How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran follows teenager Johanna Morrigan looking to reinvent herself after an embarrassing moment on public television. Set in the U.K. 1990’s music scene, Johanna, renames herself Dolly Wilde and sets out to be a music journalist. Moran explores topics like class, gender, and poverty in a hilarious coming of age story.
Favorite quote: “And, like all the best quests, in the end, I did it all for a girl: Me.”
I struggled with the first 100 page of this book, even putting it down for about two weeks before diving back in. Even considered not finishing the book at all, but thank goodness I didn’t because I found a new favorite. This book can be a bit…crude (lots of sex, drugs, the whole “rock n roll” scene) and it’s not that I’m against reading about that but it’s little shocking when you remember that Johanna is only 16 (14 at the start of the book). But once you get past that, this book is absolutely fascinating. I especially appreciated that Moran made a female character that was confident in her sexual urges, and doesn’t shy away from them. I’m so tired of only normalizing male sexual urges, because hey guess what- it’s normal for females too. Anyway, Johanna wants to help her poverty stricken family and starts sending music reviews to a music magazine and eventually hears back that she’s been offered a job. I think I loved this book so much because Johanna (aka Dolly Wilde) is basically living out my dream. Interviewing musicians, and getting into concerts for free and getting PAID to listen to music and review it. I particular enjoyed an interview Johanna did with a musician named John Kite (I googled that name after reading that part and to my dismay I think he’s only fictional). After finishing the book, I found out there’s going to be two more books and I’m so excited to see where Moran takes Johanna next.
I think my heart broke whenever Johanna’s father would ask her to get his music demo out into the music scene. You could feel his desperation of wanting to get his family out their poverty and the awkwardness it put Johanna in. She wants to help her father with his dreams but didn’t want her co-workers to feel like she was overstepping. Also Johanna’s older brother is gay and it was never a thing where it was announced like “Oh yeah and my older brother is gay.” Nope. There was just a scene where Johanna said, “this dude is so hot I’d sleep with him” and her brother saying, “me too!” I LOVED that. It wasn’t made into this big story-line, it was just pure acceptance. The story ends with Johanna realizing that *maybe* her alter ego Dolly Wilde isn’t who she truly wants to be. So she sets out to reinvent herself once again. I really appreciated that because we’re always growing, we never have to stay the same person. Just because we’ve been one way for so long, doesn’t mean we can’t be a new person.