How To Build A Heart by Maria Padian

Thank you, Algonquin for inviting me to be part of the blog tour of How to Build A Heart, by Maria Padian. For one thing, it’s been awhile since I read a YA book, and for another thing it reminded me of why I should do it more often – because it’s refreshing to read about a protagonist who is modern role model for young women.

In this case, the protagonist is 16-year-old Izzy Crawford. When we meet her, she’s living in a trailer park with her single Puerto Rican Mom (Dad fought and passed away in Iraq) and her precocious little brother. By day, she attends a new private school on scholarship with a capella group the only bring spot. By night, she and her best friend Roz, style outfits and stalk cute boys on social media. Roz lives in the trailer across the street, but she spends more time with Izzy’s struggling but loving family to escape her drunk Mom and her abusive boyfriend.

One of the boys Roz is obsessed with is Sam, her school’s basketball hero and rich teen dream. Izzy finds herself accidentally drawn into Sam’s world through his sister, and tries to not fall for this guy who not only lives in an entirely different universe but is also the object of her BFF’s affection.

When Izzy’s family is selected as a Habitat for Humanity family, her Mom is thrilled to be moving her family forward and up, and Izzy finds herself in the middle of two different worlds and trying to hide her true self from them both. Along the way, the reader follows along as Izzy faces difficult decisions, faces her family’s past and faces who she wants to be in this world.

The Final word: 16-year-old me would have loved reading Izzy’s story – but grown up me loved it, too. Very richly drawn characters and great messages.