How to Build a House

Author: Dana Reinhardt

Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books 2008
pages: 240

Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Life
Topics: family, romance, divorce, blended families
Media Type: Book

Grade level: 9+

Reader's annotation: Harper, 17-year-old girl “runs away” from her tumultuous life in LA to Tennessee where she participates in a summer teen volunteer program building houses for tornado victims and rebuilds herself in preparation for returning home and her changed life.

This is two stories told simultaneously - Home: Harper’s life in LA from the day she met her ex-stepmother at the age of 6 until the days before she left for - Here: in Tennessee participating in a summer teen volunteer program building a house for a family whose house was destroyed in the tornado that hit their town shortly after the Katrina disaster. We hear the story of how she grew up with her blended family, her dad , step-mom, two step-sisters and much younger brother. We hear about how her friend since 12, Gabriel, turns into a friend “with benefits” in the last year, though Harper doesn’t actually see what the benefit does for her except confuse her and leave her empty. At the same time we are experiencing her summer life, meeting interesting new people and gaining confidence as she actually builds a house and learns the skills that go along with that. Then there is Teddy, the oldest son of the recipient family who is out there building right along with everyone else. Now Harper sees what real caring and a true boyfriend can be. As the house turns from a pile of rubble and wood into a livable building, so does Harper's life as she rebuilds her own psyche in preparation for returning to LA.

Evaluation: A story of self-discovery, beginning with a lost confused teenage girl struggling with the divorce of her dad and stepmom, loss of her best friend and step-sister, and uncertainty of a boy “friend with benefits”, to a self confident high school senior ready to face life on her terms. This is a very good coming of age story that teens will enjoy. With the variety of characters in the story, every teen is sure to connect with one of them.

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I grew up outside of Boston, went to college in western MA and lived in NYC dancing for several years before getting my teaching credentials and unintentionally moving to Santa Cruz CA. Married and divorced with two kids almost grown, a daughter in college and a son in high school, I am thrilled to be a librarian now, something that I should have done years ago. I love the applications of technology and realize that I have been interested in that since my first computer class back in 1986 - a new requirement for teaching degrees. Finally I can combine my love of curriculum, educational resources, working with adults and children, and technology applications.