How to Build a House
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How to Build a House

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,658 ratings  ·  218 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...more
Hardcover, 227 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Wendy Lamb Books
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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...more
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...more
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...more
Apr 18, 2009 Wendy rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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...more
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
Ian Wood
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...more
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
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...more
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 3 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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...more
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...more
Jul 28, 2009 Melissa rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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 "...more
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
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...more
pages 1-227

This book is a about a girl named harper whos mother died with she was little and her dad decided to get remarried but it is hard for his daughter harper to exept that her dad is getting married again.but is not getting divorce witch messes the whole family apart again and hess her sister from her step mom will have to move. which makes her have a lot of problems and just wants to get away from them for a little bit so summer is coming up and she decides to go to a house in Tennessee...more
Michael Vogel
Harper’s life is completely falling apart day by day. She had been the only child since she was two when her mother died. Then three years later, her dad remarried, bringing a wonderful new stepmother with two daughters into her life. After sharing a room with Tess, the younger of the two girls for twelve years, their relationship had been torn. After countless fights with Tess and the divorce of her parents, Harper made the decision to spend the summer out in Tennessee to get away from her fami...more
How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt is the story of seventeen year old Harper Evans and how one summer helped to change her outlook on life. Told through the numerous steps of building a house, the reader is transported between the present summer and Harpers past. As she helps build the house, she finds herself and learns how to love and be loved, even when it is not an easy thing to do.
Harper decides to leave her father in California to help Homes From The Heart, a teen volunteer organiza...more
Susan P
Dana Reinhart can do no wrong! I loved her "A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life" so was thrilled to discover this galley at ALA last winter. And this one is just as good: Harper has volunteered to go to Tennessee for the summer to work on a Habitat for Humanity like project rebuilding homes in a town that was devastated by a tornado. It sounds noble, but her real motivation was to get away from her family for a while. Her dad and stepmom recently got a divorce, and the woman who basically rais...more
This book is a nice quick teen read, I read it in two days. The story is cute, Harper leaves Los Angeles to build a house for a family who lost their home in a tornado. I was most definitely able to relate to this book since my town was hit by a tornado last March and some of the comments hit home for me. (When she talks about how hurricanes have names, but tornados do not, our town dubbed ours the "Dexter Tornado")
I thought it was written well, it was easy to read and the plot kept moving. The...more
I love Dana Reinhardt books---Harmless and A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life! And How to Build a House does not disappoint! Harper lost her mother at age 2 but then her father married Jane and Harper had Tess as a sister for many years. In chapters called HERE and HOME Harper tells us why she is "running away" from the divorce that has shattered her life to build a house for a family in Tennessee. You just love Harper, you ache for her loss of family, especially Tess---they lived in the same...more
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 sum...more
Kimberly Hirsh
Harper needs to get away from home for a while, to escape her heartbreak over her father's divorce from her stepmother and her confusion about her relationship with Gabriel, who is not her boyfriend but is definitely more than her friend. She signs up for the Homes from the Heart Summer Program for Teens and leaves her native California behind to help build a home for a Tennessee family who lost theirs in a tornado.

Dana Reinhardt does so many things right in this book that it would take a very l...more
Sep 18, 2008 Lucy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Justina Chen Headley fans, Sarah Dessen fans
Shelves: teen
When Harper’s father and stepmother get a divorce, her life feels like it’s falling apart. Not only is she losing the only family she has ever known, but she is also losing the friendship of her stepsister Tess, as the divorce creates an impassable divide between them. So she signs up for Homes from the Heart, a summer volunteer program that is building a house for a Tennessee family that lost theirs in a tornado.

Harper doesn’t know the first thing about construction, but she’s about to learn. W...more
The main character in this book travels across the country to avoid her problems and get some distance from her life, and in doing so, she finds a summer romance, new friends, and some perspective.

My favorite part of this book was actually a fairly minor thing. Near the end as the group finishes the job and gets ready to leave, the teens start talking about what comes next. Having done a lot of summer programs (both as staff and "camper") and plays, this part felt very real. There are two kinds...more
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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
More about Dana Reinhardt...
The Things a Brother Knows The Summer I Learned to Fly A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life Harmless We Are the Goldens

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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.” 64 likes
“I have a theory that as long as you have one good friend, one real friend, you can get through anything.” 55 likes
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