Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl is a humorous, painful, realistic, and enjoyable read. Fourteen year old Johanna Morrigan embarrasses herself on television in the most ridiculous, humiliating, and, laugh out loud funny manner that a fourteen year old can. To recover from this embarrassment, Johanna decides to reinvent herself as Dolly Wilde. Two year later, as Dolly, Johanna becomes a hard-drinking, almost chain-smoking, slightly promiscuous, and viscous music reviewer.
Johanna and her family live in Wolverhampton and get by living on public assistance. Her dad is a never realized rock star and her mom is living through postpartum depression after having surprise twins, and there’s older brother, Krissi as well as the younger brother. After Johanna’s disastrous t.v. appearance, Johanna is desperate to find a way out. She invents the persona of Dolly Wilde, who will get her family off public assistance via her writing career. Dolly scores an interview with a music magazine which sets Dolly off on a wild ride of growing up, losing her virginity, falling in love, and revealing relationships. Her life as a ruthless reviewer allows Dolly to experience things she only fantasized about in the past. Dolly connects with a rock star and learns what it takes to be a real music reviewer, as well was being real to herself.
I found this book to be extremely entertaining and, at times, laugh out loud funny. The humor was self-depreciating and spot on. The time frame of the very late 80’s to early 90’s brought forth some good memories for me and I loved a lot of the bands mentioned throughout the story. Johanna has some good and tough times in terms of her sexual experiences. One “almost” experience allows her to reexamine herself where she realizes pretending to be the “Dolly persona” isn’t making her happy either. Her family relationships are crazy but strong and her brother Krissi is a constant rock in her life. How to Build a Girl is a fun journey of a young girl working to find out who she is and becoming comfortable with that person. There is a lot of swearing and explicit sex scenes, all told with brutal honesty, if not a bit of detached emotion. How to Build a Girl is a refreshing book in a world where, today, the pressure on girls to be princesses is overwhelming. What’s important is to become comfortable with yourself and it is only then when you are able to become whatever you want. Johanna becomes who she needs to be and it’s spectacular.