Harmless

Harmless

3.5 11
by Dana Reinhardt
     
 

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Best friends Emma, Anna, and Mariah are out doing something they shouldn't. They make up a story so they won't get in trouble at home. It seems like the easy way out. What happens next challenges their friendship, their community, their relationships with their families, and their sense of themselves.
Told in the voices of the three girls who must learn to live

Overview

Best friends Emma, Anna, and Mariah are out doing something they shouldn't. They make up a story so they won't get in trouble at home. It seems like the easy way out. What happens next challenges their friendship, their community, their relationships with their families, and their sense of themselves.
Told in the voices of the three girls who must learn to live with the lies they tell, Harmless is a gripping and provocative novel full of startling turns and surprises.

Editorial Reviews

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
Publishers Weekly

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 friends—Anna, Emma, and Mariah—at 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 lie—to 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.
Robyn Seglem
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 parents—and 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

Gr 7–10
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553494976
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
09/09/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
766,705
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.39(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Anna

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.

What People are saying about this

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

Meet the Author

DANA REINHARDT is the author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, Harmless, How to Build a House, and The Things a Brother Knows. She lives with her husband and two daughters.

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Harmless 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To old for younger readers. Most likely recommended for reader 13+. Loved the story though and the language that the author used. I now want to read more books by Dana Reinhardt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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MountainView More than 1 year ago
I loved the book Harmless. I think it was the best book I have ever read, and didn't want to stop reading it. I liked it because it was very interesting and always kept me wondering. Like one night when they are somewhere they are not suppose to be they get a phone call from one of the mothers and she ask why they are not where they said they would be. Then it's the end of the chapter so it keeps you wondering what they tell the mother. . The way the book was set up was cool to each chapter was one of the girls names so it was about them that whole chapter. This story is about three best friends Emma, Anna and Mariah. One night they are out doing something they should not be. They all tell their parents where they are going to be, but it's a lie. When one of the girls cell phone rings and the mother ask why they are not where they said they would be they make up a lie to get them out of trouble at the time. The lie they make up turns out bad, their friendship starts falling apart. They have to live with the lie forever. I recommend the book Harmless to 7th grade girls and up only. This book has some language and things in it that 6th grade and below wouldn't understand. I think 7th grade girls and up would like this book because some of the stuff that happens in this book happens sometimes to girls in 7th grade and up. This book will keep you wondering constantly if you like that than this book is the right book for you! Find out what happens to these three girls after they tell a really big lie that can change their lives forever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Everyone's told lies. Most lies aren't even that bad. They don't hurt anyone...they're just harmless.

One night, Mariah, Anna, and Emma are off at an older boy's house, instead of at the movies like they said they would be. But when their parents show up at the movies and can't find them anywhere, they are caught in their lie. They're okay, but they don't want to be grounded for life. Telling a little lie would be a lot easier than telling the truth, and nobody would get in trouble.

So for fear of getting in huge trouble with their parents, the girls concoct a simple story. They were on their way to the movie, walking along the river, when a man attacked Emma. They didn't get a chance to see his face, and they don't remember what he looked like because they were scared. Luckily for Emma, Mariah and Anna threw a rock at the man's head and they were able to get away. The three best friends vow to stick by this story, but they have no idea how much this one lie will envelop their lives.

They didn't count on their parents involving the police. They didn't count on everyone at school finding out. They didn't count on the entire community rallying around the girls and calling them "heroes." And they definitely didn't count on anyone being arrested for their imaginary crime. The girls are in too deep, buried in their lie. The lie that was supposed to be their savior now nags their conscious with every waking moment. But will they be able to find the courage to tell the truth?

I could really relate to the characters in this book, and see how under a pressure situation, I might have made the wrong decision, too. HARMLESS by Dana Renihardt is the story of how a seemingly small lie can take on a life of its own. But, more importantly, it shows how anyone can make a stupid mistake, and that everyone deserves forgiveness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a little confused? Where is the story here? This is kind of a drawn out description of these girls lives that in other books would only take maybe a chapter to explain. I have honestly never wanted to quit reading a book so bad as this...I kept hoping it would get better, but nope!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book and it didn't really have a story at all. Just a poorly written portion of 3 girls' life. There was no good. It was almost like a news article you would see in a newspaper. Don't read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In a culture where lying has become common place, Harmless presents a fascinating dilemma. Hard on the pages in my reading order of the Pretty Little Liars Club series, I fully expected this to be a cheap wannabe. As with Shepard¿s stories, the tale is told from the perspective of three friends: Emma, Mariah, and Anna. Plot similarities include the main characters¿ attendance at Orsonville Day School 'an exclusive prep school', parents who are instructors at a college, and fathers who have been involved in some way with college coeds. The similarities seem to end there. The friendship between Emma and Anna was forged in the third grade when Emma moved from New York to the sleepy town of Orsonville. Mariah is an interesting wild child who is thrown into the mix. Emma and Anna have never really been part of the social scene, and Mariah slowly enfolds them into her somewhat scandalous escapades. When the girls run the risk of getting caught at a party, they quickly make up a lie about a mythical man who accosts and attacks them at the river. They cook up the tale of how the other two girls think quickly and help Emma fend off the unwanted attack, and then proceed to tell that story to their parents and subsequently the police. The lie then begins to take on a life of its own from the girls becoming town heroes of sorts to the eventual arrest and incarceration of an indigent man. While the storytelling is not as flawless as, oh, say, Sara Shepard¿s Flawless, it is, nonetheless a well-told cautionary tale. This is a book that would have a curricular tie to classes focusing on legal and ethical issues. The profanity level is low and the sexuality is generally limited to allusions rather than descriptions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone's told lies. Most lies aren't even that bad. They don't hurt anyone¿they're just harmless. One night, Mariah, Anna, and Emma are off at an older boy's house, instead of at the movies like they said they would be. But when their parents show up at the movies and can't find them anywhere, they are caught in their lie. They're okay, but they don't want to be grounded for life. Telling a little lie would be a lot easier than telling the truth, and nobody would get in trouble. So for fear of getting in huge trouble with their parents, the girls concoct a simple story. They were on their way to the movie, walking along the river, when a man attacked Emma. They didn't get a chance to see his face, and they don't remember what he looked like because they were scared. Luckily for Emma, Mariah and Anna threw a rock at the man's head and they were able to get away. The three best friends vow to stick by this story, but they have no idea how much this one lie will envelop their lives. They didn't count on their parents involving the police. They didn't count on everyone at school finding out. They didn't count on the entire community rallying around the girls and calling them 'heroes.' And they definitely didn't count on anyone being arrested for their imaginary crime. The girls are in too deep, buried in their lie. The lie that was supposed to be their savior now nags their conscious with every waking moment. But will they be able to find the courage to tell the truth? I could really relate to the characters in this book, and see how under a pressure situation, I might have made the wrong decision, too. HARMLESS by Dana Renihardt is the story of how a seemingly small lie can take on a life of its own. But, more importantly, it shows how anyone can make a stupid mistake, and that everyone deserves forgiveness. **Reviewed by: Amber Gibson