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How to Build a House

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,025 Ratings  ·  234 Reviews
HARPER'S DAD IS getting a divorce from her beloved stepmother, Jane. Even worse, Harper has lost her stepsister, Tess; the divorce divides them. Harper decides to escape by joining a volunteer program to build a house for a family in Tennessee who lost their home in a tornado. Not that she knows a thing about construction.
Soon she's living in a funky motel and working lon
Hardcover, 227 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Wendy Lamb Books
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Sep 09, 2010 Thomas rated it liked it
It may be my fault, but I did not really get this one. It could be because the beginning of school stress, but I felt like it failed to capture my attention - I only read a few pages at a time until I eventually finished it.

The plot was original: a girl named Harper volunteers to rebuild a house over the summer to escape her broken family. However, while the book touched on a lot of good themes, like making an effort to rebuild friendships or solve misunderstandings, I do not think it fully exp
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Tasha for

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
Nov 11, 2008 Becky rated it it was ok
Reinhardt, Dana. 2008. How To Build A House.

The third time isn't the charm. (Her first two novels are: A Brief Chapter In My Impossible Life and Harmless.) It may just be time for me to dissent from public opinion and admit that Dana Reinhardt's books just aren't to my liking. It might be easier on both of us. Especially since her books are generally received well. Her first book especially seemed to be buzz-worthy.

I can almost guarantee you will enjoy this one much much more than I did. (I know
Sep 03, 2010 Cornmaven rated it it was amazing
Shelves: high-school
Nicely crafted novel about overcoming loss, with Reinhardt mirroring loss from a natural disaster and loss from a relationship disaster. She breaks the recovery process down to elemental construction steps, and ends on a note of hope with the understanding that time assists in healing, albeit slowly. Time and talk.

This is a Sarah Dessen-John Green type novel, with intelligent teens/college age kids, but not as quirky as some of Green's characters. They're all on a quest of some sort, they've all
Feb 08, 2010 Krista rated it really liked it
Harper’s comfortable existence in California has been turned upside down ever since her father and stepmom announced their divorce, alienating Harper from her stepsister and best friend, Tess. Meanwhile, her friendship turned romance with Gabriel is also on the rocks. In order to escape her crazy situation, and to put her environmentalist philosophy into practice, Harper signs up to spend the summer volunteering for a charitable organization. She ends up in Bailey, Tennessee, constructing a home ...more
Apr 18, 2009 Wendy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Laura
Why on earth didn't I get to this sooner? And why wasn't it brought up in Printz discussions (as far as I remember, I mean)? I don't know that it would have knocked off any of the winners, because they were so good, but this book is... great. I honestly wish it had been longer (and I don't say that often). Reinhardt captures both the messy home life and the atmosphere of a teen summer program perfectly. And--I mean, I like Sarah Dessen, but if you read Sarah Dessen books and enjoy them but feel ...more
Jun 30, 2015 Laura rated it liked it
A sweet, simple story about making a difference in the most tangible of ways.

"It's complicated, relationships are complicated. Life is long, and sometimes marriages feel even longer, and people get lazy, and worse, they get indifferent, and sometimes you start to think maybe you've lost some part of yourself, that you don't even remember who you are and what it felt like to be somebody not married to this person, and then some days you love this very same person more than you are able to explain
MyACPL Athens County Public Libraries
from Laura:

A sweet, simple story about making a difference in the most tangible of ways.

