A few nights ago I finished How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran.
Whenever someone would see me reading this book in between classes, they would always ask what it’s about. And I would always reply, “It’s about a girl, named Johanna, who’s growing up in Wolverhampton. It’s basically a fictitious novel highlighting the trials and tribulations of being a girl and discovering who you are.” That, in a nutshell, is how I would summarize this book.
In this story, Johanna grows up as a member of the lower-class. Her father is on disability and I’m not quite sure what the mother does (if they talk about it, I must have simply forgotten), but what I love about this story is that the parents aren’t framed as “the bad guys.” Surely they each have their faults, but in many ways, they are great parents. I appreciated the fact that Caitlin Moran didn’t create a hero/villain dynamic between Johanna and her parents simply because her family didn’t have a lot of money. At first, I thought that that was where the story was headed, but it didn’t, thankfully. One’s life doesn’t have to be the worst in the world in order for them to celebrate their successes in the future. This is the way I feel about Johanna. I’m proud of her, it is clear that in many ways her parents are proud of her, and it is because she worked hard, made mistakes, and learned from them, not simply because she went on to have a successful career.
I love Johanna’s relationship with her brother, Krissi. I think they have a really great dynamic and I loved all of their scenes together, especially the scene in which they talk about sex. It’s hilarious, and somehow charming. I also loved the fact that their parents allowed Krissi to move his bedroom into the rarely used dining room and I also love the reason why (lol).
All in all, if you can’t tell already, I greatly enjoyed reading this book. Johanna had me laughing, and, at times, cringing, but that’s what makes this book so lovely. Johanna’s character is probably the polar opposite of who I was growing up, with the exception of loving and quoting the musical Annie, but I truly enjoyed reading her story. I felt as if I witnessed and experienced so much of her life with her. I watched her transformation from the Scooby-Doo impersonating Johanna Morrigan to the wild and harsh music critic Dolly Wilde. I felt a bond with her and I was sad when I stumbled upon the utter realization that my time with her was almost over. I highly recommend How to Build a Girl and I can’t wait to read Moran’s other novel, How to Be a Woman.