A weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading 🙂
Once again I completely forgot/missed out on posting for Teaser Tuesday this week. So, as I’m moving tomorrow and there is a possibility I might not have access to the Internet for a few days, I’ve decided to do a Teaser Tuesday and Book Review post for this particularly wonderful book.
How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran
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, fourteen, 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 sixteen, 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?
The teaser (more than two sentences):
‘Dear Lord Jesus,’ I think, rapidly, in my head, as I approach the house. ‘I know I haven’t believed in you lately and I hope you don’t take that personally, but as you are probably aware, given your monitoring system, which I imagine to be comprehensive, things are quite bad here, and I want to offer you a deal. If you make it so they don’t take our benefits away, I will –’ […..] – ‘I promise I will not wank for six months.’
First, I’ll just say that this isn’t a book for everyone. If you’re someone who is offended by the (over)use of the c-word, lots of sex (including a thorough description of what it’s like for a girl to give a blow job and references towards the fact that, guess what, girls masturbate!), drugs (and other self-inflicting poisons) and self-harming, than this is probably not the book for you. A year or so ago it may not have been the book for me either, but I absolutely loved this book and it is now safely sitting in my favourites pile.
There are too many things to love about this book. Caitlin Moran is a wonderful, honest, rude and witty writer. The number of times I laughed or was stunned into a number of different feelings, I couldn’t count. There are so many awesome references in the novel, too. I was thoroughly impressed with her ability to bring about the life of Johanna Morrigan and, of course, her new self Dolly Wilde.
Johanna/Dolly is a wonderful, wonderful character. I feel quite attached to her. I loved everything about her, even if she sometimes does questionable things. But what I liked best is that her flaws were so believable and didn’t seem forced. Like with some fictional characters, the author has tried to make them “believable” by making them “flawed” characters that are actually kinda perfect. I don’t know if you know what I mean by that, but I just found that Johanna was an incredibly real character and that Moran’s depiction of her is so, so fantastically great. Johanna is a teenage girl growing up in 1990 with her poor family (they’re on benefits) and she’s fat and ugly and basically friendless and has to build herself a new girl in order to do what she wants, which is to be a music journalist (and a Lady Sex Adventurer) in London. Johanna’s journey throughout the novel is incredibly entertaining and hilarious, but towards the end of the novel it does go into some pretty dark places which I found harrowing but also very touching, because it was those moments that really make Johanna get to where she really wants to be. A few times in the novel I was actually kinda jealous of Johanna. Getting paid to write and getting flown to Dublin to interview a band? Yes, please.
Johanna’s family are awesome. She has an older brother Krissi who is her favourite person in the world but doesn’t seem to like her much and spends most of the book growing seedlings in his bedroom and hating Johanna because of SatanWankGate. She has another brother Lupin (I know how brilliant!) who is adorable, and two twin baby brothers who are nameless until the end of the novel. Her mother isn’t very present, but she’s a good character. Her dad is great. He’s disabled (which is why they have Disabled Benefits) and very hilarious, though often crushed by the disappointment of not having become a rock star. Johanna’s friends/co-workers are good characters, too. Especially John Kite!
But, really, the star of this novel is Johanna herself. I just can’t describe how much I love her and the experiences she goes through in the novel (some great ones, but also some hilariously bad ones like getting injured by an extremely large penis) and everything that she learns via such experiences. She was a joy to read and I would definitely recommend you to read this and cope with the obscenities and ignore your conservatism (seriously, get over it). How To Build A Girl needs to be read!