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How to Build a Girl

(How to Build a Girl #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  32,562 ratings  ·  3,499 reviews
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 heroes—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 an
ebook, 368 pages
Published September 23rd 2014 by Harper
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Gabi Coatsworth Lupin is the name of the son in a Victorian comic novel called The Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith. Lupin is engaged to a girl benea…moreLupin is the name of the son in a Victorian comic novel called The Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith. Lupin is engaged to a girl beneath his station (which isn't actually very high) which is causing his parents considerable concern. Such was life...(less)
Jess Parsons It's not dissimilar to Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole books which I read when I was about 10. Anything your daughter doesn't understand will go right over…moreIt's not dissimilar to Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole books which I read when I was about 10. Anything your daughter doesn't understand will go right over her head, and anything she does understand will enlighten her. Better her learning about life and female sexuality from a feminist like Caitlin Moran than any influence she'll be exposed to on the playground or in the media.(less)

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Amy Laurens
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I like to imagine, sometimes, that Caitlin Moran is my friend. We have such fun together in my head! You would love hanging with us. Shopping for orthopaedic boots, listening to shoegaze, and cackling like fishwives. We share stories about our fat, unpopular, wannabe-indie childhoods. We have loads to talk about. I love to hear her anecdotes! My friend Caitlin is proper funny.

We talk a lot--Caitlin is a talker--and after a while I start to notice that I'm hearing a lot of her anecdotes more tha
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
In How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran has created one of the funniest, most genuine and vivid characters I've read in a long time. Johanna Morrigan is witty, insecure and delightfully crass. And her story—that of a day-dreaming young girl growing up poor in 1990's Wolverhamption (which I can only assume equates to the British suburbs) who aspires to music journalism fame by reinventing herself as 'Dolly Wilde' after a disaster on live TV—is charming and incredibly relatable. Johanna goes through ...more
J.L.   Sutton
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
In trying to figure out why Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl reminded me of The Bell Jar, for me it came down to how raw emotion set the tone as well as smart heroines on a collision course with a future they had hoped to control. In How to Build a Girl, Johanna self-consciously invents a new and crazy personality for herself complete with a new name, Dolly Wilde. Dolly is a self-styled writer, Goth girl, partier and sex adventurer. This was a darkly funny and compelling story. Though it's al ...more
May 31, 2021 rated it liked it
Quirky, promiscuous, coming of age and discovery of herself. Johanna wants to grow up now- so at 16 she quits school to become a musical journalist. 🤔 While I found her to be witty and entertaining, the graphic details of her ‘self pleasure’ was awkwardly uncomfortable to read. 😬 There were parts of her journey and experiences that had me rooting for her… but other times it was just depressing. So, this is right down the middle for me. 😉
Kara Babcock
Second reading: December 15 to 16, 2016

This was the (viewer-selected!) December book for the Banging Book Club. I read this over two years ago (God, where does the time go?) but decided to re-read it. I do not regret this decision. It’s even better than I remember.

I’m actually pretty happy with my review below, and it is long, so I won’t add much. But as much as this book is about sex (hence its pick for the club), it is also about growing up, about being poor, about being a woman, about finding
Jul 23, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
How to Build a Girl is a story of a teenage girl, Johanna Morrigan, who lives with her family in an over crowed home of 7 in a community estate, Wolverhampton England in the 1990’s. Johanna lives on hand-me-downs, she is badly dressed, over weight and tends to talk too much and is not happy how her teenage life is working out. After she humiliated herself on national TV, Johanna decided to re-invent herself to Dolly Wilde; outspoken, free spirited gothic babe and a pop-music review critic to be ...more
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to hug this book and carry it around with me forever like a security blanket.
There is one sacrilege, one crime, one unforgivable misdeed that a book can commit against a reader that will define its days forevermore, and that is being too short for its own good.

In this case, that's not because I was so fully enjoying the story that I couldn't bear it to end, but rather because I'd packed it thinking it'd take me a few hours to finish and it very much did not and then I was left alone with my thoughts for the remaining hours I had intended to fill by reading, and been so o
Aaaa! It's been over a week since I finished this one, and I'm still wavering - three or four stars?

On the one hand, Caitlin Moran is kind of my sister from another mister. How can I even consider giving her anything less than four stars? Well, it's just that this book is pretty much a young adult, fictionalized version of How to Be a Woman. Here we have 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan, growing up with many siblings in a cramped household in a working class neighborhood; a girl who dreams big, gets
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyway. Yadda yadda yadda. The bottom line is, I wank a lot thinking about medieval demons.

