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How to Build a Girl | [Caitlin Moran]

How to Build a Girl

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (203 )
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4.6 (191 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Marci portland, OR, United States 10-06-14
    Marci portland, OR, United States 10-06-14 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1916
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    "Get This Book!"

    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.

    21 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Coldfriday The San Francisco Bay Area, United States 10-29-14
    Coldfriday The San Francisco Bay Area, United States 10-29-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The gaspingly delicious Louise Brealey is divine."
    Any additional comments?

    I must say I was slightly disappointed when I heard that Caitlin (yes: pronounce it CAT-lin) Moran would not be reading her own work here, like she did with her die-hard bestseller "How to be a Woman". Then I turned that f***er ON. Who is that? WHO?! Familiar, innocent but still knowing, growly, can say ridiculous things without breaking? Oh MY Ghawd! It's Louise Brealey! The delightfully winsome Doctor Molly of Sherlock fame! She's brilliant and warm and perfect.
    Ms. Moran, as much as I love her, is a the very definition of polemic. Perhaps whacked out on something sugary, a carton of smokes, and something dodgy that makes her speak and think at the rate of a zillion miles an hour, I often have to lie down in a dark room blissfully high on new thoughts and giggles when I hear her. Then I go back and have to do it all again. Ask me how many times I have listened to my Audible copy of How to be a Woman! At least a dozen.
    This is just as good and Moran has graciously handed over the reigns of her fictional work to a wonderfully chosen performer who delivers marvelously. Well done. I can't wait for the other two-thirds of the trilogy. Write on and godspeed, Ms. Moran.

    Oi! Audible! How about adding Moranthology to the catalog? Why not?

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Provencal 01-15-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent performance and great 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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    oldmanwagner 12-02-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "When you see yourself in print, and its okay"
    What made the experience of listening to How to Build a Girl the most enjoyable?

    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.


    What other book might you compare How to Build a Girl to and why?

    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.


    What does Louise Brealey bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The nuance of spoken British slang.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelly Bresin 05-07-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Fantastic"
    What did you love best about How to Build a Girl?

    I loved the self discovery of the character. She un-apologetically explored her sexuality. I really connected with Johanna and became jealous of how a young woman was able to make a career as a writer so young.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Obviously Johanna. Her father was also a great character, mainly because of how talented the narration was.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Her in the bathtub for an entire party. Her ability to be the cool-girl in the bath tub was delightful and inspiring. She owned the bad situation and made it amazing.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The climax. A girl finally maturing and learning from her mistakes.


    Any additional comments?

    This should be made into a mini-series or something! I would love to see a live action version of this book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Goldstein 04-10-15

    Janimal

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    "This narrator could read the phonebook"
    If you could sum up How to Build a Girl in three words, what would they be?

    Funny British Teenager


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Johanna was a hoot. She made me root for her.


    Have you listened to any of Louise Brealey’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Louise Brealey is the reason I bought the book. Her performance on the The Girl On The Train was great. She gave these characters such life.


    If you could take any character from How to Build a Girl out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Johanna. She could probably use a good role model...


    Any additional comments?

    Louise Brealey could read the phone book and make it interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicole 03-28-15
    Nicole 03-28-15 Member Since 2014
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    "One great quote made it worthwhile"

    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. "



    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T's mom 03-25-15
    T's mom 03-25-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Love Caitlin"

    It was a bit of a drag, but she's such a great feminist writer... I'm not mad.
    I might even read it again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J.G. Brandt 02-26-15
    J.G. Brandt 02-26-15 Member Since 2012
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    "How very English."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    To the right friend, yes. I don't think this book is for everyone but I really did enjoy the story.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    What does Louise Brealey bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    She did the Irish, English and Scottish accents very well. It really made the story come to life.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    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."


    Any additional comments?

    If you're in the mood for a teenager reinventing herself and going about it in the London music scene....this is your book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Liz Lake Zurich, IL, United States 02-22-15
    Liz Lake Zurich, IL, United States 02-22-15 Member Since 2014

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Hilariously real, heartbreakingly real."

    The story and narration equally amazing, entertaining, and so very human.

    Spoilers:
    What did you think when you found out about the family keeling that information from her?! I know the story wouldn't be what it was without them doing so. The more I think about it the more it messes with my head. This whole time Johanna feels so uncomfortable at home that she feels the need to creat another persona. All the while her family made it possible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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