Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

Book Jacket

Building a house takes time and hard work.  But a home can be destroyed in one terrible moment--as Harper discovers when her dad and her beloved stepmother get a divorce.  Even worse, the divorce separates Harper from her stepsister, Tess.

It's time to escape.  Harper joins a volunteer program to build a house for a family in Tennessee who have lost their home in a tornado--not that she knows the first thing about construction.  Soon Harper is living in a funky motel and working long days with kids from all over the country.  She works alongside Teddy, the son of the family for whom the house is being built.  Their partnership promises to turn into a summer romance, complete with power tools.  For Harper, learning to trust and love Teddy isn't easy, but it could be the first step toward finding her way back home.

Award-winning Dana Reinhardt has written a rich and irresistible story; Harper's honest, sometimes sardonic voice makes this a novel that readers will take to heart.


I am automatically biased toward this book for several reasons:  while I went to school in Tennessee, my university was hit by a tornado, and we underwent major reconstruction for the next couple years. I also spent my high school summers going on construction mission trips such as World Changers, where I learned how to use tools and meet people from around the US.  I also, like Harper, was unprepared for the heat in Tennessee, and felt the need to make up a word to describe it (unlike her, I actually did:  swelterfuego.)

These similarities make me a bit hard on the book, though.  I wanted more description from Teddy about what it was like to survive a tornado.  I couldn't believe Linus's lax attitude about summer relationships. 

However, Harper's need to escape her crumbling family rang very true.  Sometimes we have to run away from our problems to see them with a better perspective.  I was glad that although it delves into a summer love plot, the heart of Harper's story remains with her estranged family members (and how they take steps toward rebuilding their home, see what I did there?).

Four out of five hammers.

Release Date:  May 2008
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: LINCOLN


  1. I've always been curious about How to Build a House, but never enough to actually read it... Maybe someday! Have you ever read Beth Kephart's The Heart is Not a Size? In a lot of ways it sounds similar, but without the love connection.

  2. No, I haven't read The Heart is Not a Size...I'll have to look for it! I'm a big fan of romance, but sometimes it's very nice to focus on other important relationships. Thanks for the recommendation!