Firstly, I’d just like to share that I picked up this book for about four dollars from bookoutlet.com, and after a few orders, I cannot recommend the site highly enough. If you’re looking for a fix on some new books, I suggest checking them out first. (And I am totally not getting paid to say that; I genuinely spent about $80 there in one month because they have such good deals.)
All right, onward to the review.
Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl is about Johanna Morrigan, big-time nerd in a small-time English town. After reaching new heights of embarassment on local television, Johanna decides to reinvent herself into Lady Sex Adventurer/music writer Dolly Wilde. (Side note: Love the name.) I guess that probably could have clued me into just how much of a focus there was going to be on Johanna’s sexuality within the novel, but I guess I was just naive going into it.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and its depiction of Johanna trying to achieve a certain level of cool,” much like I’ve been attempting for the past twelve or so years. It was captivating to see how she developed, how she interacted with those around her, but how she also still maintained her innate self, whether she meant to or not. To be quite honest, the only parts I found boring were the repeated discussions of her masturbating, not because I think it’s wrong or anything, but because they were so frequent and didn’t feel as though they added much to the story most of the time, especially when that’s the opening scene. Even as I started reading, I had to wonder if that was meant more for shock value than substance, and I still haven’t settled one way or the other on it, so maybe it’s a bit of both, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem is if it is for shock, it goes away quickly with so many mentions.
Nonetheless, Johanna’s Adventures, both in and out of bed, make for a wonderful story. At times she can be slow on the uptake in situations, allowing herself to be manipulated or belittled by those (often men) around her. In the end, however, she shows so much development that I kind of ended up liking her. Compared to Eilis, in my previous review of Brooklyn, Johanna is a vastly more interesting and well-developed protagonist to follow. It felt like things were actually happening, and not just to her but at times because of her. She took action. Sometimes it was the wrong action, but sometimes not.
I’d give a big ol’ recommendation to this one if you like weird girls and music and coming of age stories. (I, for one, love all of these things, so maybe I’m a bit of a sucker.) Just make sure you’re not afraid of a
little lot of sex talk.