Monday, September 29, 2014

BLOG TOUR: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Title: How to Build a Girl
Author: Caitlin Moran
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: Sept 23/2014
Adquired: Print ARC provided by Publisher
Goodreads: ADD

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?

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.


I can't say that I loved this book. Caitlin Moran's writing is definitely something worth talking about, but the content of How to Build a Girl was so far from what I tend to enjoy. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. This book. Literally. I got the coming-of-age aspect, but it was those big 3 that just became way too much for me. It also may have been a culture difference/issue, but I sure as hell wasn't that full of sexual angst at the tender age of 14. I just failed to connect with the main character on SO many levels, and the stream of conscious narrative had my head spinning.

How to Build a Girl began in 1990. I existed at this time, and I was 4. Whereas our main character, Johanna Morrigan, is a ripe 14. I appreciated the 90's, but unfortunately, I'm a little too young to have caught on to all of the super-hip references that were made in this novel. Also, I just wrote 'super-hip,' not sure what that says about me either. Anyway, Johanna is sick of being an overweight, nerdy, and generally unbecoming teen. Her family is near broke, and her life is heading in a rather unfulfilling direction. She decides to create an alter-ego. Enter, Dolly Wilde, a music review writer for one of the coolest music papers around. Money begins to seep in, and so do the dangers, and temptations, that come with intermingling with rock stars.

I felt like this narrative was edgy for the sake of being edgy. I felt like it was trying too hard, and in turn, not actually accomplishing what it set out to do. Caitlin Moran could turn the phone book into something I want to read, I'm sure. How to Build a Girl was definitely not poorly written, it was just..TOO written. It was too much, too soon. Johanna wanted an out, and so became something that was 'in' (see what I did there). But too much sex, too much vulgarity, and too many visuals in my head that I would rather not have visualized. I realize I sound like a major prude, but Johanna/Dolly was 14 going on 35, and I would have been murdered on the spot by my parents had I been behaving the way she was. I reiterate, it may have just been a huge cultural difference, I find that a lot of British novels involve teens that are allowed to do things that I'm not even doing NOW, at 28 years-old.

I wish I had read Moran's How to Be a Woman before approaching this work of fiction, if only to have understood her personal and political background. Perhaps that's exactly what I will do. I hope to be re-writing this review sometime in the future. For now, I'm saying that I wish I had passed on this one.

Recommended for Fans of: Contemporary, Feminist overtones in fiction, Romance.

Caitlin Moran had literally no friends in 1990, and so had plenty of time to write her first novel, The Chronicles of Narmo, at the age of fifteen. At sixteen she joined music weekly, Melody Maker, and at eighteen briefly presented the pop show 'Naked City' on Channel 4. Following this precocious start she then put in eighteen solid years as a columnist on The Times – both as a TV critic and also in the most-read part of the paper, the satirical celebrity column 'Celebrity Watch' – winning the British Press Awards' Columnist of The Year award in 2010 and Critic and Interviewer of the Year in 2011.

The eldest of eight children, home-educated in a council house in Wolverhampton, Caitlin read lots of books about feminism – mainly in an attempt to be able to prove to her brother, Eddie, that she was scientifically better than him. Caitlin isn't really her name. She was christened 'Catherine'. But she saw 'Caitlin' in a Jilly Cooper novel when she was 13 and thought it looked exciting. That's why she pronounces it incorrectly: 'Catlin'. It causes trouble for everyone.

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Thank-you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for hosting this tour, and to Harper for sending me a print ARC to review!

CLICK HERE to follow the rest of the tour

1 comment:

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