Well, I almost forgot about this today! My bad. I’ve been in a vacation-y, anniversary-y, Borderlands-y vortex and ended up just reading this section today.


how to build a girl


Emily is hosting this lovely readalong of How to Build a Girl (THANKS EMILY!), and if you’d like to pre-order a copy of this you should head on over to Odyssey Bookshop to do that. And if you’re not readalong-ing with us, be aware – THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

I admit – I fell asleep during this section. Partly it’s because dude, I’m tired. But also because there is a LOT of talk about bands that I know nothing about. I think I maybe recognized two band names.


But, let’s see how Johanna’s faring…

I kind of loved that she tries to adopt a new name, because she realized that she needed to do some work on herself a bit (don’t worry Johanna, you’ll spend the rest of your life knowing there’s things you can improve on – just be happy). There are so many times growing up that I kind of wished I could just not be me for a bit. OH and her putting quotes and song lyrics up on her wall. This was me EXACTLY. Index cards all over the walls, with quotes written on them in Sharpie.

“Some of it I write directly onto the paintwork, so it will never be lost, or blown away. I am collaging myself here, on my wall.”

She also perfectly describes my stress going into any new-to-me place, like a comic book store or a college campus, etc – “In my most paranoid fantasy, when I open the door, all the music will stop, and everyone will look up, like in a Wild West saloon bar when a stranger walks in.” I mean, I do better than Johanna in new situations, but barely.

Johanna’s mom is a BIT of a jerk in this section. I’m assuming she might still be going through her postpartum depression, but calling your teenage daughter who helps out with your younger kids a lot a “big fat crow” is a really crappy thing. I do like that she tries to keep Johanna in school though. She fails, but at least she tries.

So, when Johanna goes into the city to interview for a job writing music reviews and she does the misunderstanding the job offer thing… that scene was directly lifted from Moran’s experience that she recounts in Moranthology. I’ve actually only read two chapters of Moranthology so far – I decided to stop because her voice is very distinctive and I didn’t want to confuse myself by reading two Moran books at the same time. But oh look at that, it happened anyways.

awkward (2)


I get the whole write-what-you-know thing, but damn. Some of it was word-for-word, and I guess I’m just a little disappointed that she couldn’t think of an different awkward moment for Johanna to have at her interview. How to Build a Girl seems like it’s turning out to be VERY SUPER autobiographical, from what I can tell, and that’s a bit of a letdown because I was excited to read her FICTION. Sooooo now I hope she writes another novel and that it’s a bit more creative.

I’m all over the place here, but one more thing – her dad ups his level of assholeness. He immediately sees Johanna’s new job as a way to get his ridiculous dream as a musician, and he goes with her to her first work assignment/gig so that he can drink on her company’s dime and then drives home drunk. Brilliant. I know a lot of people here readalonging kind of like her dad, but he more and more is so similar to my own dad that I just can’t stand it. It’s frustrating. I hope she realizes how crappy he is. She can still love him, but hopefully also will see him for what he is.

On a happy note, I love that Johanna mentions this –

“Rock music needs very supportive bras, I note, holding onto my own bosoms as I leap up and down, doggedly. This is something the music press had never mentioned. They have so little guidance for girls.”

high five


Stuff like that is why I still really like Johanna and am excited to see where else her story goes. More things like this and less band name-dropping, please. And I apologize to you guys for my brain being scattered in this post. I’ll be more organized next week… probably.




  1. I KNEW IT! That job-interview story sounded very familiar. I haven’t read Moranthology properly, though I’ve dipped into it at work. I think it’s the weakest part, maybe because I’ve read it before, maybe because there is some truth to the adage that reality is unrealistic.


    1. It was the weakest part for me because it was so exactly what her real-life interview was like… it seemed a bit lazy, honestly, to not try to give her character a slightly different interview mishap.


  2. Since is the first thing of hers I’ve read, I’m faring better than you are. I know nothing about Moran, so it all feels interesting and different to me. Sounds like I’d better skip Moranthology, though. 🙂


    1. I don’t think Moranthology is bad, but I’ve only read two chapters. I’m waiting until after the readalong to read the rest, because her voice is just too similar to Johanna’s to keep them separate as I read.


  3. I’m starting to feel a little thankful that this is my first experience with Moran. But even without reading anything else, I do wish she would have branched out a bit with her experiences to differentiate fact from fiction.


  4. I’m totally specifically avoiding looking up anything on Moran until this thing is over for this very purpose. 🙂


  5. I feel you on reading two Moran books at the same time — my library hold came in on How to Be a Woman last week so I’ve been reading both (I would set the other one aside, but that hold list is rough, man). There is just so much that’s lifted directly from her life, which, you know, is totally fine to do in a novel if you want it to be autobiographical. But I think for that to work, you can’t have already published the same scenes in a non-fiction book. It’s just strange.

    I’m not sure anyone actually LIKES her dad — he’s amusing sometimes in a tragic sort of way (I’m mostly thinking about the opening scene with Rock Perry here), but he’s pretty much horrible to everyone about everything. As far as I’m concerned, he’s probably going to be the main antagonist in the book, and I fully expect him to kick Johanna out of the house when she refuses to write a glowing review of his nuclear bomb song. 😦


    1. *shakes head at his nuclear bomb song*

      He probably will be the main antagonist… or maybe at this point, both of her parents, because her mom is being a little cruel to her at the moment… I hope that stops.


  6. I totally missed that Wild West comment, but it’s totally how I feel whenever walking into somewhere. Goddamn me and my slipping into speed-reading occasionally.

    I feel you on the whole autobiographical bent thingy. I’m pretty disappointed about it in that respect. I’m loving it, but I feel like it’s not new. There’s writing what you know and then there’s writing what you know, you know?!


  7. I’m getting very tired of her parents! Her dad with the mooching, her mom with the calling her fat, and both of them letting her drop out of school! No good. I’ve only read How To Be a Woman, not Moranthology, so that scene wasn’t familiar to me, but other bits have also been close to word-for-word. I’m a little disappointed to find out that the new-to-me bits aren’t all actually new!


  8. Sports bras really should be, well, not required attire for concerts/mosh pits but certainly highly recommended. This is why Johanna is really needed is the music world.

    I am torn on her dad. Or rather I think he does asshole/selfish things but the fact that he ultimately seems to honestly love his family helps me not to hate him. Though I can see him easily falling off that precarious perch


    1. I loved Johanna’s sports bra line 🙂

      You can love your family, and still be a crappy person and do crappy things. And while I would expect his family to love him back, I can sit over here and dislike him for them.


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