How to Build a Heart

How to Build a Heart

by Maria Padian


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One young woman’s journey to find her place in the world as the carefully separated strands of her life — family, money, school, and love — begin to overlap and tangle. 

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616208493
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication date: 01/28/2020
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 225,675
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Maria Padian has a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia. She is a freelance writer, essayist, and author of young adult novels, including Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress, Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best, and Out of Nowhere. Maria lives with her family in Brunswick, Maine. Visit her online at and find her on Twitter: @mpadian.

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How to Build a Heart 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Chantale 8 hours ago
In "How to Build a Heart', Maria Padian offers a tale of youth that is interesting and, at times, heartbreaking. Told from the first person perspective of Izzy (Isabella Crawford) this story portrays the struggles of a teenage girl trying to reconcile her need to be friends with everyone against her future life. Her mother, a fierce Puerto Rican woman, is hard working and wise and continuously encourages Izzy to be better than the circumstances that she (and their family) are in. Izzy's best friend, Roz, is a character we have seen in many other teen stories, but with a few added twists that you don't see coming, particularly in the last 2 chapters. At times, "How to Build a Heart" reminded me of the movie "Pretty in Pink" so vividly that it was difficult for me to fully concentrate on Izzy as my mind would wander to Andi and Duckie, but that story is merely the bones of a more interesting and contemporary plot laid out by Padian. Here, we see a young girl that is trying to navigate school, work, friends, and family, while also following her heart when it takes her in new directions. There are moments of chaos in Izzy's life and Padian does a good job of depicting the irrational way in which Izzy reacts to these moments of difficulty. There are multiple ways in which Izzy grapples with her Puerto Rican identity and her realizations about her paternal grandmother (White, Southern, Racist) that are moving, but I was hoping for even more discussion on race, and specifically being multi-ethnic, than what the author offers to the reader. The characters often dance around their feelings on race in a way that feels realistic, though, reinforcing what most readers already see in their day to day interactions. The book tries to show some of that struggle through Izzy's interactions with her family and through flashbacks, but it could have gone farther when dealing with present day interactions. Overall, "How to Build a Heart" was a quick and satisfying read and I recommend it for anyone that is interested in YA stories about growing up today and the ways in which teens navigate their worlds in order to become whole adults.
MkMason 1 days ago
**Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers, Netgalley, and Maria Padian for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review** I had a hard time getting into this book in the very beginning, but once it hooked me I was HOOKED. I stayed up late to finish it and I have #NoRagrets. It's not exactly a rags to riches story, but it has some similar features. I think the prejudice situations were handled well and I loved all the characters (except Roz, and I don't apologize). I feel bad for Roz of course, but her personality was really grating, and it felt like all Izzy did for awhile was seek her approval because she was "cool". I loved Sam and Aubrey's character and I was really happy the "rich" family wasn't prejudiced against the trailer park girl. I loved the addition of the Habitat for Humanity plot line. I haven't read a book where Habitat was mentioned, but it was so beautiful that this family was able to be built a Habitat house and I darn near cried when a lot of the town started pitching in - including long lost family. I adored the little romance between Izzy and Sam - they had such a glorious connection and chemistry on paper. I think they brought out the best in each other and Same helped Izzy heal a bit. Please go check this one out!
Nursebookie 6 days ago
"HOW TO BUILD A HEART" By Maria Padian I enjoyed this coming of age YA novel about Izzy Crawford and the hardship she is faced with the loss of her father who was on a mission in Iraq. Padian writes a character that you will come to love and understand. The book was well written and found that Padian's voice come through with Izzy as you root for this character and all her hardship as she goes through loss, grief, financial hardships, bullying and relationships with family. I found that this was a read that touched me emotionally as a reader. Padian is a new author to me and I will definitely be watching out for her future books.
Anonymous 15 days ago
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. oh man. this was too good. it's the second book i read that includes a parent that died in ~action~ but just as interesting! so this book was focused more on family with the romance as a subplot but i really enjoyed seeing how izzy eventually found herself. i totally understand why izzy kept everything a secret but as mark said, if someone doesn't like her for "being poor" then she's better off without them. i adored every single (main) character and how willing they all were to help out. my heart truly goes out to roz, she's just a misunderstood teenager that deserves better. truly admire how hardworking izzy's mom was. she only ever wanted the best for her children and that's a truly admirable quality in a person. i cried. really pulls on your heartstrings, especially when it came to dealing with her dad's side of the family. 10/10 definitely recommend this book.
sincerelykarenjo 18 days ago
