Blog Tour – How to Build a Heart

“A potent coming-of-age story about the courage often required for pulling together multiple threads of a life to create an authentic self.”



Family isn’t something you’re born into  it’s something you build.

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.

My Review

How do you find your way in the world if you don’t know who you are?

Izzy Crawford and her family have been constantly on the move since her father died in combat. Her mother is a hard working single mother but does not have family around to help her. Her side of the family is still and Puerto Rico and Izzy’s father’s family is not present. Izzy has one friend that lives in their mobile home park but her mom does not approve of her. She thinks Roz is a bad influence. When she starts making friends in her new school she is nervous about them learning that she is poor. She feels uncomfortable in her own skin. As she tries to figure out where she fits in she tries to be what she thinks each person wants her to be. When her family is awarded a house through Habitat for Humanity she feels that the publicity will cause all of her lies to blow up in her face. She has to find a way to tell the truth. To her friends. To her Mom. And to herself.

How to Build a Heart is a YA that deals with the definition of family and identity. It is a beautiful story about community. My favorite character was Mami. She was so strong, loving and passionate. Her pearls of wisdom set the tone for novel. She talks to Izzy about friendships and family and racism. When Izzy comes to her hurt she shows patience and insight. Her compassion for others is evident when she discusses prejudice. She explains that most racists have an issue not with color, but with difference period. Whether it be the color of your skin, what church you go to or what state you live in, if you are different they fear you. Despite the fact that she personally had been targeted, she showed grace in rising above the circumstances and looking at that person who hurt her objectively.

I found that there were a lot of positive messages here for teenagers and would definitely recommend this book.

Meet 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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