Book Review | How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

How to Build a Girl: A Novel by Caitlin Moran
Published by: Harper on September 23rd, 2014
Genre: YA, Feminism, Humor, Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased for the Kobo

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Summary (from Goodreads): The New York Times bestselling author hailed as “the UK’s answer to Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, and Lena Dunham all rolled into one” (Marie Claire) makes her fiction debut with a hilarious yet deeply moving coming of age novel.

What do you do in your teenage years when you realize 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, fourteen, 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 Bröntes—but without the dying young bit.

By sixteen, 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 kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realizes 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. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.

Review: This book took me forever to read. I started reading it in 2016 and finally just finished it this year. It’s not that it was a bad book (it wasn’t) it’s that the subject matter/plot hardly had me excited to keep turning the pages. I’ve been trying to write this review for months but I really can’t form any full thoughts or opinions.

The protagonist Johanna (sometimes Dolly Wilde) didn’t feel her age at any point in the novel. She was supposed to be 14 that reinvents herself at the beginning and near the end she was 17. She felt 20 years older than that. There was so much going on with her that I feel like she faded in the background a bit.

The beginning third of the book about her earlier life could have been cut down drastically. I found I didn’t find myself quickly turning the pages until she began to reinvent herself. Then she becomes Dolly Wilde, a music critique, a lady sex adventurer, a lush, drug experimenter (you get the picture). A lot of these scenes were quite graphic but the themes throughout were good and definitely put out that female growing up vibe.

The writing felt a little off at times and I didn’t quite get it.

I don’t know if I will read another book written by the author but I am glad that I have read this one.



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