Poignant, Riveting, and Filled with So Much Hope and Love Poignant and riveting, How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian is a beautiful story about self-discovery, grief, family, forgiveness, friendship, and so much more. It’s emotional, it’s sweet, and it’s so real it made my heart ache, but also gave me joy. After dealing with her father’s death and constantly moving, Izzy Crawford somewhat feels at home in Virginia. She likes her new school and classmates, she has a best friend who lives next door, she’s caught the attention of a popular boy, and her family has been chosen by Habitat for Humanity to build and live in a new house. But, Izzy doesn’t just let everyone in and she’s been keeping secrets from those close to her. What happens when her web of lies slowly begin to unravel and she can no longer avoid facing the truth? I enjoyed Padian’s writing style, the pacing of the story is good, and the plot, while dealing with sensitive issues, is also engaging, heartfelt, sweet, and sometimes really fun. Padian explores topics about racism, bullying, addiction, abuse, violence, and mental disorder. There are a few situations that will make your heart feel quite heavy at times and I won’t lie… I cried on some parts and had to stop reading for a bit. But, what I love most about stories like this is when they surprise you and give you more than what you’re looking for. This book hurt in more ways than I could imagine, but it’s also meaningful and filled with so much beauty, hope and love. Izzy is interesting and relatable, and I adored her. She’s not always the easiest to like, she makes mistakes, she’s incredibly stubborn at times, and she has issues and insecurities. But, Izzy is also strong-willed, smart, caring, and loves her family. I enjoyed her character development a lot and watching her discover what’s truly important in her life. The other characters are all quite lovely and I had fun getting to know them too. Sam is amazing and swoony. Aubrey and Roz has a piece of my heart and I just love Jack so much. Mark snuck up on me that I wanted more of him in the story. The parents are pretty awesome… well most of them anyway. Overall, the characters are fascinating in their own ways, complex, likeable, and realistic. With an engrossing plot filled with hope and so much heart, characters who’ll steal pieces of your heart, and a sweet romance that’ll melt your heart, Maria Padian’s How to Build a Heart is perfect for YA contemporary lovers. It’s deep and also lighthearted. It’s fun, but also tackles serious issues. It’s inspirational, uplifting, and thought-provoking. I truly enjoyed reading this beautiful masterpiece and was captivated by Padian’s storytelling until the end. Definitely recommend you add this book on your TBR and I hope you fall in love with Izzy’s story just as much as I did. I want to say thank you to the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, for inviting me to be part of the blog tour and providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
mandi1082 20 days ago
How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian deals with a lot of issues. Friendship, families, mother daughter relationships, sibling relationships, loss of a parent and many more. This story really touched my heart and brought a lot of different emotions out of me. It made me happy and it made me sad. I loved the writing and I was so into the story from the beginning. It also has some trigger warnings abuse, racism, bullying and depression. I want to thank Netgalley and Algonquin Young readers for providing a copy of this book for an honest review.
Rachel Bennett 20 days ago
I hardly ever click with YA anymore but I thoroughly enjoyed How to Build a Heart. I thought Padian wrote a lovely, wholehearted book about teens struggling with meaningful issues. Izzy was a delightful protagonist - per YA norms, we do have to watch her make some painstakingly horrible decisions and suffer the consequences, but she was always empathetic and I found her spirit and love for her family to be incredibly admirable. The Habitat for Humanity storyline was really interesting, and certainly unique to this book. Really, this story is a teen romance, but it's about poverty, living as a person of mixed race, feeling caught between two worlds, family, friendship, and much more. It actually reminded me of a less intense The Hate U Give - there were similar themes and the heroines were both strong-willed teenagers who felt caught between two worlds and struggled to find their own identity. Thank you to Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers for providing me an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Reader4102 20 days ago
Izzy Crawford is a sixteen-year-old whose father was killed in Iraq six years before the book begins. She and her mother have moved several times in the ensuing years. They have finally settled down in Virginia. Izzy is happy as a member of the a Capella group at her new high school to which she has a scholarship. Habitat for Humanity has chosen Izzy and her mother for a house – something neither of them have ever had and never thought they would ever have. Izzy is very happy until her life begins to unravel. This is a well-written book with likable characters from Izzy and her mother to the minor characters like Izzy’s best friend, Roz. The plot, while a little thin, does have interesting twists and turns to keep the reader interested and reading. If you enjoy reading young adult books, this may be the book for you. Thanks to Algonquin and Edelweiss for an eARC.
kozbisa 21 days ago
Rating: 4.5 Stars Izzy had always felt caught between two worlds. Biracial, but white-passing, she passed her days in her private school, and the rest of her time in her trailer park home. When Aubrey, the new transfer student, befriended Izzy, she had the opportunity to mingle among the town's wealthier citizens, but how long would Izzy be able to hide who she was from her new friends? This was a story of friendship, family, first love, identity, and grief, and Izzy was at the center of it all. Right when she had started to settle into her new life in Virginia, her family was selected to receive a home via Habitat for Humanity, AND she fell for her best friend's crush. Obviously, both things resulted in lots of stress and complications in her life, because she was trying to hide so much from both her best friend and the crush. It was quite interesting watching Izzy attempt to navigate the aforementioned situation, however what I really enjoyed was the exploration of her identity. With the loss of her father, she was missing a very vital piece of who she was, while she was also isolated from her father's side of the family. This left her with many questions, and I was happy, when Izzy sought those answers by reconnecting with her father's kin. She learned a lot from the experience, and it brought an important part of her past into her present. All the characters in this book were stellar, and Padian did fantastic job shaping them. They were multifaceted and interesting, while still seeming real. I had a lot of love for Sam and Aubrey, but I absolutely adored Mami. This woman was a superhero. The way she sacrificed for her children, and the determination it took for her to keep going in the face of so many difficult things, all on her own, was nothing short of amazing. The author took on some BIG issues in this book, but she did so in an honest, yet sensitive way. I appreciated her approach, and it never felt heavy handed to me. I appreciated the different sides she approached each topic from, and liked the way she wove it all into the story. Overall: A wonderful and touching story of self discovery, that was filled with lots of hope and love.
SaraOxo 21 days ago
How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian a three-star read that will break your heart. I had high hopes for this one, maybe that’s why it didn’t hit the mark, maybe I had too high hopes. It was well written and well plotted, but there was just something missing. I do hope that people enjoy this story and find that they enjoy it and find their tribe. It will appeal to many; it just didn’t appeal to me.