BookBrowse Reviews How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2021, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


In this thoughtful coming-of-age tale, a teenager struggles to find herself and a home for her family at the same time.

Maria Padian is well-known for her motif of exploring teen reactions to social issues. Her novel Wrecked was about the #MeToo movement and toxic masculinity, while Out of Nowhere features an economically depressed Maine community's reactions to the presence of a Somalian family. Now, in How to Build a Heart, high school junior Isabella (Izzy) struggles to integrate multiple different aspects of her identity into a cohesive self.

Izzy, her little brother Jack, and their mother Rita have spent the last six years moving from place to place in search of affordable rent, ever since their Marine father was killed in Iraq. He was a child of the genteel North Carolina Crawfords; Rita is Puerto Rican. Now situated in Virginia, Izzy likes her new all-girls Catholic school, especially the acapella chorus she sings in; she is friends with sassy Roz from across the way in the trailer park; and she has caught the eye of handsome, rich Sam. Her new town feels like a place she would not mind putting down some solid roots. And that opportunity presents itself when Rita announces that Habitat for Humanity thinks the Crawfords are perfect candidates for a home in the development they are starting nearby.

With a permanent home so close to reality, Rita cannot understand why Izzy is so uncooperative about Habitat for Humanity's simple requirements—requirements that would force Izzy to reveal her home situation and economic status to her unaware classmates and boyfriend. She also wonders whether Sam's well-to-do family is responsible for local protests against low-income housing. But when it looks like the Crawfords will be unable to meet the "sweat equity" requirement of enlisting friends and family to help with their home's construction, Izzy is the one who steps up and reaches out to her father's family, from whom she, Rita and Jack have been estranged since an incident at a gathering long ago.

The number of subplots and complications make How to Build a Heart simultaneously realistic and overly convoluted. Izzy's grandmother's cruel behavior years earlier explains the divisions in the family, but could be the subject of an entirely different book. Izzy discovers that the one cousin she feels a connection with has had a drug problem—again, the seeds of another story. Izzy's friend Roz has anger issues that realistically should have put her in jail. She also lives in a dangerously abusive household. Satisfying as the solution written by the author to all of this may be, it strains credibility. Nevertheless, this is a potent coming-of-age story about the courage often required for pulling together multiple threads of a life to create an authentic self.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in February 2020, and has been updated for the February 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Habitat for Humanity

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Things We Lost to the Water
    Things We Lost to the Water
    by Eric Nguyen
    Spanning over 30 years, Eric Nguyen's debut novel Things We Lost to the Water is epic in scope but ...
  • Book Jacket: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
    by Dawnie Walton
    Within the general arc of many well-established and chronicled historical events is oral history's ...
  • Book Jacket: Monkey Boy
    Monkey Boy
    by Francisco Goldman
    Francisco Goldman's Monkey Boy exists in the liminal space between memoir and fiction. Like Goldman ...
  • Book Jacket: The Girl in His Shadow
    The Girl in His Shadow
    by Audrey Blake
    The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake is a fast-paced historical novel set in Victorian-era England...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Ariadne
by Jennifer Saint
A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Morningside Heights
    by Joshua Henkin

    A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Who Said...

In youth we run into difficulties. In old age difficulties run into us

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

H I T Best P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.