How To Build a Girl

Thoughts HtBaGbyCM How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran, Harper 2014, 352 pages

WHY I read this: I think it might have been on sale. I had it on my Kindle. Amazon tells me when but not how much I spent; the when was January of this year. When we took off for a long weekend to Kentucky, I realized that I hadn’t brought any other books with me besides Pet Sematary. Well. I had been limiting my reading to 30 pages per day of PS and the long car ride meant that I would have more time than book. So upon opening my Kindle app on the iPad, I saw How to Build a Girl. Perfect antidote to King, was my first thought.

Truthfully, I forget about books hiding in the eBook apparatuses.* They are so silent and unobtrusive. I had to move this book to last priority, though, when I realized a book club book that was SITTING in the OBVIOUS SPOT right on the stairs was jumping up and down screaming not to be forgotten like good little visible hard copy BookBooks tend to do (unlike eBooks which hide, do not jump up and down, nor scream.)

Initial CONFUSIONS: However, I was instantly confused because I had it in my head that this book was Moran’s memoir. Funny that the main character was named Johanna and more odd that it started with what it started with. I had to check goodreads to see what was the what. Yep, I had confused this novel with her How to Build a Woman book. Oops.

What It’s ABOUT: Johanna is a mere child with thoughts in her head most unlike any thoughts I had in my head at that age. Oh my. I liked her. I probably had the same tendency to talk too much and talk too much about myself but we did not have similar ideas about what we wanted when we grew up.

She is brave and fearful. She has a positive spirit. She is ambitious and naive (I was naive.) She manages to get a writing gig for a rock and roll magazine. She did things with no moral compass and yet her morality-humanity did suggest an extremely kind soul. Except when she was skewering bands she didn’t like. She was one big fierce imaginative force.

What’s GOOD: Many laugh out loud passages. Many keen observations about how life could/should be approached.

What’s NOT so good: The jarring switch in viewpoint from her teen self to her smarter older self, every so often.

FINAL Thoughts: The goodreads reviews that hated this are an interesting contrast to the ones that loved it. I just really liked Johanna, a refreshing bold new character to cheer for.

RATING: Four slices of Shepherd’s Pie.


“I’m going to need a bigger boat. This is my recurrent problem.”  p.75

“We must away, to pastures new.” also p.75

DODDLE – easy

SCALLY – a low life loser

Book Connection- Links to Dept. of Speculation!  “I resolve that for the rest of my life, at least once a day, I wil remember this. I think it must be most cheering thought I have ever had.” p.143 [Both books try to savor and file away a happy memory for possible reference at a later time as needed.]

Book Reference – Norwegian Wood (I have no idea nor do I think I want to know what this really was a reference to…) p.149

“I think I cry for at least half an hour – the kind of crying that is like rain where it starts without warning, and violently, but eases off into sudden rainbows, and blackbirds calling out in gratitude as they swoop across wet lawns. The weeping of relief.” p.154

“For someone who lives in a house without mirrors, seeing yourself talked about by others is exhilariing. I’d alwasy had a slight worry that I might not exist – that I was a very long dream I was having.”  p.207

“”I keep breaking penises,” I think to myself dolorously on the 37 heading toward Euston station.” p.239

SCOPEY – “I simply wept, exhaustedly, in the bath, feeling very, very scopey.” p.256

“Pain has made me older and wiser. Yesterday, when I found this house messy, I cleanedit from top to bottom, like a good girl. Today, they can all go fuck themselves. Housework is endless. I am never opting in again.” p. 258

“we are all breakable. So just be kind.” p.262

“This is the terrible thing about learning everything from books – sometimes you don’t know how to say the words.” p.289

“The point of life is joy – to make it, to receive it.” p.304

“Pig Pye (14th century): Flea Pyg and cut him in pieces. Practically nothing is wasted in a good pig. A pig killed in November would still provide fresh meat, brawn and pie until Christmas.” p.311

“There is a leaving party for me, at Uncle Jim’s house – “Because we’re not having a party here,” my mother says, firmly, dishing out shepherd’s pie in the front room.” p.326

* The interwebs are frowning on my plural use of apparatus. Nope, not apparati but pieces of apparatus. Whatever. My blog, my misuse of the English language. I own it.

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19 thoughts on “How To Build a Girl

  1. I’m not sure what I thought this book was about but I thought part of it had to do with drugs. No? I am really bad at knowing what books are about these days. I get lured in by the blurbs, receive the ARC or library book and then promptly forget what they are about.

    1. No, I wouldn’t say it is about drugs, though she has too casual an attitude about drugs and certainly about sex and the f-bombs fly pretty fast and furious. But it’s not dark, really. She is so damn precocious like a Bridget Jones from the projects who starts writing for a rock and roll magazine while she is barely 15. Sort of. No, maybe not. I found it hysterical.

  2. I have the same problem with ebooks. I wish they’d speak up a bit louder, because I’m sure I have a ton of gems buried in my e-reader patiently waiting for me.

    Scopey – I would never have thought that was the meaning!

    1. I have some GOOD ones. Maybe we should have an expose tell-all LIST of eBooks and PUT IT OUT THERE so we can be each other’s nudging push to read eBooks. OoooooOOOO! What if we have some of the same books?! wouldn’t that be crazy? (I’m sure we don’t. We don’t read similar stuff, usually. I really don’t have that many because I know of this problem and try not to order unless I know when I will read it.)

  3. I steered away from this one because it looks too much like her memoir. I couldn’t tell what she was trying to accomplish by having such similar titles and book covers. All I know is that I am not a fan and therefore won’t be reading it. Also, um, “breaking penises”? What. The. Fu…

  4. I loved Moran’s How to be a Woman but haven’t yet gotten to this one yet. I thought too initially that this was nonfiction but later found out that it is actually fiction. For some reason, that has me less eager to read this but Moran’s writing is pretty engaging so it’s hard to stay away from this book.

    1. I’m pretty sure that I was initially eager to read her NF and then saw this as a special price and confused them. Oh well. I’ll still read HtbaW someday.

  5. Golly, I had such mixed feelings about this one. It is actually supposed to be loosely based on Moran’s life. Which is pretty scary if this is even close to her life. Cuz, you know, that whole part where she ended up sitting in a bathtub, for example.

  6. jilllora

    How to Be a Woman is FUCKING AWESOME. (I’m desensitizing you, because it is full of bad words. If you think I’m bad, she’s 10 times worse.) But it is still hilarious and also moving. I listened to the audio, which she narrates, and again…FUCKING AWESOME. She is a brilliant narrator, and there are times when it is laugh out loud funny and times when your jaw will drop. She holds nothing back. Not sure I would ever listen to this with anyone else around, but despite that, it is my all time favorite memoir. (Actually, I’m not a big fan of memoirs, but this one certainly kicked Tina Fey’s ass. Or her memoir’s ass. Whatever.) Having said all that, I’m not sure I want to read her fiction, because I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed.

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