After humiliating herself badly on local TV, 14-year-
old Johanna Morrigan has no choice but to stop being
Johanna Morrigan. She invents Dolly Wilde, a hard
drinking, fast-talking, Goth Girl and Lady Sex
Adventurer. By sixteen she's smoking, getting drunk,
working for a music paper, and dropping out of school.
Who has time for school when the real world has
already opened its arms and pulled you through? But
what if she's built Dolly Wilde with a fatal flaw?
What if she doesn't want to be Dolly forever? Can she
ever go back to being Johanna?
HOW TO BUILD A GIRL by Caitlin Moran dredges up the
absolute misery of being an overweight teenage girl.
There are moments of acute embarrassment so painful I
almost had to stop reading. Almost. Even while I
cringed on the inside, I had one hand over my mouth
because I was laughing so hard my husband kept giving
me worried looks. Johanna "Dolly Wilde" is, without a
doubt, one of my favorite characters. She's self-
destructive, smart, insecure, talented, and
passionate. Many have experienced that moment when we
wished we could be anyone but ourselves, but Johanna
doesn't just wish, she completely re-invents herself.
She's relentless in her quest to be someone else,
someone people remember, who they talk about, who
people want to know.
After the laughter subsides, you really begin to
appreciate Caitlin Moran's skill as a writer. She is
absolutely hilarious, but more than that she's written
a thought-provoking novel that touches on the
universal theme of self-discovery? Can a person re-
invent herself? Can she be someone else? Or is the
person she was always lurking under the new exterior?
The biggest question, for me, was is it re-invention
at all? Is there already a kernel of that other
persona inside? The wonderful thing about HOW TO BUILD
A GIRL is that the answers are there, but every reader
will find what they need from the story. There is
depth to this story that will let you come back to it
again and again, always finding a new truth about
HOW TO BUILD A GIRL will appeal to a wide audience
because it's not just about one teen girl's struggle
to re-invent herself into a Lady Sex Adventurer. It's
the story of hope and heartbreak we each faced or will
face to discover who we are. It's about not giving up
even at our worst moment and it's about our surprising
ability to change.
All seriousness aside, HOW TO BUILD A GIRL is
truly laugh-out-loud funny. I laughed so hard in
Chapter 20 I cried, and then I tried to read it to my
husband but couldn't stop laughing long enough to get
through a paragraph. Johanna/Dolly's voice is sharply
witty, crass, and absolutely perfect. This is without
a doubt one of the funniest and delightfully well-
written novels I've read this year. You really should
read HOW TO BUILD A GIRL. You'll laugh until you can't
see the words straight, cringe in humiliation
alongside Johanna, and read the final page with a
smile and a sense of regret because the story had to
The New York Times bestselling author hailed "the UK's
answer to Tina Fey,
Chelsea Handler, and Lena Dunham all rolled into one"¯
(Marie Claire) makes
her fiction debut with a hilarious yet deeply moving
coming of age novel.
What do you do in your teenage years when you realize
what your parents
taught you wasn't enough? You must go out and find books
and poetry and pop
songs and bad heroe...and build yourself.
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 and
reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde--fast-talking, hard-
drinking Gothic hero
and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her
Bohemian family by becoming a writer--like Jo in Little
Women, or the
Bröntes --but without the dying young bit.
By sixteen, 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 kinds of men, and eviscerating
bands in reviews of 600
words or less. But what happens when Johanna realizes
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?
Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease. How to
Build a Girl is a
funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of
invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.