Teen life is not a fun life, especially for a zaftig teen girl who humiliates herself of television. But many teens find music a way to escape their day-to-day indignities long enough to mature. In fact, the heroine in Caitlyn Moran’s How to Build a Girl, Johanna Morrigan is able to reinvent herself, thanks to music.
Johanna is tired of never having any money. Her father, once a musician is on disability and her mother has checked out since the birth of surprise twins, Her older and younger brother share a room with her, Johanna is an outcast at school and at home as she discovers her body and its intricacies…Until the day when she realizes that poor people can be a writer. Naming herself a music journalist, she begins to learn about music and she writes reviews daily. Soon, she is recruited by a magazine and leaves school, in order for her real education to begin. And begin it does. Trading her class schedule for a mysterious past and drug and alcohol use, Johanna navigates the music world as a professional observer and sometimes subject.
Caitlyn Moran’s How to Build a Girl is, while fiction, filled with enough everygirl truth in it to convert even the most reluctant reader.
Moran’s Johanna rebrands herself as Dolly Wilde (based on a relative of Oscar’s), and it is anyone’s guess as to Dolly’s limits. While chastised over her first big expense trip as a near love letter to artist, John Kite, Dolly resigns herself to scathing reviews of bands that she doesn’t like, depriving herself of any of the items she might like. However, when she begins a real downward spiral (breaking her ladyparts and slashing her wrists), Dolly/Johanna realizes some changes would do her good (*Sorry, couldn’t resist).
It was great reliving the bands of the early 90s. Especially when Johanna completely confuses the Smashing Pumpkins after the concert. There are a lot of doors that open for a female music reviewer in England, and Dolly takes them all—going so far as to dissing about 1/3 of the music pool.
I really liked Moran’s style and while a bit on the racy side, I think that Moran represents, at her core the struggle of a young girl trying to find herself, complete with the odd Muppet-fueled marriage dreams. Her family grew on me through the novel, and I love that they supported her 100 percent, despite not necessarily understanding or appreciating her choices.
I read this on my Kindle, but you can pick this up at your favorite retailer in your favorite format.