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  • Writer's pictureEli Allison

Book Crush: How to Build a Girl- by Caitlin Moran

Updated: Jun 8, 2019

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...

So, I ain’t gunna lie to you lovelies; I love books like Ms Paltrow loves a good old steam vac on her badly wrapped kebab.

But such love cannot be contained, hence 'Book Crushes' was birthed from my obsessive spine-cracking grubby mind. A short sharp love tap for my favourite novels. This week is the blatant anti-Christ to The Twilight saga, How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran.



Date of Birth:

3 July 2014

The Synopsis:

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!

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?

Why it’s Great:

I could mumble about the family being fully fleshed out parts when they could have easily fallen into caricature. How the 90's music references spring from the page and clobber you in nostalgia. How the working-class are championed, for there own sake and not as some problem to be solved and all of this is true, but the reason you should absolutely read this book is because of the voice. Not the soul-numbing T.V show that makes me want to moisturise my mary with Cyanide just so I can feel something again but Dolly's voice.

Her brutal honesty rides over you; a sharp-eyed yippee ki-yay-ing motherfucker, shooting off her six gauge into the sky.

You can't tear your eyes away, can't catch your breath, can't quite believe the un-said things are right there on the page, said.

How I wish a million times that I'd had this book when I was on the cusp of the great and the stupid. How more comfortable I would have felt in my skin. How less alone.

There are many reasons to read books, to escape, to imagine, to experience but the greatest has to be, connection.

When writers dig deep, gouge themselves for us, we all feel a little less alone, and that is one hell of a party trick.

But if I were you, I'd avoid Dolly's tricks on how to not look like your alone at a party; toilet buffet banquets aren't as fun as they look and they look shit.

Best Time to Read:

Fourteen till you have either business cards or kids or as I like to call them , The Buoyant Years. The time of your life with all the hectic passionate promise of adulthood without the depressing fucking weight of it.

Dinner Party Prat Fact:

Ms Moran and her siblings were home-schooled, Caitlin from the age of eleven. The local council quite casual about it all, as they were, "the only hippies in Wolverhampton."

Didn't seem to hurt her literacy skills and as the great and wise Terry Pratchett once said, " I didn't go to university. Didn't even finish A-levels. But I have sympathy for those who did."

Best Quote:

I am lying in bed, next to my brother, Lupin. He is six years old. He is asleep. I am Fourteen. I am not asleep. I am masturbating.

The 1st paragraph really sets it's stall out. If you plough on after reading that well then you bloody well knew you were going to get a Donkey-Punch of over-share.

Side Note: Torn between this wicked first paragraph and an astute as fuck section in Chapter Twenty where Dolly is asked why she only reviews bands she doesn't like.

The older Dolly/Johanna looks back at this question and sees the fault in only criticising, in only wielding the sword to ideas. That if you don't give room for crazy, strange and heartfelt expression culture 'sours', it stagnates and has no room to grow. The passage reminded of Hunter S. Thompson's The Tide speech, in it's grand scope. Read both. Now.

Kindred Spirit:

If you liked, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4, you'll love this book.

In a Word:



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