Book Review: How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

house_reinhardt_coverThis book review is first in a series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes. We’re pleased to showcase these reviews on the Mission Viejo Library Teen Voice.

Have you ever wanted to run away from reality? Dana Reinhardt took me on an inspiring adventure with one of her five books, and a 2012 Abraham Lincoln Book Award nominee How to Build a House. This novel was written in the perspective of a teenage girl, Harper. Harper is sadly familiar with the term loss; her mother had died, and her beloved step mom had left, along with her two step sisters. She faces many struggles and heartache, yet she finds ways to get back to life past her losses.

Harper was only two years old when her mother passed away. I guess you could say she had been hiding behind her dad until the day he introduced her to his “special” friend. Harper came out of hiding. Along with Jane, her to-be step mother, came two daughters, Tess and Rose. They would become Harper’s sisters. Harper thought nothing could ever be better. When Harper was 17, she came home from school on one ordinary day and received the news from her dad that Jane and her daughters were gone.

Everything had come to sudden stop. There were no more family dinners. No more family movie nights or coming home to homemade cookies. No more slumber parties with her sisters. No more talking to her sisters at school.  Anything with the word family in it made Harper’s heart jerk. But most importantly the thought of there being no more Jane, Rose or Tess was what hurt her the most. What had she done to deserve this?  Harper had to get away. Someway, somehow just as long as she got away from this feeling of ultimate betrayal.

Then there was a charity trip she read about in the newspaper. Recently there had been a tragic tornado in Tennessee, leaving most of the homes ruined. The Homes from the Heart Program for Teens was an organization designed to rebuild houses for families who had lost their own. At first it did not sound appealing to Harper but she thought of the main reason she was doing it… to get away.

“We’re landing now.  Dusty brown has morphed into lush green” (8).  Harper had settled in, met her roommate, and the next morning they began to build. The summer friendships began to form. Harper met Teddy Write, the oldest son of the family they were building the house for. They told each other everything and he welcomed Harper into their family’s temporary home like she was part of it. This made Harper realize what she had lost. This family had lost so much more, but they still had the one thing Harper did not have, a family. Her body began aching “… Not for what they don’t have, [but] I ache for what they do have.”

Harper arrived home from that summer trip learning something no one could have taught her but herself. Dana Reinhardt captured me with this intriguing novel about a teenage girl overcoming one of the hardest things anyone could go through. What is the valuable lesson that Harper taught herself? You must read the book to find out. One of the truest and most heartfelt books I have read in a long time.

-Amelia E., 7th grade

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