How to Build A Girl

How to Build A Girl

Book - 2014
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After she shames herself on local television, Johanna Morgan reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde--a fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero--until two years later, while eviscerating bands as a music critic, she realizes she's built Dolly with a fatal flaw.
Publisher: Toronto :, HarperCollins Canada, 2014.
ISBN: 9780062335975
Branch Call Number: FIC MORA
Characteristics: 341 pages ; 24 cm


From the critics

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Sep 05, 2019

This. Is. My. Favorite. Book. It’s my favorite story to come back to. How many times have we followed the story of a young, chubby, over- thinking smart girl who is self conscious but doesn’t let that get in the way of her sexual aspirations?! Not enough times. This book is sweet, thoughtful and hilarious. It balances the neurotic thinking with thoughtful and loving introspection, it reads like a grown , self-possessed woman giving love and support, cheering on her younger self and loving her through the hard times. I love this book.

Nov 04, 2017

Objectively, this book was quite good. It was chatty and the main character was quite endearing. It reads like it could be an autobiography (though Moran says that it's not), particularly given a few "truth is often stranger than fiction" events that I have a hard time believing weren't at least inspired by real-life events (though not necessarily hers).

But I don't know that I actually enjoyed reading it. It was so very very very obsessed with sex, and I was more interested in the secondary theme of poverty. And, honestly, opening with a 14 year old girl masturbating in bed while her younger brother is also in the bed, did not give a positive first impression. (The character is not remotely aroused by her brother's presence and realizes the ickiness of that whole situation. And the scene certainly does a good job of establishing her situation - but I still don't know that it's something I particularly wanted to read.)

I only read it because it was for book club. I never would have chosen it myself. I do think it was worth reading though - if only because it was so different from what I would usually choose to read. But there's a definite "ick" factor if you stop and realize that there is definitely statutory rape happening - despite the fact that the heroine thinks she's mature enough and never once considers that to be an issue. Which may well be on purpose - or even the point. The sex itself is not particularly graphic; you know it's happening and there are very direct references but there aren't long sex scenes or anything like that.

Jun 02, 2017

Great read, I'll be reading everything this author writes.

Apr 03, 2017

This was the funniest book I've read in ages. Captures the inner workings of a girl coming of age in the 90s in a delightful way. Caitlin Moran is unapologetically lusty, bracingly honest, and hilarious.

Jun 04, 2016

Younger person would probably give this 5 stars. Entertaining

Jun 01, 2016

A female version of Portnoy's Complaint with 90s British indie punk/rock. An amazingly hilarious book, one of the best laugh-out-loud reads in a long, long time.

Also, this book is so chock-full of laugh-out-loud quotations, my copy is dog-eared to destruction and almost completely highlighted.

Sensitive readers be warned: this book is an unapologetic, foul-mouthed, no-holds-barred story about a girl obsessed with losing her virginity and reinventing herself as a "cool kid". While very funny and full of great 90s music references, it was not a book that I could finish. Apparently, if I had read Caitlin Moran's book How To Be A Woman, I would have known what I was getting myself into. I skipped to the end on this one.

Nov 04, 2015

Unfortunately I've been reading these backwards - having read this semi-fictional account of "Dolly Wilde" before reading Moran's other books, which are more transparently about herself. The problem here is that some of the jokes are repeated - which feels kind of strange. However - I found this novel more poignant and more funny than the previous two books - perhaps the distance between Moran and the character allowed it to feel more authentic/less self conscious? Anyways - I laughed out loud many many times at this book, and many different parts felt true and thought-provoking, almost cathartic.
Wish the end hadn't been wrapped up so quickly - but overall, love the voice of this book, a quick and fun (but not stupid) read.

PrimaGigi Jul 19, 2015

Caitlin Moran has written about her life again; an abridged and adapted version. In varying degrees and shades of black and gray. Johanna Morrigan has elements of Caitlin Moran from trying to be a music reviewer. I really dislike Johanna, she's insufferable and rather stupid. I also find the dialogue more adult trying to still remain adolescent. I was thrown by Lena Dunham as a soundbite on the cover and a 14-year-old masturbating with her brother in the bed. Hindsight is twenty-twenty when Lena has been accused of abuse, because of this and it's rather disturbing that you masturbate with your younger siblings in the same bed as you. Go to the bathroom, ladies. The story has it's highlights, but peters out during the middle, which goes on about the socio-economic plight of Johanna's mistake to confide in someone. Is it about music or the issues that the rest of the world is facing in clothing, housing and feeding their poor?

