Reinhardt's dramatic novel about three girls who tell a lie to avoid getting in trouble, only to find that the lie has terrible consequences far beyond their original intentions, is even more compelling on audio. Each of the narrators takes on the first-person accounts of one of the girls: jaded, rebellious Mariah; shy, sheltered Anna; moody, introspective Emma. The narrators excel at conveying the girls' anxiety, impulsiveness and guilt, as well as the desire for independence and excitement that led to their initial misbehavior. A slight criticism is that the actresses playing Emma and Anna have very similar voices, so listeners must pay close attention to the name given at the beginning of each section and to the narrative details to keep track of which character is speaking. Otherwise, this is a production that will keep listeners riveted. An exclusive bonus interview with the author is included. Ages 13-up. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
Three 14-year-old friendsAnna, Emma, and Mariahat a private school outside of Manhattan, alternate as narrators to tell how their lives spin out of their control. It seems harmless at the time. Mariah, feeling displaced when her mother remarries a wealthy man, uses her sex appeal to start an unfortunate affair with an older public school boy who has a car, not a guy her parents would approve of. Anna and Emma are blinded by Mariah's attention, in a way, hoping that the excitement of Mariah's life will rub off on them. They lose whatever good sense they might possess, sneaking out with Mariah, lying to their parents, drinking, experimenting. When they get caught in their lies, they make up a story about being accosted by an unknown man and then they are seen as sympathetic victims by their families and school. That's the part that seems harmless. But the lie isn't so harmless when an innocent man is arrested as their assailant. Are they going to be able to muster the courage to tell the truth? How far will they go in their lieto the witness stand? And if the truth does come out, how will they live with the shame? This story will not appeal to everyone. It's hard to like these girls; but there will be readers who are interested in just this topic: good girls behaving badly.
Sometimes trying to fit into others' expectations leads to unexpected consequences. Ask Mariah, whose "coolness" portrayed her as something she was not. Ask Anna, who desperately wanted to fit into the high school social life. And ask Emma, who made one mistake that snowballed into an event that affected their entire community. Told in the alternating voices of the three girls, Harmless explores how one lie can transform the lives of not only the liars, but also of those they've never even met. Who will have the strength to step forward and try to fix the damage that has been done? Why did each girl commit to the story that was told? The answer is different for each girl, creating a novel that serves as a springboard for exploring individual motivation and the importance of honesty. Mariah, Emma, and Anna will have a lasting effect on all, regardless of age, who read their story. Reviewer: Robyn Seglem
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
Fourteen-year-old Anna and her longtime friend, Emma, are ready for something different. Friendship with Mariah seems to offer just that. Mariah, with her public-school boyfriend and her purple hickeys, is so much more experienced than the other kids at school. When she invites Emma and Anna to accompany her to a party at her boyfriend's house, they don't think twice. They lie to their parents and find a way to go. Next time, it is not so easy. They lie to their parentsand are busted, when their parents find out they are not where they said they would be. Scared, the girls decide on their only way out: another lie. A bigger lie. A lie that will have their parents so glad to have them home that they won't be punished. So it begins: a year of drama with very different personal repercussions for all three girls, as well as ripple effects for their families, their school, and their community. The novel is told in alternative first-person accounts from each of the three girls, and Dana Reinhardt does a superb job of developing their individual voices and revealing how the results of their lie change them. This truly chilling novel challenges what is sometimes perceived to be the time-honored teen tradition of "lying to one's parents" in a deeply provocative way.
VOYA - Suzi Steffen
Three freshmen girls at a private school deal with the shifting grounds of friendship, popularity, and responsibility after a hastily concocted lie involves a wide swath of the community in their lives. Emma and Anna have been best friends since third grade, when Emma's family moved to their small town an hour north of Manhattan. Anna clings to Emma, fearing the world of high school. Emma pulls away, heading toward friendship with popular and sexy Mariah. But Mariah welcomes Anna into the group and takes both friends to parties with senior boys. Anna loses respect for Emma at the first party, where Emma is suspected of having had sex after a few drinks. After the second party, the girls panic when one parent demands answers about why the girls are not where they are supposed to be. Their faked tale of an attack leads them into a black hole of complications and real-world consequences. Told through alternating voices, the story wisely weaves separate characters' complex thoughts with respect for the identity development of each teenager. Reinhardt subtly differentiates their voices, and the reader notices telling details as the tale builds toward revelation. Although the plot punishes the girls for fairly normal teenage drinking and sexual exploration, Reinhardt allows Emma to stand for more subtle lessons as she courageously makes tough choices and faces various truths. Sad-sack Anna and wounded Emma linger long after the fast-paced book comes to its wrenching end.
