The New York Times bestselling author hailed as “the UK’s answer to Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, and Lena Dunham all rolled into one” (Marie Claire) makes her fiction debut with a hilarious yet deeply moving coming of age novel.
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 Bröntes—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 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The author of the bestselling memoir How to Be a Woman returns with a semi-autobiographical novel about Johanna Morrington: a spunky teenager growing up in a Wolverhampton council estate with her outrageous and deluded wannabe-rock-star father, long-suffering mother, and four siblings. After her disastrous performance in a televised poetry competition, Johanna decides to resurrect herself as Dolly Wilde, an irreverent and rowdy music journalist named after Oscar Wilde’s “amazing alcoholic lesbian” niece. With How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran turns the cringe-inducing horrors of adolescence into an audaciously funny coming-of-age story.
"The 1990s are a bad time to be poor and not-famous," thinks 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan, who lives with her parents and four siblings on a council estate in Wolverhampton. Arguably, the new millennium brought little relief on this front, but for Moran (How to Be a Woman), the gritty British landscape of adolescence, set to a loud '90s soundtrack of the Stone Roses and the Mondays, is the stage for Johanna's fabulous reinvention of herself. Adopting the pseudonym Dolly Wilde, Johanna educates herself in eyeliner and contemporary music and begins submitting record reviews to a London weekly. In the process, she grows up, has adventures far beyond the estate walls, and learns to love herself. Moran's sharp sense of humor comes through in Johanna's observations. Gratifying, too, are the constant stream of '90s alt-rock references (Soup Dragons, anyone?) and the portrait of a pre-Internet world, where kids actually had actually leave their houses to find new identities. Unfortunately, Johanna's voice feels forced, and her exploits seem to surpass what might have been believable chutzpah.