Favorite quotes:

"It's complicated, relationships are complicated. Life is long, and sometimes marriages feel even longer, and people get lazy, and worse, they get indifferent, and sometimes you start to think maybe you've lost some part of yourself, that you don't even remember who you are and what it felt like to be somebody not married to this person, and then some days you love this very same person more t
Zoe C
Apr 15, 2015 Zoe C added it
Shelves: form-1
The main message that Dana Reinhardt was explaining in the novel How To Build a House, is that in able to build others, you need to build ones self. The main character of the book, Harper, is the books point of vies (first person). Harper’s comfortable existence in California has been turned upside down ever since her father and stepmom announced their divorce, separating Harper from her stepsister and best friend, Tess. Meanwhile, her friendship turned romance with Gabriel is also on the rocks. ...more
Dec 08, 2014 Mp added it
Bash, Bash, Bash! Dana Reinhardt really hit the hammer with her new book How to Build a house. From the alpha of the book, to the resolution,the book was brimming with demiurgic writing ideas, as well as a salient plot that intrigues the reader. It’s kind of ironic that the book is about building house, yet Reinhardt never actually built a house. Nonetheless,the plot is what sucked me into the book. At first I assumed the plot would follow Harper’s life as she traveled to Tennessee. However, aft ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Ian Wood
Jul 28, 2014 Ian Wood rated it did not like it
This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here. Graphic and children's novels reviewed on the blog will generally have some images from the book's interior, which are not reproduced here.

Note that I don't really do stars. To me a novel is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate a nove
Feb 17, 2014 Brooke rated it really liked it
Shelves: life-lessons
Initially going into this book, I wasn't a big fan. I really don't like when people dwell on the fact that the world is going to crap and the main character of this book is super big on the fact that the world's going to end and that it's all mankind's fault. I'm not saying that I disagree with that fact, but I hate when people dwell on it because I feel like life could not have existed comfortably for humans as long as it has any other way. As it went on, though, I really fell in love with the ...more
I really enjoyed this, perhaps because it rang true for me as a divorced person with a single child.

I liked the emphasis on real relationships (knowing "the difficult things about the person" and "asking questions nobody wants to ask about relationships") and forgiveness.
Amanda K
Jan 16, 2014 Amanda K rated it really liked it
When I first read the title of this book, I was very hesitant to read it. This book teaches many valuable lessons, even to those who cannot relate it in the slightest bit. This book revolves around true friendship, no matter what the circumstance.
The story weaves between the story of Harper's home life and her current summer life in Tennessee. I enjoyed the book being written like this because it allows us to get to know Harper, the main character, just like we would if we encountered her in rea
Aug 02, 2008 Natalie rated it it was amazing
Dana Reinhardt is pure gold. I can't explain what makes her books so good, but somehow her teens are universal, even when they're dealing with unfamiliar situations.

Also, I'm a sucker for women named Harper. I like them automatically. Blame To Kill a Mockingbird.
Aug 22, 2008 Karlan rated it liked it
Shelves: ya
An entertaining ya novel which should appeal to girls. The story alternates between Harper's sad home life and her summer volunteer work to rebuild in a town struck by a tornado. There are interesting characters and romantic problems and sex, too.
Sep 15, 2015 Bjipson rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-school
Harper's family is falling apart;she needs to get away. As it happens, she spends the summer in Tennessee, helping to build a house. The narrative goes back and forth between "HOME" and "HERE" meaning Tennessee, where she makes new friends and begins a new romantic relationship. Similar to John Green or Margo Rabb, this is not necessarily a happily-ever-after book, but the heroine learns something about herself and life that makes her a more mature, wise, and, yes, happy person. Fun dialogue, be ...more
Mara Halpern
Oct 10, 2014 Mara Halpern rated it it was amazing
How to Build a House, by Dana Reinhardt, is one of my favorites. It tells the story of an amazing girl, named Harper. Harper is on a getaway trip to try to temporarily forget her dad’s divorce with her beloved stepmother, and her loss of her lovely step sister, Tess. The destination she is headed to is the site of a recent tornado, where she will grow close with her fellow workers, and construct a house for a family who lost theirs. One strength about this book is how over the course of the book ...more
Jun 20, 2008 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Good YA read that kept me interested all the way through about a girl trying to reconcile her past, live in the now, and move toward a manageable future.
Dec 04, 2014 Eric rated it really liked it
Format: Audiobook

Comments on Narrator:
Pretty good. I adapted quickly to her voice and she has a good sense of rhythm and phrasing.

