Excerpt from How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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How to Build a Heart

by Maria Padian

How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian X
How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 352 pages

    Feb 2021, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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Print Excerpt

Chapter One

"You do you 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 she 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?" Great question. And not without a little edge. Roz's comebacks are razors.

I'm not half as sharp, so I don't say what pops into my head. Mami's voice. In Spanish. She always doles out her wisdom and warnings in Spanish. Even though she knows my Spanish sucks.

"Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres."

In other words, "Tell me who you're hanging out with and I'll tell you who you are."

Which is code for, "I don't like your friends, Isabella." Which translates to, "Especially Roz Jenkins."

Which is muy inconvenient since Roz is my best friend and lives across the road from us.

Instead of a comeback, I make my best innocent face. "Me? Just along for the ride."

Roz laughs, this quick punch of sound. Like the smile, a full-on laugh from her is rare. "Accessory to crime, more like," she says.

I throw my hands up in surrender. "Honestly, Officer, she said she was just giving me a lift home from school! I had no idea she was hunting hot guys!"

The corner of Roz's mouth curls down. "These guys are not hot. They're douchebags," she corrects me.

"Right," I say.

'Tm just curious is all."

Obsessed, more like, I don't bother to argue. What else would you call our latest detour into the outer reaches of Clayton, Virginia? Miles from lovely Meadowbrook Gardens Mobile Home Park, where we live?

I've cruised these back roads with her seven times, occasionally catching a glimpse of a huge house with a three-car garage set back in the trees. There's not much else to see in McMansion Land-Roz's term for where the "rich, superficial fake assholes" from her high school live. Seven times.

And that's not counting how many trips I'll bet she's made out here by herself.

"These people fascinate me," Roz continues. "Admit it, don't you love when you lift a rock and all the bugs scuttle?"

"Totally. Love doing that," I agree. "But we're not lifting anything here with these drive-bys. It's more like we're sitting three feet from the rock, staring at it, waiting for bugs."

"We'll see bugs tonight," she assures me.

I smile, but glance down at my watch. I can only be so late before Mami suspects something. She knows I had a cappella practice after school today, so I would have had to catch the late bus or else wrangle a lift with one of the other St. Veronica's girls driving back to Clayton. She doesn't know Roz pulled up as I was leaving the building. Lured me in with her irresistible, "Hey, chica. Going my way?"

I'm not supposed to be driving with Roz. I'm not supposed to be hanging out alone with Roz. There are actually a whole bunch of Mami-imposed Roz Rules, and while this scenario has never been specifically forbidden, cruising the back roads where Clayton's millionaires live is probably a violation.

"Tell me again how this time is different?" I ask her.

Roz sighs her let-me-explain-it-to-you-again-stupid sigh. "The boys' basketball team has made it into the playoffs. They're having a celebration pasta party at the Shackeltons' house."

For a second I'm not sure who she means. Roz usually refers to her crush simply as Hot Sam. She never uses his last name.

And would never admit he's her crush. But I've heard enough about Sam Shackelton's hair (dark brown with red highlights) and eyes (sky blue) and hook shot (Sam is leading scorer) and friends (all douchey) and car (Jeep Cherokee), and girlfriend (Awful Melissa) to know my friend is way into him.

Excerpted from How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian. Copyright © 2020 by Maria Padian. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Young Readers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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