Review: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Meet Johanna Morrigan, an embarrassment unto herself and her family. It's time for Johanna to die. Not literally of course. She must die so a that new girl can be built, rising from the ashes of her former self.

Meet Dolly Wilde, a wild child music critic renowned for her devil-may-care attitude, her scathing reviews, and her trademark top hat. At sixteen years old she is a smoking, drinking 'Lady Sex Adventurer', determined to save her family from financial ruin and make a name for herself in the process. But as her exploits gets wilder and her reputation gets worse, Dolly starts to doubt herself. Is this really the kind of girl that she wants to be? Or is it time to tear herself down and start again?

I was lucky enough to see Caitlin Moran at Cheltenham Literature Festival this year (free front row tickets - being a volunteer certainly has its perks!) and she was just hilarious. Since then I have been desperate to get my hands on her debut novel, and I wasn't disappointed.

I'll start  by saying that this isn't a book for the faint hearted. There's lots of swearing, explicit yet hilarious descriptions of sex, and a scene of self harm. But please don't let that put you off - I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Moran is a brilliant writer. For a first novel I was very impressed, and I just loved her writing style - it's almost poetic in places - and this is what sold the story to me.

Johanna/Dolly is a fantastic character, and I would love one day to find out what happens in the next chapter of her life. I could relate to her - I, too, learnt almost everything I know from books - and although my goth phase was never quite that extreme I still saw parallels between her story and my own teenage years. Aside from Johanna, her elder brother Krissi was my favourite character, and I like to think that he stayed in London permanently with Johanna after the story ended and that they took on the world together.

Caitlin demonstrates an incredibly well observed insight into the teenage mindset - with all the turbulence, uncertainly and raging hormones. The point is stressed that the novel is entirely fictional, but given the parallels with Moran's own background I can't help but wonder if there is an element of autobiography to it - it's easy to write about what you know well. It's an easy read, and I raced through it in a couple of days.

4/5 stars: Described as 'The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease,How to Build a Girl is rude, daring, and laugh out loud funny. Highly recommended.


  1. I've heard mixed reviews about this, but I think you've convinced me to pick it up :)
    Cora @ Tea Party Princess


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