{Review} HOW TO BUILD A HEART by Maria Padian

Happy Book Day to...

by Maria Padian! 

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  "YOU DO REALIZE YOU'RE A stalker, right?" 
  One corner of Roz's mouth curls up, her version of a smile. A full-on smile is rare from Roz. Not that I'd see one now. I speak to her profile as se powers her mother's rust bucket of a car along the winding roads of McMansion land. She's intent on her target and keeps her eyes focused forward. 
  "Yeah, Izzy?" she says. "So what does that make you?"

(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

“'You know, you fight with your mother. But your dad's the one you're really mad at.'

'That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. How could I be angry with my father? He can't help being dead.'

'Same reason I'm mad at mine. For not being here.'

'Yours walked out. Mine got blown up. Really not the same.'


HOW TO BUILD A HEART was one of the first books I picked up to read in 2020, and it touched me in ways that I wasn't anticipating. I am still thinking about it a month later, and now that it is officially out in the world, I've been foisting it on anyone who will listen. So today, my lucky readers, it's your turn! ^.~

One of the most intriguing things about this novel is its centerpiece: The main character, Izzy Crawford, and her family are chosen as recipients of a Habitat for Humanity house. I haven't read any book from this perspective before, and I loved seeing the world through Izzy's eyes. I more regularly see books where teens either volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or are forced to help as community service. Never have I seen the organization through a recipient's eyes. (I'm sure they're out there; I just personally haven't come across or read one!) On top of that, Izzy is a teenager, and appearances are important. She doesn't want her rich classmates to know just how poor she is or the details of her family's past. Her father was killed in action overseas six years ago, and ever since, her widowed mother has moved her and her now-six year old brother from place to place, working multiple jobs, and struggling to make ends meet. The family currently lives in a trailer, and the area isn't always the safest, especially when Izzy's best friend Roz is getting beat on across the street by her mother's abusive boyfriend. Becoming a Habitat for Humanity recipient would be life-changing for the family, and while her mother and brother are fully on-board, Izzy's feelings are so much more complex.

On top of all that, the new house is near where Roz's crush Sam Shackelton lives. Roz has dragged Izzy out to the area on multiple occasions to creepily see what he is up to, and she would flip if she found out that Izzy would be living so close to him. Izzy also can't bring herself to tell Roz that she has now met Sam, and that she's become friends with his sister at school, and is slowly developing a crush on Sam herself -- but unlike Roz, who has only ever seen him from afar, actually knows him.

There are a lot of different issues and relationships at play in HOW TO BUILD A HEART, and the book isn't always easy or breezy, but it's impossible to put down as readers let Izzy into their hearts and go through everything with her. It is a book about belonging, a book about family, a book about navigating your way both in school, at home, and in life in general. It captures that quintessential period of a teen's life where so much is changing and out of one's control, and so much growing up and happening without even realizing it, and Izzy's journey will resonate with so many teens out there.

Also, this is one of those books where you need tissues, and I can't tell you why because #spoilers, but I was happy-crying like a baby towards the end because there is a scene that just punched me in all the feels in the best possible way!

I am so glad I randomly picked up HOW TO BUILD A HEART off a pile of books to read, because Izzy's story is so important, and I hope this book is embraced by teachers and librarians and booksellers and shared with real teens, because it does a lot of good, and so many readers will be able to see themselves in Izzy through at least one of the many things she is dealing with and going through.


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG ( Kissing; making out on a bed, but it doesn't go further, and thinking that she isn't ready for things he might be in later reflection scenes )
Language: PG13 ( Douchebag, douchey, asshole, damn, pisses me off, what the hell, butthead the acronyms WTF and Hot AF, but no actual f-bomb dropping; comment about an outfit needing a chastity belt )
Violence: PG13 ( A mother's abusive boyfriend goes after a teen and even chases her across the street to someone else's house and threatens to harm her. In one scene, she is bleeding upon arrival. )
Other: P( Talk about a drunk mother and her mean drunk, abusive boyfriend; going to someone's house and experiencing a scene where some teens were drinking beer underage )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I like how the girl and the heart are super-imposed on top of one another, and the heart has varying colors of heat and life. 

I also like how her hair runs around, over, and through the heart, and the way the title is inside of the heart!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Maria Padian
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Received: For Review


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.