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by Dana Reinhardt
Listening Library, 2008
Review by Christian Perring on Jun 17th 2008

How to Build a House

Harper is between her junior and senior years in high school, and she is spending her summer building a house in Tennessee.  She is participating in an organization that helps people in need, and a tornado has gone through the small rural town, Bailey.  16 teens, 8 guys and 8 girls, work under the supervision of a lumberjack Buddhist called Lynas.  Harper is from northern California, and the other teens are from all over the rest of the US.  It's incredibly hot working in the sun, and then in the evenings they stay in a motel.  They work well together, and get considerable satisfaction from their project.  Of course, there's also romance.

Back at home, things have become very difficult.  Harper's father and stepmother are getting divorced.  Harper isn't talking to her step-sister Tess, who has been her best friend for years.  Harper also feels wounded and confused after reflecting on her relationship with her friend Gabriel; he has a girlfriend, but he and Harper have sex occasionally anyway.  So Harper is glad to get away from home and clear her mind.

As the summer proceeds, Harper reveals more about how her home life came to be so messed up, and she also makes new friends, appreciating the value of friendship and family.  She and her friends are smart and quick witted, so their banter is often clever and funny, a little reminiscent of Gilmore Girls dialog.  This novel for young adults deals with some serious themes, just as Reinhardt's previous novel Harmless did.  While the plot doesn't have great suspense, the writing is strong, and Harper is a good narrator. 

The unabridged audiobook is read by Caitlin Greer, who sounds young enough to be convincing in the role of Harper, and is also expressive in her performance, making the book all the more enjoyable. 


© 2008 Christian Perring

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.

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