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How to Build a House: A Novel Hardcover – May 27, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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The third and final book in Brandon Sanderson's The Reckoners series. Hardcover | Kindle book

Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

“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

Product Details

  • Series: AWARDS: ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2009
  • Hardcover: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books; First Edition edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375844538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375844539
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,653,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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?


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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Harper's life is falling apart. Her father and step-mother, whom she considers a mother, are getting a divorce, and her step-sister/best friend, Tess, won't talk to her. Then there's Gabriel. He's been Harper's best friend since they were twelve, but now he just uses her as his girl when he can't get anyone else.

Harper finally realizes that she needs to escape. When she finds out about Homes for the Heart Summer Program for Teens, she knows she's found her escape route. At the beginning of the summer she heads off to Bailey, Tennessee, where there was a major tornado that devastated almost the entire city. Here she will join a group of teens and help build a family a house.

Little does she know that she will not only rebuild one family's life, but may actually start rebuilding her own. She immediately starts making friends with the other volunteers and loves the aspect of helping other people. Then there's Teddy, the son of the family for whom the house is being built. Teddy chooses Harper. He shows her how to trust and love and turns her summer into an unforgettable moment.

First, I have to say this surpassed and exceeded every expectation I had of this book. Not only was it an amazing and heartfelt love story, but also an extremely real story of finding oneself. At the beginning of the story Harper is lost, struggling like many of today's teens with the divorce of her parents. She grows so much as a person that it inspires the reader to really look at their life and see if they can make themselves a better person, too. Harper's character is beautifully created and hard to forget. She is very honest and so real that she's hard not to love.

And then there is Teddy. Whew! He sounds like the ultimate boyfriend.
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1 Comment 9 of 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By Jude on January 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This was pretty good. It wasn't amazing, but it wasn't bad.
It's about Harper, who doesn't want to be at home, and so decides to go build a house in this volunteer program after a tornado hits the town in Tennessee. She makes several friends and deals with the things she's running from back home. Like that her father and step-mother, who she sees as a mother, have just gotten a divorce, and so she's been separated from her step-sister and best friend, and her little brother.
I liked how the book was put together. It goes back and forth from HERE, where she is now while building a house for the summer, and HOME, which is flashbacks of what her home life was like and how it was before she left for the summer. It transitions easily from and to both of them, and it's in Harper's point of view, so we get her looking back at things and thinking about them now.
I liked Harper. She's wounded, obviously upset about things. She misses her sister, is upset about the divorce, is mad at them all, a little bit. And she's confused and upset about love. Because she had a thing with a friend of hers, who does something with someone else that upsets her. And the way he goes about it is all wrong, and very jerk-y.
She ends up getting close to Teddy, a sweet boy who's house she's fixing. He's a little older, and he's fun, and just what she needs, really. (Also, there's some sex between them. Just to let you know.) And she gets close to her roommate, who has a boyfriend back home. And two other of their friends hook up. I like all of them.
One thing that bothered me, though, was that none of their relationships were going to go any farther than the summer. Because they don't live all that close, at all. It was doomed from the beginning.
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Format: Paperback
I picked this one up because it's on the preliminary Gateway nominee list for 2010-2011. I wasn't sure what to expect, but this ended up being the perfect lazy Saturday afternoon read (or listen).

The story alternates between "here" (in Tennnessee) and "home" (Harper's life before the summer). Because of this, things are revealed slowly-which slightly annoyed me. There were times I wanted a little more info on the home part. For the most part though, I liked how the two timelines were weaved together.

Harper is a geniune and likeable narrator-she's building a house because she really does want to help and she's doesn't come of as snotty about it. She's also trying to escape the pain from back home-and you feel her pain and frustration. She's sympathetic and I think that's what made me like her.

There is a romance, but it doesn't overpower the book and it's very sweet. Even though there are a lot of tough issues, this isn't a sad heavy book. There was just something lacking in this one (I think maybe it was short and I wasn't a fan of the ending?) which prevents me from rating it higher. I felt like there were a lot of things that were touched on in a minor way that never really got resolved or mentioned again. I liked it, but it wasn't a book I would re-read.

How to Build a House was a good read and I'm planning to check out Dana Reinhardt's other novels, as I was impressed enough with the author's writing to give her other books a try.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Harper needs to get away for the summer. Away from LA. Away from the guy that used her for sex. Away from her stepsister and best friend Tess, who she found kissing that guy. Away from her father, who is divorcing her stepmother, only mother Harper has even known. She volunteers with a charity to help build a house lost in a devastating tornado. Now she's in a small, broken down with strangers, building a new house for a family, including the cute son Teddy, displaced to a FEMA trailer since the tornado. The next 12 weeks will be filled with friends, new experiences and maybe even a boyfriend. While building the house. She'll also try to figure out how to rebuilt the house (family) she lost back home.

I think I'd read a supermarket list, in Dana Reinhardt wrote that list. After reading, HARMLESS. I wanted to read more from her, but none of the books sounded that interesting, to be honest. Amazon had GIRLS LIKE US on sale so I figured at $1.99, I could afford to dislike the novel. It far exceeded my expectations and not held my attention, but made me think in new ways. I could go on and on about how each book I thought would be boring was a four or five star read. HOW TO BUILD A HOUSE is her latest novel that was so much better than the blurb.

Harper is a great narrator and character. She's easy to empathize with and root for without feeling sorry for her. Her biological mother died when she was two, now at seventeen her stepmother moved to a new place with her two stepsisters and half brother. Reinhardt has somehow written Harper in a way that's not pitiful. Her father and Tess are multidimensional, flawed, yet solid. Teddy seemed a little too perfect, although someone did mention that a summer love often only shows the best of people.
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