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How to Build a Girl [Hardcover]

Caitlin Moran
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
Price: 8.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

3 July 2014

What do you do in your teenage years when you realise 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, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there's no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde - fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer - like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes - but without the dying young bit.

By 16, she's smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She's writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realises she's built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease, with a soundtrack by My Bloody Valentine and Happy Mondays. As beautiful as it is funny, How To Build a Girl is a brilliant coming-of-age novel in DMs and ripped tights, that captures perfectly the terror and joy of trying to discover exactly who it is you are going to be.

Frequently Bought Together

How to Build a Girl + How To Be a Woman + Moranthology
Price For All Three: 18.15

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  • How To Be a Woman 3.86
  • Moranthology 6.29

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press (Fiction) (3 July 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0091949009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091949006
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.4 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Brilliantly observed, thrillingly rude and laugh-out-loud funny" (Helen Fielding)

"I have so much love for Caitlin Moran" (Lena Dunham)

"Binge-read all of #HowToBuildAGirl in one sitting. Even missed supper. A first" (Nigella Lawson)

"spirited coming of age novel romps from strength to strength.I'm a Moran fan" (Lionel Shriver The Times)

"She writes with breathtaking brio.Moran shows her shining soul - which is even more remarkable than her wit - when she writes about being young, looking for love and the utter vileness of the class system . . .almost every page has something on it which makes you smile, makes you sad or makes you think - often all three at once, in one sentence" (Julie Burchill The Spectator)

Book Description

The number 1 Sunday Times bestseller, the debut grown-up novel from Caitlin Moran, bestselling author of How To Be A Woman.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars You've read it already....... 8 July 2014
.....only with different names. This is basically How To Be a Woman all over again, only the heroine's surname is Morrigan not Moran. Actually had to stop a couple of times to check I hadn't accidentally picked up the other book by mistake. There is not much new here.

Moran is a very funny writer, but please. Also all the reviews calling it a "debut novel"? Come on, she's been writing books for decades. She is essentially the female Kingsley Amis: you get the same entertaining, but far too familiar book again, and again, and again. How many home schooled working class 90s teens from Wolverhampton do we need to hear about for her to acknowledge, we got the point?

This seems to be written for adults who want to read the YA fiction they wish they had in the 90s instead of real books. OK for all that but I expected more. Moran has a lot of talent. Here's hoping someone pushes her to write about something other than herself next time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm... I'm just not sure 21 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm probably in the minority here, but I haven't read any other Caitlin Moran. I'd heard about this though, both good and bad reviews...

To be honest, how you approach this book probably depends on your own teenage experience. Johanna is the girl I wanted to be, or maybe even was, when I was growing up - following bands around the country, lying about my age, ending up in house parties with complete and utter strangers for 48 hours. I think this is what kept me going... there are lovely glimpses of reality in what is mainly a soppy nostalgia fest. I wrote a short story when I was 11, about rebellious girls and the dangers of class A drugs (all of which I had learned from the telly, rather than experience), and this really reminded me of it. I also thought about the book I ripped off, 'Junk' by Melvin Burgess, which was brilliant and pretty groundbreaking. The characterisations in 'How To Build A Girl' are so obvious and cliched that they become a painful fantasy. I wonder if this was what Caitlin was trying to achieve? It almost makes me sad to think that this will only appeal to 30-something women, clamouring on to 90s nostalgia and also dealing with being a real adult. Reading it has made me feel even more separated from the teenage girls of today... Anyway, I don't think this is a terrible read at all, it's funny and compelling in places - and I for one, have no problem with the word 'wank'.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Really disappointing. I was hoping for a well-written, decent novel, as Moran's columns are always a great read, but this seemed to be written on a 'write-whatever-springs-to-mind-and-edit-it-later-oops-ran-out-of-time-so-it-didn't-get-edited' basis. Such a shame - I had been looking forward to it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Dottie
Format:Kindle Edition
Not worth reading, total waste of time. Was recommended on twitter by Nigella Lawson, who claimed it was so brilliant she read it one sitting, because it was too good to put down. Then Caitlin and Nigella verbally bum licked, said how each were so wonderful and promoted each other's work. Having read the book I can confirm that Nigella's book recommendations are totally over the top for her friends and for other writers who may comment on her books. So her book recommendations can't be trusted, as she is always reminding fellow authors about the importance of royalties. A book for fellow self-absorbed folk, maybe fellow journalists as they can relate to being so self-absorbed? It's a shame, I was really looking forward to a good read, but this was anything but. Fortunately I picked it up in the local library, so at least I didn't waste my money, as well as my time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bitterly Disappointing 21 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having read 'How to be a Woman' and publicly cried with laughter reading it on my daily commute, I pre-ordered 'How to build a girl' anticipating another great read from Caitlin Moran. However, I was bitterly disappointed. Whilst Moran states that this book is entirely fiction and the main character of Johanna is not based on herself, the similarities with descriptions of her own childhood are uncanny. The character essentially has exactly the same upbringing and early career as Moran and you can't help but think all the scenes are based on anecdotes from Moran's own wild lifestyle in the 90s music scene. This book seems lazy. There is nothing new here besides the over the top, unnecessarily descriptive accounts of a teenage girl's sex life which leave you feeling slightly uncomfortable and I'm not usually one to be prudish at all.

