How To Build a Girl

What do you do when you realise you have built yourself out of the wrong things?

Caitlin Moran’s up and coming novel, How To Build a Girl is the sort of book I wish I’d read when I was 16. Even now, reading it at 21, there are pangs of panicked embarrassment to all the stupid things you do as a teenager, and it’s full of the kind of deep truths about life and womanhood that a cool auntie would bestow while tipping ash off her cigarette.

Yes, Caitlin Moran totally, totally gets what is to be a teenager – the confusing, powerful/powerless time when you are trying to build yourself and decide on who you want to be as an adult in the time when (even though they haven’t really) you feel like your family has failed to understand you or impart anything actually useful to your future.

I really loved How To Build a Girl and highly recommend it for its razor sharp witticism, laugh out loud one-liners and heart of gold.

Johanna Morrigan is said grumpy teenager, growing up in middle class 1990s England in a post-punk small town. Squished into a large family with her distant mother and drunk father who has delusions of pop star fame, she wins a poetry competition and proceeds to embarrass the heck out of herself on national television. Deciding that her only option out of this miasma of notoriety is to kill herself, Johanna reinvents herself into Dolly Wilde.

Dolly is a party girl, with jet black hair, Gothic Lolita style and a mission to make it in London as a writer and lady sex adventurer. She gets a job at D&ME, a music magazine, writing reviews of the latest 90s hits. And she is a success. Partying all night, going to gigs for free and banging the gravel to decide what is good music and what is trash, Johanna, as Dolly, is in her element. But in her pursuit of higher risks, bigger laughs and tougher criticism, she loses a bit of herself and her writing gets sharper and crueler as she goes on. After a series of confusing boyfriends and sexual encounters, Johanna starts wising up to herself as a woman and as an adult, realising that she has built herself out of the wrong materials and has to make a change or lose everything.

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The first half of the book is a hormone-fuelled romp through Johanna’s fantasies, which is contrasted by the gruelling reality of an uninspiring council estate life, and all of this leads up to the book’s climax; from there Johanna starts to wise up to the world and Caitlin Moran delivers truth after painful truth about life, feminism, growing up and choosing to be a kind and decent human being.

From cutting pictures of her crush worthy celebrities out of magazines, to being brave enough to apologise to the musicians and artists she has ruthlessly slated in her articles, Johanna is an amazing character – both awkward and invincible. I really loved this book! Full of pop culture, teenage angst, adult realities and sweet, sweet music, How To Build a Girl is a brilliant and much-needed novel.

How to Build a Girl will be in-store and online on July 1st.



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