How to Build a House
How to Build a House
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Annotation: Seventeen-year-old Harper Evans hopes to escape the effects of her father's divorce on her family and friendships by volunteering her summer to build a house in a small Tennessee town devastated by a tornado.
Catalog Number: #4791602
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition Date: 2011
Pages: 227 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-375-84454-6
ISBN 13: 978-0-375-84454-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2007033403
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA 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 l 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.
Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Harper lost her mother when she was two years old. Her father subsequently married Jane, a lawyer with two daughters, Rose and Tess, who became Harper's best friends. But because of her father's infidelity, Jane has left, and Harper's ideal home has been torn apart. The novel begins with Harper aboard a flight from her home in California to Bailey, Tenn., where she has joined a volunteer project to rebuild a house destroyed by a tornado. Scenes from the past alternate with Harper's present-tense account of her summer to provide background for her emotional travails. There: stepsister Tess seethes at her stepfather's betrayal; here: construction partner Teddy becomes increasingly attractive as more than a building buddy. The author juxtaposes the metaphorical (Harper learns to rebuild her own "house") with the concrete in a well-paced first-person narrative spiced with summer flings and teen romance. Readers will find Harper absolutely charming, even at her most sardonic moments. (Fiction. 13 & up)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 9 Up-A witty and highly entertaining exploration of love, friendship, and misunderstanding. Like Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (Knopf, 2006), the story is told from alternating points of view and is about teens living in Manhattan. Gorgeous Naomi and her best friend, the equally gorgeous and gay Ely, have been neighbors and soul mates since childhood, and in order to protect their relationship, they have created a list of people who are absolutely off limits for kissing. The list is meant to be "insurance against a Naomi and Ely breakup," but when Ely kisses Naomi's boyfriend Bruce the Second, it sets off a chain of events that causes a major rift in their longstanding relationship. As the story progresses, Naomi comes to realize that the true reason she is so upset with Ely is not so much that he is romantically involved with her former boyfriend as it is that she has finally acknowledged that things are never going to turn out the way she has envisioned them. Major and minor characters begin new relationships and redefine old ones. The themes of sexual exploration and sexual identity, as well as strong language, which is entirely appropriate for the characters and setting, make this a book for older teens, who will love the oh-so-hip music and pop-culture references. They will also love the main characters, who are smart and sophisticated college freshmen, but also very fallible, and will empathize with their confusion as they attempt to sort out their relationships and themselves.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

Reinhardt artfully parallels the construction of a house with the reconstruction of a broken family in a work as intimate and intelligently wrought as her previous YA novels, A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life%0D and Harmless%0D. Shaken by the recent divorce of her father and stepmother and her separation from stepsister and best friend, Tess, Harper Evans jumps at the chance to participate in a summer program in a small Tennessee town, where she and other high school students will build a new house for a family whose home was destroyed by a tornado. Harper aims to bury herself in physical labor to forget about problems back in L.A., but gets sidetracked when she falls in love with Teddy, one of the house's intended residents. Weaving flashbacks of Harper's home life before and after the divorce into the romance between Harper and Teddy, Reinhardt builds a story within a story: one exploring reasons the heroine feels betrayed, the other focusing on how she learns to trust again. This meticulously crafted book illustrates how both homes and relationships can be resurrected through hard work, hope and teamwork. Ages 12-up. (May)%0D

