How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

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BLURB: “My name’s Johanna Morrigan. I’m fourteen, and I’ve just decided to kill myself. I don’t really want to die, of course! I just need to kill Johanna, and create a new girl.

It’s 1990. The Happy Mondays are on Top of the Pops, Thatcher’s almost gone and life is so awful here in Wolverhampton that something drastic has to give. So, I will build this new girl out of library books, pop music, eyeliner and feedback! Things do not go smoothly. In fact, I…

…Get nervous and talk like Elvis a lot;

…Force myself to smoke;

…Almost expire through wanting to be kissed;

…Take really rough speed;

…Fail to recognise my brother is gay!

…Become confused as to whether or not I actually have a boyfriend;

…Engage in the most inept self-harming session ever;

…Have sex with a man with a uselessly large penis;

…And drink too, too, too much, every time.

My life is basically The Bell Jar written by Adrian Mole. But in the end, like all great stories, I did it all for a girl. Me.”

REVIEW: I picked up this book completely by chance on my way back from Northampton, and I’m really quite glad I did. The book tells the story of Johanna Morrigan, a plain, bored and impoverished teenager from Wolverhampton whose life takes a dramatic upturn when she decides to reinvent herself and become Dolly Wilde; a confident, adventurous music journalist with a job that allows her to escape the confines of her large family and breathe in the bustling air of London. The reader watches Johanna’s transformation with a somewhat heavy heart, pitying her for her failed relationships and her unrequited love for musician John Kite. Despite this, the book is highly amusing, with many points that made me laugh aloud, and Johanna’s frank descriptions of her sex life were the most brutally honest and realistic stories I have ever read. Her sexual adventures lead her into relationships with increasingly worse men and increasingly unsatisfying sex, making great tales not only for the character of ‘Dolly’ to relate to her new and glamorous friends, but also for the reader to relate to. The book was written in a manner that made it quick and easy to read, and Moran’s feminist views clearly come through in several of the observations she has Johanna make, which adds a great deal of depth to the novel. Although I enjoyed the book and would recommend it, it is probably not one I would read a second time; though I do hope that Moran considers writing a sequel to take us further along in Johanna’s journalistic career.


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