Book Review: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

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‘That is the work of your teenage years – to build up and tear it down and build up again, over and over endlessly…’

I asked for How to Build a Girl for Christmas last year for two reasons: 1) the cover has Docs on – I literally only ever wear Docs ! And 2) a story based on teenage self discovery  is always a story that will intrigue me! Finally I got round to reading it and honestly I do not know how I feel about it.

Don’t get me wrong it is a good book; however I don’t necessarily think it was the book for me. If you were to ask my friends they’d tell you I’m that prim and proper young lady, so reading some of the… smutty content I was a bit taken back. I had expected some of these ‘mature themes’ because I had done my research on Moran but sometimes it felt like there wasn’t a chapter in which a vividly rude and sexual joke couldn’t be found multiple times. This also meant that I felt like I couldn’t  relate to her as well, which was emphasised by the references to the time which – although I found really interesting, like looking in a history textbook – I had no idea what the majority were.  Again I’m just going to say that this doesn’t make it a bad book – it’s just my own personal opinion and how my brain worked with the story.

The writing style was really good and appropriate to the story and setting – probably due to the fact Moran had grown up in a similar place! Part Three -Rip It Up and Start Again- I really enjoyed. In this final part our protagonist Johanna / Dolly decides who she really is and what she needs in order to be happy. It’s about how she learns from her mistakes and realises that she’s ‘built [her]self with the wrong things’ and attempts to make amends.  This part was just so good. It was moving and inspiring and awesome! In particular Chapter 24 – yes I know that it’s weird to be reviewing a chapter! Chapter 24 felt like a letter from Moran directly to me; a life lesson straight to me. Johanna / Dolly is reflecting on what it is to build a girl and how in your teenage years you’re supposed to re-invent yourself again and again until you just so happen to stumble upon the person that you’re meant to be. See, it is a very good chapter!

The character of Johanna / Dolly was definitely… illuminating. I wish we had spent more time with Johanna as she was very much overshadowed by her counterpart Dolly. The only times I was really fond of Dolly’s character was when she was with John Kite. They really did bring out the best in each other; it was almost like John was the door that Dolly could pass through to return to Johanna and when her character felt totally honest. Another character who I loved was Krissi – Johanna’s brother. He was so lovely and his relationship with his sister was the perfect balance of love and annoyance! I would have loved for him to have played a larger role in the story.   *SPOILER ALERT*  To anybody who has read this please can somebody tell me if I missed the part when we’re told Krissi is gay? I guessed that he was but there wasn’t really any obvious mention of it until the final chapter.

So overall, I have very mixed opinions on this book. If this is the sort of thing that you might like then I’m glad I have been of use! If it’s not, well I’m glad that I’ve been able to steer you away and hopefully onto a better book!

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