Sometimes in life you come across a novel which leaves you not quite the same as you were before. They inspire, educate, humour or sadden us by delivering a clever storyline, loveable characters or unique concept. Iv’e come across a few books that suit this agenda in my time, and “How to build a girl”, a hilarious and outrageous coming of age novel, is one of them. It’s silly, its rude and its a downright triumph for girls struggling with their identity.
From the outset, the shocking blurb “My name’s Johanna Morrigan. I’m fourteen, and I’ve just decided to kill myself.” had me gripped, intrigued and questioning what exactly I was about to read. This book is actually about metaphorical killing – I know right, I was confused too – of a teenage girl who realises that she needs to make drastic changes to the core of ‘who she is.’
So that’s the basic plot; a self proclaimed fat girl from uninspiring Wolverhampton during the 90’s, who makes her, somewhat infamous name in the journalistic world. All whilst failing to recognise her brother is gay. Brilliant.
I often read the first page of a book whilst standing in the shop to decide if I will reach deep into my pockets and purchase it. If you do this too, let me just invite you to explore this book’s first page. It involves masturbation, an innocently unaware 6 year old, the Berlin wall and the word cock. If that isn’t enough to make you want to read on, I do not know what is.
Moran nails the conversational, hyperactive writing style with magical flair which transports the chain-smoking top-hat-wearing Johanna into a real life human-being into glorious shape in your minds eye.
This isn’t the first coming of age novel and certainly is not the last, yet this is quite possibly the first with a protagonist who describes herself as a “lady sex adventuress” who wants to shag until the cows come home. During a particular exciting and turbulent time for feminism, Moran brought her own “I’m a friendly, noble, massive slag” threesome instigating cake to the table.
If genitalia isn’t really your thing, do not despair, this book has everything to offer from a hopeless crush, music, bad drugs, great music and acting like scooby-doo on live television. Every single page will make you smile, cry, cringe or think- sometimes all at once- with a few beautifully crafter sentences.
I expect only greater things from Caitlin Moran.