Monday 25 January 2016

Review: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

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.

It’s 1990. 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?

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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