BOOK REVIEW: CAITLIN MORAN – HOW TO BUILD A GIRL

*Just a gentle note, this review may contain spoilers you might want to avoid*

I’ve had this book for ages and ages. I’ve started it but for some reason, I haven’t finished it. I’m a huge fan of Caitlin’s writing, I love her non-fiction books and it’s the same with her works of fiction, too. Her writing voice is so strong and vivid, and distinctive to who she is. So, what’s the book about? This is the blurb:

My name’s Johanna Morrigan. I’m fourteen, and I’ve just decided to kill myself. 

I don’t really want to die, of course! I just need to kill the old me, and build a new girl. Dolly Wilde will be everything I want to be, and more! But as with all the best coming-of-age stories, it doesn’t exactly go to plan…

I’ve been frantically trying to finish this book before the sequel (How to Be Famous) comes out this Thursday. This book has been talked a lot recently with the news of it being made into a movie with Bernie Feldstein playing the lead role alongside Alfie Allen as John Kite. Very exciting!

I fell in love with this book, as I said, I’m a huge fan of Caitlin’s writing and her voice is so distinctive, and that carries across with this book. The Wolverhampton accent, especially. The characters are so vivid and real that they bounce off the page, especially Johanna’s father. The character of Johanna is so cleverly written and created, you can really see the thought and dedication Moran has poured into the character – pardon the pun, but how she built this girl. This is exactly what we want as the hero of a story, especially a coming-of-age story, we want to feel every emotion from her, we want to cheer her on, scream at her when she does something, everything. She’s so cleverly written and makes you feel all sorts of emotions.

I love the idea of Johanna ‘killing’ herself and creating a new identity as Dolly Wilde. Reinventing oneself is a key theme in the novel, something that all teenagers go through and I thought this was well written. To me, this is the most relatable thing about this book. As teenagers, we are constantly playing with our identity, arguing with our families, exploring who we are and that’s the thing – through Dolly Wilde, Johanna sees that these identity issues are just part of growing up, figuring out who we are. This can even be seen with her father who’s still adamant of making it big in the music industry. This can also be seen with her older brother, Krissi, who’s my favourite character. I just loved the character of Krissi, I felt that he was the most relatable to me personally and I just adored his relationship with Johanna. It’s as though, through Johanna as Dolly Wilde, everyone else is forced to grow up a little.

There’s also other big and important themes in the novel. From poverty, class wars and politics among other things. There’s a big social message in the novel. Caitlin is so good and engaging in terms of politics, especially championing the working class. I loved this quote:

Politics will always mean more to the poor. Always. That’s why we strike and march, and despair when our young say they won’t vote. That’s why the poor are seen as more vital, and animalistic. No classical music for us – no walking around National Trust properties, or buying reclaimed flooring. We don’t have nostalgia. We don’t do yesterday. We can’t bear it. We don’t want to be reminded of our past, because it was awful: dying in mines, and slums, without literacy, or the vote. Without dignity. It was all so desperate, then. That’s why the present and the future is for the poor – that’s the place in time for us: surviving now, hoping for better, later. We live now – for our instant, hot, fast treats, to pep us up: sugar, a cigarette, a new fast song on the radio. You must never, never forget, when you talk to someone poor, that it takes ten times the effort to get anywhere from a bad postcode. It’s a miracle when someone from a bad postcode gets anywhere, son. A miracle they do anything at all.

This is a great book that I think would be a great reader for people who grew up in the 90’s in the Midlands, or fans of British music history. It’s a novel about family, sticking together, working together, growing up, making mistakes, learning from them, accepting who we are. Moran has created an engaging, fantastic world that just bounces off the page with glorious and lyrical prose. I loved this quote, too:

Sometimes, love is silent. Sometimes, love just stands there when you’re calling it a cunt, biting its tongue, and waiting.

I can’t wait to see this novel on the big-screen as it’s just so wonderfully written that it just translates to the screen seamlessly. And I’m so excited to grab a copy of the second book, How to Be Famous, and of course, I’ll review it for the blog, too.

Have you read How to Build A Girl? What did you think of it? Are you excited for the movie and the sequel? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks,

Corey.

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