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.
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.
Please note: This audiobook contains explicit language.
©2014 Caitlin Moran (P)2014 Random House Audiobooks
I'd definitely listen to How to Build a Girl again because it was so well read by Louise Brealey. She did all the accents of each character so well and so consistently. I really felt I was there with Johanna as she went through her often agonising experiences of teenage life. Every minute of Caitlin Moran's story was delicious to listen to. Not once did I feel like fast forwarding through filler because there is none.
I guess all the music references reminded me a bit of Hi Fidelity by Nick Hornby but this storyline is completely different.
I just fell in love with the main character, Johanna, who is telling the story. Louise Brealey's performance was so believable.
I wanted to hug the main character and tell her everything is going to be alright and that I totally understand what she is going through. I laughed for a good part of this book. So, so funny!
Highly recommend for anyone, particularly if you were a teen in the early 1990s and love indie rock. Everyone is mentioned from Courtney Love, Manic Street Preachers, NWA and the Smashing Pumpkins plus so many more. While you can't hear the music on the audiobook you can still feel it through the words. Plus this book is hilarious. Did I mention this book is super funny?
"How to Build a Girl"
How to Build a Girl is a coming of age story with a difference. It's gritty, truthful, filthy, poignant and laugh-out-loud funny!! And sometimes all the same time!
I think this is the book I'll be recommending to all of my friends this year!
Hard work all through. Strange way to write a book but probably appeal to some people!! Definitely a different mind set to me though!! Listen to a sample before buying is my advice
"Quite simply the story for any woman!"
One of the funniest, thrilling and most ostentatious stories, made all the better by having Louise Brealey read it to me. The characters came to live with her use of voices and I truly fell in love with Johanna/Dolly. An inspiration in novella.
"Fantastic narration of highly entertaining story"
A supremely funny, filthy and clever book - and made one hundred per cent moreso by the flawless narration. Great stuff!
"Beautifully written and performed."
I love Caitlin's refreshing frankness but having read some of her other work there were moments of déjà vue.
The performance would be hard to top.
"Brutally raw and wonderfully obnoxious"
Not one to listen to with your Nan. Thoroughly enjoyed this. One of my favourite narrators.
"Picked up momentum in the second half"
I struggled to get into this at first, the protagonist being a troubled teenager from the Midlands wasn't something I could immediately relate to.
However, once she creates an alter ego the story picked up pace and interest, and by the end I was disappointed to say goodbye to both Johanna and Dolly.
Really great - well read, amusing, entertaining, moving and heart - felt. Definitely recommend it.
"Brilliant and accurate"
A brilliant encapsulation of growing up and 'building' yourself as a women. Funny, endearing and heart felt relationships.
"Interesting, gritty YA"
Review: I've been wanting to read this book for ages. I bought it as my world book day buy either last year or the one before, and in the end I downloaded this on audiobook so that I could enjoy Moran's witty cynicism on the way to work and back. I don't know what I was expecting from this novel, I realised it was fiction and a story about a teenager but it was completely different from what I was expecting. As the book progressed though I heard a lot of the author and her own experiences at detailed in How To Be A Woman (one of my favourite books of all time) in it-great!
The protagonist in this novel is brutally honest and is also very aware of her family and where they sit within society. I really liked the different relationships she has with the different members of her family and how they vary. She obviously loves them to bits and is especially protective of her brother because he is referred to in almost every other simile she uses! I also love the fact that she was determined to be the one that got out, that got the career she wanted and that went after things no matter what.
There are some seriously funny bits in the book when 'Dolly' enters the world of work and discovers mosh pits, smoking and drinking. These events in particular really highlight just how young and naive she is not just because of her age but also because she is from outside of London, not famillliar with the big city. I really liked her take on relationships and sex, it reminded me of my teenage years and what I thought should have been happening and the reality of it all. This novel is brutally honest, there are some moments which are definitely not for the more sensitive reader but definitely one that is worth reading, especially for the feminists among us!
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