What do you do in your teenage years when you realize 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 Brontës - 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 realizes 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. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.
©2014 Casa Bevron, Ltd. (P)2014 Random House UK
I loved this book.
"How to Build a Girl" has it all. The character development, the relationship development, and the pace of the story are perfectly done.
The main character Dolly/Johanna is beautifully developed. I was completely invested in her, in every decision she made, and in everything she did. I rooted for her and cringed and held my breath and laughed out loud a lot.
The surprising, and best part of this book is how much I laughed, the writing is clever and really funny. As Johanna/Dolly developed I thought that the story would get more serious, as most funny movies go, they aren't funny by the end because all the problems get ironed out. But Moran's writing was so good, it was consistently interesting and clever right up until the end.
The ending was great, really great, and worthy of the rest of the book and how the characters were developed.
The couple things I would say as a review:
1. I wished it was longer. A couple moments felt overly edited, I'd wanted more color, description, follow-up that weren't there.
2. This is a very Rated R book. I was never offended, but I certainly gasped and cringed more than once. This book is gritty and raw and naughty which is part of what makes it great.
The narrator was great, she seemed perfect for the part, her accents and voices were perfect.
I highly recommend this book.
I love audiobooks.
I did not feel compelled by this book until one long passage
towards the end about cynicism , which basically made all the hours of listening worthwhile. Very much so. Here is an excerpt;
" …it is a million times easier to be cynical and wield a sword, then it is to be open-hearted and stand there, holding a balloon and a birthday cake, with the infinite potential to look foolish… . I haven’t yet learned the simplest and most important thing of all: the world is difficult, and we are all breakable. So just be kind. "
To the right friend, yes. I don't think this book is for everyone but I really did enjoy the story.
It might have been Kenny (her boss). He just seemed like he didn't give her what she wanted to hear but what she needed to hear.
She did the Irish, English and Scottish accents very well. It really made the story come to life.
It had a few moments where it made me think "Come on Johana. You're better than that" or "poor girl has zero self esteem" and "Ha! I have no idea what kind of food they are talking about but it sounds vile."
If you're in the mood for a teenager reinventing herself and going about it in the London music scene....this is your book.
This book is a slow burn- I didn't love it at first but the character grew on me in a big way. I was a bit devastated when it ended- I wanted more! Amazing reader, too.
The humor and compassion with which the entire story was conveyed made it always approachable, and easy to return to. And speaking as a woman who was a young teen in the 90s, the portrait of the time (even though it is in England) and place (lower middle class with a worthless but somehow not useless father) was hopeful and though simpler, on the cusp of great change was perfectly crystalized and presented. Reading this was to be transported back to look at a younger self, and realizing that though that younger self is an absurd creature, she is also splendid.
How To Be A Woman. This book expands on the Caitlen Moran character in HTBaW without being a simple retelling of Moran's life...it imagines a slightly more breathless approach, one in keeping with a teenage narrator.
The nuance of spoken British slang.
Buy this for the young (college-aged) women in your life. It'll help them realize that you need not be perfect to achieve dreams. In fact, flaws can be memorable.
...I love listening!
This book is great. A poor girl with a large family takes charge of her life and drops out of school to become a writer. The story follows her as she drinks and sleeps her way into the life of a music journalist in early 90s London. She rarely slips into moments of self aware loathing, instead focusing on her successes in the indie band social scene. She loves her family despite the severe issues their poverty raise, especially her older brother. I really loved this book, the only thing that took away from it at moments was the narrator. She did this thing where moments she was loud, and the next moment so quiet I couldn't understand her. I got more used to the style and it got less annoying after a while. Overall, loved this book and listened to it in about two sittings!
One of the best audio productions I've heard in a long time. Second only to Ms. Moran's narration, this book entertains, educates, and leaves one wanting to hear more about Johanna Morrigan. I nearly drove off the road while driving to work and listening. I was laughing so hard and trying not to pee my pants.
The narrator was fantastic. Did a great job on all the different voices. The story was a fun, smart romp through a teenage mind and bad decisions with an optimistic ending. Very well- written.
Chick Lit Lover
I didn't read the print version so I don't know.
The main character was incredible. She was so funny and honest.
Her accents and character voices were superb!
John - he seemed like a fun guy to know.
I loved this book. It was so poignant and the time period was when I grew up so I got it. I thought this was one of the best books Ive read in a long time.
I loved the character development, but I liked least the coarse talk and constant sex talk.
Toning down the sexual factors- I understand that her sexuality was a huge part of the story and I don't object to that, but it's okay, I think, to leave some things to the imagination.
I love Louise Brealey as a reader. She is the best.
Yes it was. I'd read more by this offer.
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