"This is what I know about the truth: the farther you get away from it, or it gets from you, the harder it is to tell."
Harmless by Dana Reinhardt is the story of three friends, Emma, Anna and Mariah who after getting caught in a lie, they didn't really attend the movie they told their parents they were, make up a bigger lie to cover it up. There was a man. He had a knife. He attacked us down by the river. So is planted the seed of a crime which never really occurred, and as it grows it becomes bigger than the girls could ever have imagined. When a man is arrested for the imaginary crime the girls start to realize that lies are never really harmless.
Mariah is mature for her age, she has an older boyfriend and has sex and drinks beer. Anna is the awkward only-child of her over-protective parents and Emma is her best friend, a girl who moved from New York City with her handsome older brother and professor parents. Harmless is told in the alternating view points of the three girls, not exactly a unique literary technique but one which allows Reinhardt to delve into what is going on in each of their worlds. The major problem that I had was that each of the three girls, despite their huge differences, had very similar sounding voices. However it did allow Reinhardt to explore three very different responses to the lie, as well as the resulting consequences.
The other problem I had with Harmless is that Reinhardt attempts to tackles two teen issues at the same time, and in the process does neither of them quite the justice they deserve. In addition to lying, both Mariah and Emma (in particular) have to deal with the consequences of having sex before they are ready. Emma looses her virginity at a party to an older male she hardly knows and although she doesn't get pregnant like in Dancing Naked, she still has to deal with the emotional consequences. Personally, I think this is a very important issue and when Reinhardt touched on it she did so with wisdom and grace, but it got overshadowed by the consequences of lying. It's unfortunate because it definitely seems to be the bigger teen issue and one which allowed Reinhardt to really explore the emotions of a teenage girl.
Harmless begins with Emma, Mariah and Anna making a very dumb choice, convinced that telling their lie will not be a big deal at all and that the police won't care or get involved. Although this initial decision seems a bit ridiculous, even for fifteen year olds, it allows Reinhardt to tell a story about the consequences of lies. I did appreciate that the outcome for Emma, Mariah and Anna wasn't a fairytale ending, and even though I did find the story predictable and the lessons a little late for somebody my age, I still enjoyed the story Reinhardt had to offer.