I have given up trying to understand people who don't like Caitlin Moran as much as I do; now I just put my head on one side and look at them with a little frown, wondering where things went wrong. I picked this one off a friend's bookshelf during a social occasion and started browsing the opening idly, but I was soon laughing so uncontrollably that the whole evening devolved into me just reading bits out
3.5 stars - Spoilers

Entertaining in a vulgar, rude and very British way.

-There was a lot to love in this and a fair amount to dislike too (such as the repetitiveness and at times spineless heroine). For the most part I thoroughly enjoyed Johanna's adventures and musings but on occasion she really frustrated me. She was funny and easy to root for, especially when she was around her family and trying to make it as a music journalist by faking a whole persona. But there was also a number of times
Elyse  Walters
Oct 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This novel started out as a 'sauna' read --(a side book). I got hooked -- "How To Build a Girl" became 'THE' book I was reading.

After humiliating herself on local television, 14 year old Johanna transforms herself into Dolly Wilde,
a cooler-than-cool music reviewer who's big into sex, drugs, and rock and roll. All is well until Johanna starts to loose herself in her alter ego, at which point she questions where she ends and Dolly begins.

This is a laugh outloud roller coaster ride through the bes
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
I enjoyed this more than I expected to, and to be honest, it was a welcome surprise. Caitlin Morgan has succeeded in writing a hilarious, but emotionally charged book about an adolescent girl, and in some ways, I felt I could relate to this girl.

I thought it was refreshing to read about a girl that struggled, went through various hardships, and then finally, after a lot of pain, she made it on her own. I think the rawness and honesty made this book so much better than your average coming of age
Sarah Churchill
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Absolutely adored it. Hilarious and dark, 'shocking' and honest.

Lots of sexual content, strong language and a scene with self harm. So, you know, you've been warned.
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. It was as if Caitlin Moran had read my teenage diary and wrote it all out for me. Her writing perfectly captured that of a teen and managed to transport me back into my 14 year old self, insecure but eager to tackle the world, believing I knew it all when I really knew nothing and reminding me of all the mistakes I made along the road to discovering myself. Reading this was like therapy, realizing all those mistakes in life weren't made for nothing but were essential in me "bu ...more
[My copy of this book was an uncorrected proof, provided to me gratis by the publisher, HarperColins, facilitated in this act of goodness by Edelweiss. I think this makes me a pawn of Murdoch now.]

From the outside, Caitlin Moran can look a bit like a one-trick pony. Although she's been a journalist and Times columnist for many years, she had massive success a couple of years ago with her memoir/feminist treatise How To Be A Woman which contained many amusing tales about her poor Wolverhampton c
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The bits about masturbation and sex are funny, and there are some true, helpful, and new insights into what it's like to be a teenage girl, but this book is a complete mess. The narrator's voice shifts all over the place, without warning, and seemingly by accident--sometimes she's a teenager, sometimes she's an adult looking back on her teenage years. We're told that the protagonist is awkward and insecure, but she talks like a witty 40-something writer dashing off one-liners in her office. Ther ...more
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
As I wirte this review, I feel like cynical Dolly writing hers, only I'm less talented in the art of bashing people (also in writing in general).
I went into this expecting something like How To Be A Woman, a feminist memoir on how to raise your daughter or be a teenager. Yes, it was entirely my fault that I did not look up what this was about, but my expectations ruined the reading experience for me.
How To Build A Girl is, and at the same time isn't, the exact same as Morans other book. While th
Jessica Jeffers
I feel like the world's biggest asshole sometimes. I so badly want to love everthing that Caitlin Moran does, but her stuff never seems to click with me.

This is a novel that feel very autobiographical, about a fourteen-year-old girl whose family struggles to make ends meet in Wolverhampton, England. Johanna's chubby, awkward, and socially clueless. After embarrassing herself on local television, Johanna decides to re-invent herself. She becomes a music critic for a London magazine under the pse
This was such a funny and gritty coming-of-age story about a girl who decides to reinvent herself, takes on another persona and starts working at a music magazine when she's just fifteen. I didn't get half of the references to the music scene of 1990s England, but that didn't really bother me and overall I really enjoyed the process of reading this. (Beware though, there's lots and lots of sexual content in this book, so maybe don't pick it up if you're very young or just don't like reading abou ...more
I'm having many mixed feelings about this book. So I'm rating it 3 and a half starts, and I might round it up to 4.

