Maria Padian ’83 isn’t one to shy away from hot topics. In Wrecked, her well-received young adult novel of 2016, she tackled the polarizing complexities of sexual assault on college campuses. Her most recent endeavor, How to Build a Heart, zeroes in on socioeconomic diversity.
Izzy Crawford, a smart and ambitious high school junior, is having the best year ever. She attends a private day school and has a coveted spot among affluent friends in a popular singing group. After moving from town to town in the years since her Marine father was killed in Iraq, her family might finally be settling down in Clayton.
But Izzy is desperate to keep her home life and school friends separate. They don’t know she’s a scholarship student and they definitely don’t know that she lives in a mobile park on the outskirts of town with her younger brother and hardworking mother.
When the opportunity arises for the family to partner with Habitat for Humanity to build a home of their own, it’s a double-edged sword for Izzy. She dreams of a backyard and a room of her own, but the publicity that comes with the Habitat program will surely blow her carefully maintained cover. It also means leaving behind her friend and mobile-park neighbor Roz, who attends the local public school and is a magnet for trouble.
Stir in a little family history in the form of her father’s Deep South relatives, and a budding romance with the handsome and kindhearted captain of the basketball team, and Izzy’s life gets complicated fast.
With an obvious understanding of adolescence and her astute development of characters, Padian delivers a powerful story of one young woman’s emotional journey through fear, acceptance, and, ultimately, the celebration of who she is and where she comes from.