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 Hole, Happy Mondays and My Bloody Valentine. As beautiful as it is funny, How To Build a Girl is a coming-of-age novel that makes you realise how odd it is that all the previous ones have been about boys.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 352 pages
- Publisher: Ebury Publishing
- Publication Date: 03/07/2014
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780091949006
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Review by elliepotten
This is a semi-autobiographical novel about Johanna, an awkward, bookish but wonderfully spirited teenager living on a Wolverhampton council estate, who reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, a wild-child pop culture fiend, in order to get a job in music journalism and earn money to help keep her family out of abject poverty. It's absolutely hilarious, brutally honest and deliciously earthy, and I've underlined half the book; there are so many brilliant one-liners, beautiful little philosophies and moments of painfully real political and social commentary. Love, love, love.