the Heart, a teen volunteer organization that is rebuilding a home in Bailey, TN, after the town is hit by a major tornado. Harper, an LA resident, has never built anything, but she wants to help, and she also wants to get away from the havoc in her own life. Her father and stepmother are getting divorced, her sometime-boyfriend Gabriel, with whom she is sexually active, is indifferent, and her beloved stepsister, Tess, is increasingly distant and seemingly hostile toward her. As Harper says, "I know a thing or two about people whose homes have been destroyed. Their lives uprooted. Everything gone." As the summer progresses, Harper becomes increasingly confident as she learns how to handle power tools and flash a doorsill. She also begins to rebuild her own life as she forms new friendships with her fellow volunteers, begins a romantic relationship with the son of the family for whom the house is being built, and eventually moves toward a reconciliation with Tess. This is a thoughtful treatment of what it means to rebuild, not just physical structures, but also lives and families, and the novel emphasizes values such as compassion for others and forgiveness without becoming preachy. Harper is a sympathetic, believable character whose narrative voice expresses wit and heartbreak, and her emotional journey will have tremendous appeal for mature teen readers.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
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“When you live in California and have relatives in New York, everything in between feels like a big inconvenience,” says 17-year-old Harper. But even the middle of the country sounds better to Harper than her own home, which feels empty since her stepmother and stepsiblings moved out. Harper is also eager to leave Gabriel, her “sort-of boyfriend” behind, so she signs up as a summer volunteer to build houses for tornado victims in Bailey, Tennessee. In chapters that alternate between recollections of her past year and her Tennessee summer, Harper slowly reveals the events in L.A. that led to heartbreak and then the healing work, friendships, and romance she finds in Bailey. Reinhardt adds great depth to the familiar story of a teen changed by a summer escape with strong characters and perceptive, subtle explorations of love, family, sex, and friendship—all narrated in Harper’s believable voice. Teens, especially young women on the verge of independence, will see themselves in Harper, her questions, and her resilient heart. Grades 8-12. --Gillian Engberg
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