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How to Build a House

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  2,493 ratings  ·  261 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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Anahita P It is not entirely like the Fault in Our Stars by John Green, but it is a little sad at times, although the mood keeps fluctuating. I wouldn't label t…moreIt is not entirely like the Fault in Our Stars by John Green, but it is a little sad at times, although the mood keeps fluctuating. I wouldn't label this book overall a sad story.(less)

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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  2,493 ratings  ·  261 reviews

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Susan's Reviews
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a great read!
Teddy and Harper were so sweet. She finally finds someone who is real, who doesn't take advantage of her decent nature. Harper's world was in chaos, so spending the summer building a house for people who'd lost their homes after a tornado struck was a welcome relief for Harper.
I wasn't expecting this story to unfold as it did.
I don't know why this novel isn't rated higher than it is on Goodreads. The writing is excellent, setting and characterization is spot on, and I didn't
Aug 28, 2010 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
Nov 11, 2008 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
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Tasha for TeensReadToo.com

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
Sep 03, 2010 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
Samantha (WLABB)
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Harper's family was falling apart, and she was running from the wreckage. As she built this house, she reflected on what happened with her father, step-mother, step-sister, and Gabe. She made real friends and fell in love with someone who loved her back. Personally, I found it easy to empathize with Harper, and I shed tears for this young women, who believed Gabe was the best she could get. The Gabe subplot definitely hit close to home, and I shed real tears for Harper. But, there was Teddy, and ...more
Feb 03, 2010 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
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Charlotte Butcher
May 12, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Super super good!!! Really quick and an inspiring book!!! I wish there was more to read of it!!!
Jun 23, 2015 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
Dec 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 27, 2008 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 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. ...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.
May 30, 2008 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.
Morgan Howells
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
"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."
Harper knows that building a house take time, effort, and discipline, but a home can be demolished in on quick, unthinking moment. Her mother died when Harper was an infant, so the woman her dad later married was the only mother she ever knew, and her stepsister her best friend. Determined, Harper
May 03, 2011 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
Sep 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
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
Michael Vogel
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Zoe C
Apr 15, 2015 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
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
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Kimberly Hirsh
Aug 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sara Grochowski
Aug 02, 2009 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 "
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Jun 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen-reads
Reinhardt, Dana; How to Build a House, 240 pgs. Wendy Lamb Books; Language~PG, Sexual Content~R; Violence~G

Harper’s family is falling apart. Her father and step-mom are getting a divorce. Not only is Harper losing her ‘mom’ but the divorce has torn apart her friendship with Tess, her step-sister. To get away from the hurt at home, Harper joins Habitat for Humanity and volunteers to help build a home in a Tennessee town which was destroyed by a tornado. There she meets other teens with varied ba
Oct 24, 2014 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.

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