How to Build a Girl

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

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I loved Caitlin Moran’s manifesto How to Be a Woman, so when I heard she’d written a novel I was excited to read it. It’s kind of autobiographical: a poor teen girl in government housing in the early-to-mid nineties begins writing for a music magazine. Johanna Morrigan’s first person narration drives the novel; her voice is hilarious, reminding me of a slightly more grown-up and dirty version of Georgia Nicolson from Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging. She’s absurd and hilarious and self-effacing and clueless and you can’t help but root for her. There’s a lot of sex, and Johanna has some unhealthy relationships and lets herself be used for a while until she figures out what she wants in bed and in a relationship. The book ends with an inspiring manifesto against cynicism, which is awesome because manifestos seem to be what Caitlin Moran does best. Though she’s known for journalism and memoir, Moran shows here that she can certainly do fiction too. Her characters and scenes are totally believable, a bit gritty, sometimes with an edge of pathos or tragedy, and most of all great fun. I was even impressed by a revelation at the end that provided a nice twist.

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