Fiction how to build a girl

Published on July 4th, 2014


How To Build A Girl: A Novel by Caitlin Moran

| Press reviews | Buy the book | Have your say |

Blurb: 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 Brontes – 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 realises 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? (Ebury Press, July 2014)

John Crace’s Digested Read | The Guardian

Julie Burchill, The Spectator

“There’s a lot about masturbation here — as much an age of coming as a coming of age novel — and the ensuing embarrassment which follows from treating oneself as a moveable feast while surrounded by siblings. But once you’ve shaken off these early indicators of a sordid shambles, things get really good. Moran’s writing is frequently magical in its throwaway precision; a man’s tie ‘looks like it has been put on by an enemy’, while kissing ‘is brilliant: I would put it just below telly but definitely above drinking, squeezing blackheads or fairgrounds’.”

Read full review

Zoe Williams, The Guardian

“We are up to our eyeballs in male onanists; but search your mind for a description of female sexuality that isn’t mediated through writers who only have it on trust that female orgasms even happen. It’s partly a shout of relief, all this laughter, to finally read something about female sexuality whose language reflects the truth of it, rather than the language we have become so accustomed to, which exists to obscure its own ignorance.”

Read full review

Christina Patterson, The Sunday Times

“It is hectic, hyperbolic and so packed with complicated similes that you find yourself almost gasping for breath. But you can also find yourself getting a bit impatient. Did Johanna really “look like a cheap, white fridge-freezer”? Did the benefits office really give off “the vibe of a medieval castle in the middle of a particularly listless, passive-aggressive siege”? Or is this the voice of someone trying too hard to create an effect and play for laughs? About a third of the way through, the feeling of effort subsides, and you find yourself swept up on the crest of a wave too strong to resist. The wisecracking continues, but there’s so much real feeling, too.”

Read full review

Luisa Metcalfe, The Daily Express

“Exuberant, funny coming-of-age tale with a highly-literate, resourceful Wolverhampton teen at its centre”

Read full review

Barbara Ellen, The Observer

How to Build a Girl emerges as a quasi-cautionary tale about how personal development (“building yourself”) is a process, as opposed to an exact science. There are some retreads of Moran’s past themes – material that seems a tad overfamiliar. In particular, the overlap between Moran’s voice in HTBAW and Johanna’s in HTBAG is sometimes too acute. For all that, the novel is an entertaining read, with Moran in fine voice – hilarious, wild, imaginative and highly valuable.”

Read full review

Samantha Ellis, The Independent on Sunday

“It’s a little disappointing when Johanna vanishes and Moran’s voice intrudes. This happens mostly in the sex scenes, which are extensive and often joyful – excellent riffs on Shirley Conran and Jilly Cooper – but also sound like Moran’s forgotten her heroine is a teenage girl. Here, and when she sometimes gets on her columnist’s soapbox, it makes it hard to believe in Johanna. Which is a shame because Johanna is (mostly) a wonderful heroine.”

Read full review

Hannah McGill, The Independent

“The humour can strike odd, duff notes – why even include a joke if the punchline is as rough as “When God gives you no lemons – make nonmonade!”? An unmediated adolescent perspective might just get away with this – the jokes are poor because their crafter is unsophisticated – but the hints that there is a grown-up in charge just make you wonder if the whole thing shouldn’t be a bit more polished. Polish, however, is manifestly and defiantly not the point. This isn’t a sleek, slick novel, but it is a rambunctious, raw-edged, silly-profound and deeply relatable guide to what your worst mistakes can teach you, and it has much to offer teenagers both actual and inner.”

Read full review

Liz Jones, London’s Evening Standard

Moran has a wonderful turn of phrase: “All my siblings were sliding out of the doors, like butter across a hot pan.” I like the fact that Moran is staying so close to home: there is an authenticity in this, whereas fiction to me these days seems the easy way out: you just make it up! The story zips along and it is funny. The problem is, this novel has no depth or pathos. Even though it’s based on what she knows, there is no sense that this new girl is real. I like a bit of doubt in my writers, a bit of humility. It’s all quite glib, and it reads a bit lazily (viz: wheeling out that old chestnut, “I’m gonna need a bigger boat”).

Read full review

Frances Wilson, New Statesman

“here is very little difference between Moran the novelist, who says “cunt” a lot, who “gets her freak on” over cartoon characters and describes the state of her mouth after giving a blow job, and Moran the journalist, who does all the same things. How to Build a Girl is simply a hasty rehash of How to Be a Woman. Even the jokes are recycled; the only job available for Moran in Wolverhampton, she says in the first book, is a dead prostitute. The only job available for her in Wolverhampton, she says, less wittily, in the second, is as a prostitute.”

Read full review

Buy the book

Amazon | Foyles | Hive | Waterstones

Share Button
How To Build A Girl: A Novel by Caitlin Moran The Omnivore



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Back to Top ↑