How to Build A House
Wendy Lamb Books
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". . . a genuine and very soulful tale of teenage confusion about body image, family dynamics, sex and first loves . . ."
How to Build a House: A fully realized and fascinating blueprint for growing up.
Harper Evans needs to get away for the summer, to go clear across the country to put the break-up of her family behind her. She believes building a house for someone else’s family is the perfect answer to all of her troubles. Meeting Linus, the spiritual-minded, itinerate coordinator of the project and the other teens from all over the country give Harper a different perspective on her life and her family. But it is the Wrights, especially the oldest child Teddy, whose house was destroyed by a tornado, who will teach Harper how to accept herself and help her to find a way back to her own family.
Within the message of global warming, ecological responsibility and the community spirit required to give up a summer of fun and sun to help families devastated by natural disaster, Dana Reinhardt situates a genuine and very soulful tale of teenage confusion about body image, family dynamics, sex and first loves in How to Build a House.
Harper is a typical teenager worried about how she looks and whether or not boys find her worth knowing. Underneath the teenage angst lies a bigger problem. Her parents are divorced, leaving her once again without a mother. Jane, the only mother Harper has ever known, came into her life with two daughters, Rose and Tess. Tess is Harper’s age but much more confident and feminine than Harper and Harper feels she suffers by comparison. Reinhardt deals with Harper’s feelings about her past and her relationship to the members of her family through the various stages of building a house, in essence clearing away the emotional debris and rebuilding Harper’s life and dreams.
Reinhardt doesn’t preach or condescend to the reader. She allows Harper to evolve during the course of the story, opening like a blossoming flower as she faces the outer trials of working in hot, muggy and buggy Tennessee. Harper learns new skills of facing the inner trials of her past and embracing her present. But Harper doesn’t change overnight. She develops gradually and realistically in Reinhardt’s deft and clear prose. The characters’ goals are clear from the outset without being trite or hackneyed. Each one emerges in subtle shades and sharp angles where necessary.
How to Build a House is an eminently accessible story with multifaceted and believable characters. It provides a detailed blueprint for the trials and tribulations of being young and vulnerable and nearly ready to fly alone. Reinhardt has a rare talent for creating convincing situations with memorable characters.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell