Author: Dana Reinhardt
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books, 2008
Starred Review: SLJ, PW
The family seventeen year-old Harper Evan’s been a part of since age 6, fractures when her father and stepmother, Jane, divorce. Formerly close (currently angry) ex-stepsister Tess hasn’t only left their shared bedroom- she’s left Harper's life. The limited interaction between them is on Tess’ terms. Half-brother Cole lives with Jane and visits the glum, emptier Harper house for weekends with Dad, Harper and the family dog. To hide from the pain and feelings of abandonment, Harper sleeps with childhood best friend, the geek-to-sheik and apathetic (unless someone else is interested), Gabriel. Their relationship deteriorates further. Harper knowingly tries to escape LA, these situations and her metaphorically broken home by volunteering to spend her summer in Tennessee, rebuilding the home of a family who’d lost theirs to a devastating tornado. With no prior building experience and under the leadership of Zen-like Linus, Harper learns the power of the circular saw. Living out of a motel with a group of other altruistic teens from all over the country means new friendships (some probably more lasting than others). Their shared experiences being part of the volunteer program and the fun they have flouting some of the rules proves good for Harper. Romance blossoms with southern sweetheart and Bailey local, Teddy. His love and affection also helps Harper heal her house while she’s hammering shingles and putting the finishing touches on his new one.
The combination of physically repairing an actual brick and mortar home and healing the home people build in the lives of those they love worked as a nice plot device. Harper can be a bit preachy and a stickler for the rules (not necessarily bad mind you) but she's also witty and wounded and a real protagonist. Her voice is genuine and honest. Reinhardt successfully alternates between Harper's "Home" (the past in Los Angeles) and "Here" (present in Bailey, TN) and doesn't reveal too much too soon. The complicated relationship Harper finds herself in with the new hostile Tess, the bittersweet one she has with Teddy (is this just a summer fling?) and even the confusing, undefined (and aggravating) one she has with Gabriel are realistic as well. The premise of volunteering and rebuilding after a disaster is timely and relevant and the issues Harper thinks about (i.e. Global Warming) are never far from most of our minds these days. All and all, I thought this was a good book and reccommend people purchase a copy for their libraries. Do I think it could bump anything on our current "favorites" list--possibly. But there are others I'd root for more.