How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran

What do you do in your teenage years when you realise what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes – and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde – fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer – like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes – but without the dying young bit.

By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realises she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease, with a soundtrack by My Bloody Valentine and Happy Mondays. As beautiful as it is funny, How To Build a Girl is a brilliant coming-of-age novel in DMs and ripped tights, that captures perfectly the terror and joy of trying to discover exactly who it is you are going to be.

 

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3 responses to “How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran”

  1. Stephie says:

    I have just finished this book and I LOVED IT!!! I too am from Wolverhampton originally and can see myself in Johanna and Dolly!! The story is one that i think everyone, man and woman, can relate to and the journey of a young woman trying to find way in the big wide world is one that we have all fought through. Some win and some lose.

    I could not put it down and was so sad when i got to the end of it last night! Hopped on the internet straight away to see what else i could buy but have read all your books!!!

    Thanks for a fabulous book and please release something new soon, already suffering from withdrawals.

    Thanks again

    x

  2. Lily says:

    I’ve just finished How to Build a Girl, and just wanted to say thank you. I always assumed I was the only one who ‘performed’ in bed (I eventually became celibate due to the crappiness of my co-stars), so it’s nice to know I wasn’t alone. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book. Unfortunately I’d started reading it on the loo, so I now have a dead leg, but I won’t hold you responsible.

  3. SheDevil says:

    I just now finished reading ‘How to Build a Girl,’n and had to come here to say how happy I was to read at the end that it is part of a trilogy. As Johanna was moving to London (and the pets went unfed their dinners because I had to finish the book first) I thought ‘But I want to know what comes next. There aren’t enough pages left,’ with an internal wail.

    It was like the relief when reading ‘The Country Girls’ and ‘The L-Shaped Room’ so many years ago and finding out the authors hadn’t finished telling me about them. The difficult part here is having to wait for the the second book. Despite the laughter and weeping while reading your book, there is a familiar feeling of discovery and recognition. The difference is that when I read the above books, I was still a girl, trying to discover who I was. When I read your book, I remember who I was, and despite my advanced age, I am in many ways still building that girl, uncovering (or maybe still reinventing) the woman. I’m not sure I feel any older than I did when reading the other books. That girl is always with me.

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