wp-1577998724804.jpgToday I have a review of How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian. Thank you to Algonquin Books for the invitation to the blog tour and for the gifted book!

I’m also giving away a copy, so please make sure to visit my instagram page, if you are interested.

About the Book:

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.

 “Two years ago my mother, who is Latina, attended a Habitat for Humanity fundraising luncheon,” says Maria Padian, freelance writer, essayist, and author of the young adult novels Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress, Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best, Out of Nowhere, and Wrecked. “She and my father, a blond Irish guy, were among the donors, and my mother was unnerved to see the Habitat family, who was of Mexican origin, marched up on a stage for all the nice, wealthy white people to applaud—especially the teenage daughter, who looked like she wanted to disappear. My mother completely empathized with the awkward teen, her teen-angst exacerbated no doubt by her feelings of ‘otherness’ in that company. I realized right then that I needed to write that kid’s story. Unlike my mother, whose first language is Spanish, I barely speak a word, and I didn’t grow up identifying as any sort of racial/ethnic/cultural minority. Writing HOW TO BUILD A HEART has been a way for me to explore my own questions about identity, as well as to step into my mother’s skin. I’ve been able to write these characters because this is my family, from my Spanish mother to my Irish father to my North Carolinian husband. This book is my love letter to all of them and our crazy quilt of a family.”

Advance Praise:

“A Pretty In Pink story about grief, family, class, and first love.”


“Padian masterfully portrays the internal struggles Izzy goes through in her Catholic faith… An absolutely enthralling depiction of family and self-discovery.”

Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Padian takes a familiar theme—a girl hiding her background from others—and makes it fresh with her protagonist, Izzy Crawford… The characters around her are well-defined and support Izzy and the plot well. Throughout the novel, Izzy’s strength, candor, and humanity shine through.”


“Padian creates a world that the reader can easily dive into. Anyone who’s ever been a self-conscious teen will see themselves in Izzy.”

Book Riot

“Padian creates a compelling world with relatable characters and deals with serious issues without feeling heavy-handed…An excellent classroom or book discussion starter. Hand this to readers who are ready to tackle these issues with a lighter touch.”

School Library Journal (Starred Review)

 HOW TO BUILD A HEART by Maria Padian

Algonquin Young Readers | Ages 12-18 | ISBN: 9781616208493 | On sale: January 28, 2020 | 256 pages | $25.95

My Thoughts:

My friends at Algonquin Books told me about How to Build a Heart about a year ago, and I have been highly anticipating it ever since. You see, like many of us, as a sixteen-year-old I felt lost. My family had moved the year before, one of many moves. I am drawn to stories like this because they are deeply relatable, which makes them comforting, even healing at times. I found those things in the beauty of Maria Padian’s storytelling.

Izzy’s father passed away six years ago, and ever since, her family has moved from town to town, but never close enough to her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico.

This time the family lands in Virginia. Here Izzy finds some peace. She likes her new school, and her family is selected by Habitat for Humanity to receive a new house. As soon as Izzy feels at home, secrets come out in the open.

How to Build a Heart covers heavy and important topics like racism, abuse, and mental health. It’s a timely story with so much goodness in it, too. I’m keeping all the secrets… a secret.

If you’ve ever felt like an outsider for any reason, there is much to relate to in Izzy’s story. How to Build a Heart is poignant, comforting, and inspiring with a lovable main character and an overall feel-good vibe.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher.

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 mariapadian.com and find her on Twitter: @mpadian.

Have you read How to Build a Heart, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR