Summary (from the publisher):

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs 81lwiiIXYFLsomewhere. 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. 


My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Maria Padian’s How to Build a Heart was recommended to be by Jessica of The Book Bratz. As a contemporary girl at heart, I’m always on the hunt for new contemporary books and authors.

After constantly moving for her mother’s job, high school teen Izzy finally feels at home in Clayton. She’s made a few friends at her all girls Catholic school and is part of the a capella group. However, Izzy finds herself hiding her home life from her friends. She doesn’t want too many people to know that her father died in Iraq a few years ago, or that she lives in mobile home community with her mother and younger brother, not to mention that Habitat for Humanity is helping them build a new home in a neighboring community. As she becomes closer to the new girl, Aubrey, and her cute older brother, Sam, Izzy finds herself having to become even more protective of her secrets.

How to Build a Heart is really about Izzy coming to terms and learning to be unashamed of her identity and home life. Izzy comes from two very different cultures, her mother having been raised in Puerto Rico and her father from a very traditional, white Southern family. Even before her father’s death, Izzy’s dad’s side of family wasn’t very accepting of Izzy and her mother. Family is a huge element in How to Build a Heart. While much of the family emphasis is on Izzy’s relationship with her mother and brother, Maria Padian also explores Izzy’s relationship with her father’s side of the family. I thought it was well-balanced and I liked how much of that development didn’t come to the end of the story.


Many of my favorite scenes in the novel involved Izzy’s mother and brother and the progress of the family’s Habitat for Humanity house. The Habitat for Humanity element is something that I haven’t seen done before in YA. On the one hand, Izzy cannot wait to move into her new house and will do almost anything to help with the house’s development. On the other hand, the one thing Izzy refuses to do is get involved in any publicity efforts to get more money for the house and organization. Izzy doesn’t want her friends to find out that her family is getting a ‘free’ house. Izzy and her family don’t necessarily have a strained relationship, but much of the tension comes from Izzy’s desire to keep her home life hidden from her friends. Izzy is surrounded by predominantly white and wealthy peers, other than her neighbor, Roz. Some elements surrounding Izzy’s secrecy are of course very predictable, as she builds up her friends’ potential reactions in her head.

I also really liked Izzy’s relationship with Aubrey, and yes, Sam. I actually didn’t know what to expect from the romance development in the book. I thought there was an equal chance of Sam revealing himself as a jerk or as someone who genuinely cared about Izzy. The only relationship I still have mixed feelings about is Izzy’s friendship with Roz. On the one hand, I didn’t think Izzy should have hidden or lied about her friendship with Aubrey and Sam. Roz also experiences much more hardship than Izzy and has an awful relationship with her mother and her mother’s abusive boyfriend. On the other hand, Roz was not the best friend or influence to Izzy either. Despite the events in the latter half of the book, I didn’t like how fast Roz and Izzy jumped right back into their friendship (even though Izzy did have some moments of doubt or reluctance).

Overall, How to Build a Heart is the perfect YA contemporary for readers who are looking for a book that has it so many beloved contemporary elements, including friendship, romance, family, and self-discovery.

How to Build a Heart comes out on January 28, 2020.

This review is based on an advance reading copy. By no means did receiving this book affect my thoughts and opinions.


Is How to Build a Heart on your TBR? Have you read any of Maria Padian’s books? Share in the comments!

One thought on “HEART-FILLED YA CONTEMPORARY: How to Build a Heart Review

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