Comments on the writing and plot: Pass+. Reinhardt does not commit common sins of poor writers. I thought Harper was an odd name for the main character. It was a tad distracting for me. The author does not tax my mind with unimportant characters and she introduces new ones at a good pace so you are able to remember them and understand why they exist in the story.

Oct 16, 2014 2017nuala rated it it was ok
I recently read the book How to Build a House by Dana Reighnhart. Its repetitive use of language made me want to put it down after every page. On one page she described how dirty the protagonist's pants were three times! The emotions used in the book made me feel like I was watching a movie with terrible acting. The story alternates between "Home" Los Angeles, and "Here" Tennessee. This constant shift in setting makes it hard to tell what is actually happening. At one point in the book, the pro ...more
Dec 05, 2014 Louise rated it really liked it
"...I mean humanity. Are we to blame, or do you think it was a run of the mill natural disaster?'
Linus scratches his head. 'Actually the definition of a natural disaster is when a hazard meets human vulnerability, which pretty much accounts for all tragedies.'
I think about it for a minute. A hazard meets human vulnerability. It does describe a lot.
...I know Linus doesn't have the answer. He's not a scientist, and even if he were, it wouldn't matter. Not even scientists know.
Everything is specula
Nov 20, 2011 Amy rated it did not like it
I have very mixed feelings about this book. While I enjoyed the concept and the message about awareness of emotionally abusive relationships and messy divorces, I think that Dana Reinhardt killed her message in the end.

The book begins with a very environmentally conscious Harper flying on a plane over to Tennessee to help build a house. She was very struck by the tornado disaster that happened there, and wants to help the people affected. As the story goes on, she meets new friends and also rel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Why I picked it up: I like simple stories of people figuring themselves out.

Harper is spending her summer in Tennessee with a program that is building a house for a family that lost theirs in a tornado. She’s glad to be doing something important, but she’s also using the summer to run away a bit. Her dad and the stepmother that’s been in her life since she was 5 are divorcing, and the divorce has put a strain on her relationship with her stepsister and best friend Tess. Harper misses Tess, but s
Jul 28, 2009 Melissa rated it liked it
Recommends it for: realistic fiction fans
Harper Evans has a lot on her plate. Her mother died when she was two, and her father remarried a wonderful woman with two daughter, Tess and Rose. After they marry she and Tess are the best of friends, until the divorce. Now Harper’s life seems to be shattered and she will do anything to escape the mess her life has become. To get away, Harper signs up to volunteer for Homes from the Heart Summer Program for Teens where she will help build a house for survivors of a tornado in Bailey, Tennessee ...more
Sara Grochowski
Aug 04, 2009 Sara Grochowski rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
How to Build a House was a wonderful read, full of symbolism, life lessons, and happy endings. It honestly, despite some heavy issues, was a feel good book. The main character, Harper, is going through some pretty serious things at home (a divorce, loss of her stepsister/best friend, boy confusion), but after a summer of volunteer work far from home - she learns what a home - and what a house - really mean.

One of my favorite parts of this novel was that the story alternated between "home" and "
Doreen Fritz
What makes a family? How do you reconcile with someone when you aren't even speaking to them? Is it possible to run away from your problems? 18-year-old Harper is spending a few weeks in Bailey, Tennessee, volunteering with a group like Habitat for Humanity. The town was almost destroyed by a tornado, and FEMA basically told them that Hurricane Katrina used up all the funds. Harper and the other volunteers, mostly teens from all over the country, are housed in an old motel. The growing relations ...more
Sarah BT
Aug 17, 2009 Sarah BT rated it liked it
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 to
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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 re
More about Dana Reinhardt...

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“They're just words. And words alone don't really mean anything. It's what you feel and what you believe when you say them that matter.” 66 likes
“I have a theory that as long as you have one good friend, one real friend, you can get through anything.” 58 likes
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