Voice of Youth Advocates
Harper, an environmentally and socially conscious sixteen-year-old, decides to spend her summer with a group of teens from around the country to build a house for a family who has lost theirs in a tornado. Although Harper wants to help others, she is also running away from her problems, struggling with the disintegration of her family, and questioning her sexual relationship with a boy back home. Housed in a run-down hotel, Harper quickly makes friends while learning to handle hammers and power tools. She becomes particularly close with Teddy and his family, for whom they are building the house. Harper learns to appreciate the quietness and peaceful atmosphere of a small town in rural Tennessee, which has a calming effect on her tumultuous life back in Los Angeles. Harper's voice is as engaging as the story. Although Reinhart presents an unlikely plot for a teen novel, it works. The characters and their dialogue are mostly authentic, despite the fact that the teens throw around hundred-dollar words, such as "paradox," "counterintuitive," and "preternatural." The novel's first-person narrative, some of it in flashbacks, switches back and forth between "Home" and "Here." The building of the house is a metaphor for Haley's attempt to rebuild broken relationships and regain purpose during the course of the summer. As the house begins to take shape, Harper's personal life becomes a little less broken.-Leslie Wolfson.
Word Count: 53,157
Reading Level: 4.5
Interest Level: 9-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.5 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 122855 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.5 / points:14.0 / quiz:Q44405
Lexile: 730L
The world is drowning.
Sinking.
It's being swallowed up. Glaciers are melting. Oceans are rising.
It's an indisputable fact: We're ruining the planet.
I'm finding it hard to keep this in mind gazing out my window. From where I'm sitting things look, well, dry. The earth looks thirsty. All I can see is dusty brown. Miles and miles of it stretching on forever.
Here comes a flight attendant now with her big block of a metal cart to ask me if I'd like something to drink.
If I'm thirsty.
I order a diet root beer. She smiles. Diet root beer is not a beverage she keeps in the recesses of her metal cart.
Okay. Make it a Diet Sprite.
Out of luck again.
I take water. No ice.
I swore off regular soda about a month ago and took up the diet variety. This has nothing to do with my body image, which I'll confess, like most of us, isn't exactly stellar. But this is about something bigger than just my thighs. It's about the national obesity epidemic. It's about taking a stand against the sugar water that's turning our children into Oompa-Loompas.
So I stopped.
I know diet soda isn't great for you either, but you have to start somewhere. And anyway, right now I'm drinking water. No ice.
We're about an hour away.
I've flown over this part of the country before. Many times. When you live in California and you have relatives in New York, everything in between feels like a big inconve-nience. It's what keeps you from them, or here from there, and you want it out of your way as quickly as possible because your headphones aren't working, and anyway you've already seen the movie three times.
But today I'm watching that big inconvenience and how it's changed from a flat, endless grid of look-alike houses to snowcapped mountains to red valleys to dusty brown, thirsty earth. Today I'm waiting to be dropped down in the middle of it.
Tennessee.
To be more precise, I'm going to Bailey, Tennessee, which almost nobody has ever heard of.
If you watch TV or read the newspaper or if you have a pulse, then you know about what happened in New Orleans. You know about the hurricane with the name of a princess that left the city underwater.
But that wasn't the world's last catastrophe.
Catastrophes come, and they come. They come in all shapes and sizes, one after the other, lined up like planes in the sky, waiting for their turn to land. The tornado in Bailey came this past April, and nobody paid attention except for one small organization with a teen volunteer program where I am spending my summer vacation.
Sure, the tornado in Bailey wreaked havoc on the lives of an insignificant number of people when you compare it to Hurricane Katrina, but when it's your life . . .  I doubt it feels insignificant to you.
Tornadoes. They're just another indication that the planet is going to hell in a handbasket. A handbasket that's been meticulously crafted and woven by us, the backward-looking members of the human race. If it weren't for how we're ruining things with our trash and our gas emissions and the way we're turning the planet into an Easy-Bake Oven, there might not have even been a category F4 tornado in Bailey, Tennessee.
Then again, maybe it would have come anyway.
Tornadoes can happen out of nowhere. Without warning.
* * *
HOME
It's one of those sad stories. I hesitate to even talk about it, because when I do, people start to feel sorry for me, and that isn't necessary.
My mother died when I was two.
Okay. Now I've said it. Now I can get that out of the way.
The important thing is that my dad didn't die. He lived. He still lives. In fact, right now he's probably back at his office, after fighting through traffic from the airport, listening to one of his patients drone on and on, staring out the window. And then he'll see a plane flying overhead with a white, gauzy streak trailing behind it, and he'll wonder why it seemed like a good idea to let me go all the way to Tennessee for the summer.
This isn't the first time I've run away.
Once, when we were about eight, Tess and I stuffed a backpack with a towel, some socks and a box of Lucky Charms. We figured what's the point in running away unless someone knows about it?
So we told Dad.
He said fine. Just remember, you aren't allowed to cross the street.
We stopped at the corner and ate a few handfuls of stale Lucky Charms before turning. We turned the next corner, and the next, until we arrived back where we'd started: at our own front door.
It isn't like that now. I'm running away, and I'm not only crossing the street, I'm crossing this dried-out country and I won't be back for twelve weeks and Dad is going to miss me because he'll be all alone.
Tess is gone.
So is Rose.
So, of course, is Jane.
He has Cole, sure, but Cole is only six, and what kind of company is a six-year-old who talks to insects? Especially when Dad sees him only some weekends and every other Wednesday night?
I guess I should start at the beginning.
There are so many beginnings to choose from. There's me and my birth almost eighteen years ago with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, a detail Dad likes to remind me about when I do something particularly boneheaded. There's Mom's death, which although it's an ending, the Big Ending, is also the beginning of my life without a mom. Then there's when Dad met Jane and the beginning of the only family I've ever known.
Yes. I'll start there.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Harper's dad is divorcing her beloved stepmother, Jane. Even worse, Harper has lost her stepsister, Tess. The divorce divides them, just when her best friend Gabriel betrays her. Harper decides to get away for the summer and joins a volunteer program to build a house for a family in Tennesee who lost their home in a tornado. (Not that she knows a thing about building a house.) Soon she's living in a funky motel and laboring long days in blazing heat with a quirky, terrific group of kids. Working alongside Teddy, the son of the family for whom they are building the house, Harper and Teddy's partnership turns into a summer romance. Learning to trust and love Teddy isn't easy for Harper, but it's the first step toward finding her way back home.


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