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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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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
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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
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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: #3,742,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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By Jude on January 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
3/5
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 Verified Purchase
I read this book and found it compelling, amusing and highly entertaining. It will hold your attention throughout and will grab at your heart in the most unexpected of places. I am well past MY teen years but would have found it a great insight had it been available to me then. For adults it is a peek into feelings we may have forgotten (or more likly, buried) and gives vent to the angst still within.

I did buy this on Amazon.Com and it was promptly delivered in great shape.
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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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