What Caitlin has written, is nostalgia. The music is what I connect with in this book as much as teenage girl trying to find casting her net out for tribe does. It brings me back to finding out about Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, and Yeah Yeah Yeah's. Mixing them into a Feminist cocktail with the likes of Bikini Kill; being in love with outrageous, Goddess, Courtney Love. It brought me back to 160 minutes and K-Rock. Rummaging through music magazines for the loudest, most authentic, lyrically-astounding bands I could remember the names of. Going to the record stores in Pennsylvania, during the summer with my grandparents. Making lists of bands I should know of and be versed in. I probably sound like the worst pretentious hipster. So fucking what. I was my most happiest, my most authentic self looking for those bands. I still do this to this day, look for music checking the list of new music and bands that come out yearly. If you read this book, read it for the nostalgia. Of when music was the deepest form of expression in our youth. Where your first love will always be the music.

Elyse8 Jul 02, 2015

Raunchy, rude and Really hilarious. I actually laughed out loud.

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Jane Dough
Jul 09, 2019

Because what you are, as a teenager, is a small, silver, empty rocket. And you use loud music as fuel, and then the information in books as maps and coordinates, to tell you where you’re going.

Nov 17, 2016

He seemed to find my innocence joyous. I can’t imagine telling anyone else. Other people seem to find my inexperience a liability.

Nov 17, 2016

I applaud your fucking brightness. The thing is, when you start smoking, you think you’ve bought a fun baby dragon. You think you’ve charmed a fabulous beast, as your toy, that will impress all that see it. And then, twenty years later, you wake up with your lungs full of cinder and shite, and the bed on fire, and you realize the dragon grew up---and burned your fucking house down.

Nov 17, 2016

Ever so often I would look up and see us reflected in the mirror, under the low golden pub lamps, as the fog curled wetly outside the window, and it was the happiest picture of me never taken.

Jun 01, 2016

"[M]y understanding about men eating women out is that the rules are a bit like the Prime Directive in Star Trek. You know--where the crew of the Enterprise are forbidden from telling other, more primitive cultures about astonishing and enjoyable technological advances on other planets."


Add Age Suitability
Oct 18, 2018

CarrionLibrarian thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

multcolib_lauralw Jun 10, 2014

multcolib_lauralw thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


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ArapahoeSusanW Oct 06, 2016

Raucous, profane British fiction set in the world of rock n roll with a surprisingly heartwarming ending.

AnneDromeda Nov 10, 2014

Time, now, for your librarian to admit a bias: If Caitlin Moran releases a book, I put a hold on it to see about giving it a review. I can’t help myself – I love her infectious, positive, raucous energy, and I want everyone to know it’s out there for you to hold.

If you enjoyed *Moranthology*, or her previous book *How to Be a Woman*, chances are strong you’ll love *How to Build a Girl*, too. Although *How to Build a Girl* is a work of fiction, it’s just as punk rock as anything she’s written before.

Protagonist Dolly Wilde has a lot in common with Moran – she comes of age overweight and poor, living in subsidized housing in the post-industrial wasteland of Wolverhampton, UK. Like Moran, she finds a ticket out by becoming a clever music columnist for an indie music weekly in the 90s. Also like Moran, she finds freedom in going on “lady sex adventures” and generally behaving like all the boys in her field, steadfastly trying to ignore the scurrilous judgment that comes when a girl adopts that lifestyle. So. This book may not be for everyone. If you like a nice, gentle read, you should back away now.

That said, if this book is for you, it’s really for you. Dolly’s struggles to create herself in a male-dominated field and world will ring true to any woman with a wild side who’s just trying to have as much fun as the boys. Moran’s prose doesn’t dwell on the injustice, though, so much as celebrate the attempts to circumvent it. It also lavishly celebrates the 90s, revelling in Britpop, grunge, Riot Grrrls and zine culture. For any woman who wants to relive the 90s as a lady rock critic underdog who takes on the boys and wins while having all the fun, your chance has arrived. I suggest you take it.


Add Notices
ArapahoeSusanW Oct 06, 2016

Sexual Content: Masturbation, promiscuity

ArapahoeSusanW Oct 06, 2016

Coarse Language: Salty, British street language

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