Johanna Morrigan is a teenager growing up in the 90's, in a shitty little town in the north of England. Her dad is a failed musician who lives off an old disability pension, her mom is going through post-partum depression and her siblings are running wild. She is awkward, bookish, chubby and completely obsessed with sex - or at least the idea of it. Tired of what she perceives as a
Julie Ehlers
I acknowledge that this novel is not perfectly written--as other reviewers have noted, the POV switches from teenage Johanna to older Johanna looking back were sometimes jarring. But I don't care. I thought this book was hilarious and so entertaining. It was also great to read about a teenage girl who really didn't have it all together, but was smart and eventually able to succeed on her own terms. This isn't a YA book, but I wish I had had it when I was a kid and was spending my time reading th ...more
Jonathan Peto
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
During the first 50 pages or so, I developed buyer's remorse. Not a painful, howl at the moon remorse, but a vibe. The story had its moments, including some excellent observations, an often interesting, amusing, vulnerable fourteen year old narrator who was growing on me, but some of the events, the way it rolled out, had bursts of tedium and I suspected they might grow and get worse. They did, in a way, near the very end, but for me, maybe because I've never read anything else by Caitlin Moran ...more
3.5 stars.

I debated whether to give this 3 or 3.5 stars, and finally settled on 3.5 stars because it did make me chuckle throughout. Caitlin Moran has a very specific style of humour which is all her - I think I'd recognise her writing a mile off, even if I hadn't been explicitly told it was her work.

The story follows Johanna Morrigan, who at the start of the story is 14 and desperate to shed her old skin and 'build a new girl' - Dolly Wilde. She sets out to become a music journalist, in order t
The Bursting Bookshelf of a Wallflower
3.5 stars!

All About A Girl by Caitlin Moran came as a really nice surprise. I’m usually not at all into the genre of humorous coming of age stories and after reading the blurb I wasn’t sure if I might like this story or not. Considering the fact that I was at a flea market and that the book was really cheap, I decided to give it a try. And I’m happy that I did, I really enjoyed this one.

Growing up in an area of social housing in Wolverhampton, Johanna Morrigans is an unsecure and awkward teen
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Brilliant, filthy, effing HILARIOUS, and required reading for aaaaall the ladies, and all the men I'd want to hang out with. (I made my boyfriend read it as soon as I was done, because I'd already read half the thing out loud to him in between uncontrollable bouts of LOL'ing.)

I love Dolly Wilde. I love Caitlin Moran. Read this book if you like laughing, or coming of age stories, or girls, or boys, or sex, or music, or...what else is there? Ice-cream sundaes. Read it.

And try to set aside those id
Amanda Bannister
3.5⭐️ I didn’t love this, but there were some great lines in here for me and I found some parts really hit the nail on the head!
Jun 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-read
I wasn’t really sure how to rate this as the book has left me confused to whether I liked it or not.

This is a novel about a fourteen year old girl who decides she wants to become a writer and feels that in order to become a successful writer she much first change herself and leave behind the old her, who makes a fool of herself in every situation and is over looked (due to coming from a big family, behind. When I read the blurb it sounded like it was going to be a novel about a teenage girl suff
Kathie Giorgio
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
This was a really interesting experience. Right before reading, "How To Build A Girl", I read Amy Bloom's "Lucky Us". That book had a lot of reviews that claimed it started really well, but then just petered out. This book, "How To Build A Girl", had such rave reviews that I bought it even though I hadn't read the author before.

Well, when I read "Lucky Us", I found that it did start really well...but contrary to the reviews, it kept my interest all the way through to the end.

"How To Build A Girl
Jan 13, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled across this book while trolling my library sites for audio books. It looked good so I put my name down on the request list, I figured it had to be good with 4 people ahead of me.

As the book opened I had my doubts, I'm not a prude by any means, but this teen talking about masturbating in bed while her 6 year old brother was asleep next to her made me do a double take and look at my ipod. My mouth fell open as she talked about how her brother would want her to do this because it would m
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Caitlin Moran had literally no friends in 1990, and so had plenty of time to write her first novel, The Chronicles of Narmo, at the age of fifteen. At sixteen she joined music weekly, Melody Maker, and at eighteen briefly presented the pop show 'Naked City' on Channel 4. Following this precocious start she then put in eighteen solid years as a columnist on The Times – both as a TV critic and also ...more

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