School Library Journal
Freshmen Anna and Emma have been best friends since third grade. When Emma meets Mariah during rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet and becomes friendly with her, Anna grows jealous. Mariah, who is dating a senior from another school, invites them to a sleepover at her boyfriend's house while his parents are away and things change for the three of them after that night. When the girls make up a story about their whereabouts and are caught in the aftermath, the lies grow into something bigger than any of them could have imagined. The unfolding of the truth is believable and told from the girls' alternating points of view. Anna enjoys the newfound attention and rationalizes that maybe the lie wasn't so bad, even as things spiral out of control. Emma, who drank at the party and had sex for the first time, opens up slowly to a counselor. At the end of the book, Mariah is still coming to terms with her actions and regrets, noting how something can appear one way one day and be different the next. Unpredictability and suspense will keep readers turning the pages and questioning their own sensibilities. They will appreciate how well the characters are developed, and how seemingly simple lies can have far-reaching and devastating consequences.
Kelly CzarneckiCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Unpredictability and suspense will keep readers turning the pages. . . . They will appreciate how well the characters are developed and how . . . lies can have far-reaching and devastating consequences.”—School Library Journal
Read an Excerpt
This is what I know about the truth: the farther you get away from it, or it gets away from you, the harder it is to tell.
If only I had told the truth that night.
Life would have gone on. Life has gone on, but everything is different. I wish more than anything that I could go back to that night, walk in my front door, and undo everything we did.
This is the story of what really happened. This is the truth.
I knew Mariah was hanging out with a guy from the local high school. Everyone knew. That’s what it’s like when you go to a school as small as ours. I wasn’t one of the girls Mariah would peel down her turtleneck and show her hickeys to, but I’d heard about them. I’d heard they were the size of golf balls and as dark as overripe plums. I wished she would show them to me. I wished she would pull me into the bathroom and block the door with her black Converse high-top and say “Check this out” and I’d gasp and then we’d both be late to our next class. But Mariah never gave me the time of day.
It was Emma who first brought me into Mariah’s orbit. They were assigned a scene from Romeo and Juliet. They had to rehearse it and then perform it for their English class. Emma was playing Romeo because there’s a shortage of boys in our school. Maybe that’s why Mariah was hanging out with the guy from the public high school, although really, I think she was just trying to be different. To stand out. To be talked about. And probably to get away from all the boys in gray slacks and navy V-neck sweaters we’re trapped with day after day after day.
I don’t think anybody really knew what “hanging out” meant, but most of us chose to believe it meant “having sex,” and that gave Mariah even more of an edge than she already had. It’s hard to stand out in a school where everyone wears the same uniform and everyone lives in the same community and everyone’s parents work either at the college or for CompuCorp. But Mariah managed to stand out. She was pretty, but not girly. Smart, but not a teacher’s pet. Boys liked her. Girls wanted to be like her. There is no other way to say it: she was the coolest person in school, or at the very least, she was the coolest person in the freshman class.
So when Emma was assigned to be her Romeo she couldn’t stop talking about Mariah this and Mariah that. Finally she invited me to her house one afternoon when Mariah was coming over to work on their scene.
Emma’s been my best friend since third grade, when she moved here from the city. Her parents are literature professors at the college. They live only two blocks away and her older brother, Silas, was a senior who somehow managed not to look dorky in our school uniform. He wanted to go to Columbia next year and even though I knew Columbia was only an hour and fifteen minutes away by train, I still secretly hoped he wouldn’t get in.
When I got to Emma’s house, they were down in the basement, drinking lemonade and eating Oreos. They’d both changed into jeans and Mariah was wearing a tank top and right away I could see the hickeys. They looked like they ached, like if I reached my hand over and touched one, she’d wince.
I sat down in a beanbag chair and threw my backpack on the floor. My plaid skirt felt itchier than usual. Why didn’t I think to change my clothes?
“Hey, Anna Banana,” Mariah said, and she dipped her Oreo into her lemonade.
Anna Banana. It’s what my dad used to call me when I was a little kid and no matter how hard I try I can’t get him to break the habit. But for some reason, coming from Mariah, I kind of liked the way it sounded.
“What’re you doing here?” she asked.
I looked over at Emma, but she just sat there, twirling her finger in her hair and staring at her lines. “I’m always over here,” I said. The beanbag chair was disappearing beneath me. I readjusted the stuffing. “I practically live over here.”
“That’s cool. Wanna be our audience?”
“Sure,” I said.
She smiled at me. “Feel free to applaud wildly when we’re done.”
They stood up and I stayed in the beanbag. Emma was pretty good, but she seemed a little uncomfortable and stiff, and Mariah was amazing and beautiful. I could see why a guy like Romeo might kill himself over her.
After that we just sat around and talked and I got to hear firsthand about DJ and his car and his favorite leather jacket that he gave her and even about the hickeys. She said he had some really cool friends and we should all hang out sometime and I probably should have just said “No thanks” but I didn’t because she’s Mariah and I’m just plain old ordinary Anna with nothing at all to show for it.
From the Hardcover edition.