It seems to me that Moran lazily rushed out a book based on her own life which she has already written about rather than use her imagination to come up with a new story and littered it with vulgar scenes in order to be 'controversial' and 'shocking'. Perhaps she should stick to non-fiction. I can relate to that and it and has had me in tears both with laughter and anguish.

I cannot recommend this book but I strongly recommend you buy How to be a Woman instead as that is a book that truly touches the heart and changes how you feel about being a woman.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Covers old ground - avoid 9 July 2014
I'm a fan of Caitlin and wanted to like this, bug it was a big disappointment. It covers the exactly same ground as the autobiographical 'How to be a woman' and Caitlin's sitcom 'Raised by wolves', ie being an overweight, unpopular teenage girl raised in a large, poor family in the Midlands. Caitlin only seems capable of writing about herself - which works well for her column, but not for what is supposedly a work of fiction.

This book really doesn't have much in the way of a plot, and I suspect it would never have been published if written by a lesser-known author. At times, the writing felt forced. I read that Caitlin really struggled to write this book, needing lots of encouragement and intervention from her publishers, and I suspect it's because she's already written extensively about the subject matter and had nothing new to say. How much can you milk the experience of being being poor/living in a big family before people get bored? Well, I'm bored. And this book came across as a cynical money-making effort rather than a work of true creativity.

If you haven't already read it, I recommend the excellent 'How to be a woman' instead. If you have already read it, don't bother with this 'new' book, which is truly nothing new.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars sentimental (autobiographical no matter how much it's denied) and...
Lack-lustre, nostalgic, sentimental (autobiographical no matter how much it's denied) and cynical account of an intelligent, yet utterly vacuous, creature. Read more
Published 21 hours ago by Jan123
1.0 out of 5 stars Dire trash, from a wannabe Judy Blume
Terrible book, just don't go there. Moran is clearly trying to be the hip new Judy Blume of her time. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Lucy Clare
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely enjoyable and great writing. More please
Another triumph from Caitlin Moran. Hugely enjoyable and great writing. More please!
Published 2 days ago by Miss N. Dickie
4.0 out of 5 stars ended too soon
Loving portrait of working class family life and precocious adolescent talent and ambition. Add writing to the list of ways to escape.
Published 2 days ago by macullam
4.0 out of 5 stars Another great book however...
I was a little disappointed by the obvious similarities to 'how to be a woman' in that the protagonist of this book is basically another version of caitlin moran herself. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Becca Carman
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful
I only wish I had read this wonderful book 10 years ago! Moving, honest and very funny. Thank you Caitlin.
Published 3 days ago by noontime
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fab and foul all in one!!
Published 3 days ago by R.L. Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great writer and an inspiration to all we girls/ladies/and folk...
Read this after How to Be a Woman and found it equally hilarious. What a great writer and an inspiration to all we girls/ladies/and folk tired of second rate writing.
Published 3 days ago by J
5.0 out of 5 stars I knew the mind of Caitlin Moran would be brilliant for fiction
I knew the mind of Caitlin Moran would be brilliant for fiction. I can't get enough of the wit and the cringing stories of her characters lives.
Published 4 days ago by Clare Burns
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing but still funny.
I was disappointed by How to Build a Girl. I am a huge Moran fan and adored How to Be a Woman, but something here just doesn't work... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Agrippina
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