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.


“In the long days, the unnerving, violin-like screeching of worry can firmly sat up with the thought, “By nine p.m., I shall be partying.” And besides, I’m drinking for practical reasons. Having spent all my money on my computer, I walk home from gigs, down the A449 to our estate, and the alcohol keeps me warm, and means I do not stint on the top notes when I sing.”

there there


I am CONCERNED for this girl. Johanna’s kind of a hot mess, diving fully into her Dolly Wilde persona – drinking too much, walking home drunk and alone, and finally doing things with the boys. She comes home from a gig in which she adorably thinks “I’m in a kiss!” and has a drunk father to drunk daughter heart-to-heart. AGH. But then we get this:

“Whenever Dadda tells me the stories of what it was like when he was young, I shiver again in relief and glee that I am here, now. I do not think I would have been me at any other time. I would not have been allowed.”

And damn it, Caitlin Moran, crap like this is what totally leads me to love Johanna, even when she kind of makes me want to pull my hair out and yell “NOOOOO, BAD DECISION” at some of the many things she does. Like agreeing to try to get her dad an “in” to a music career. Oy. And not writing reviews about bands she likes (DON’T BE A FAN). A tad over-dramatic there, girlie. You can absolutely write about bands that are good – just don’t write a freaking love letter to them and then have it published.

I love that Krissi loves rap.

just doin his thing

just doin his thing


Johanna nails how awesome awesome kisses are:

“He’s kissing me in a way that could save the lives of the dying. He has my face in his hands, and there’s a lazy, urgent joy in the way he moves – I’m pretty sure there can’t ever have been any kissing better than this. There can’t ever have been any kissing before. We are inventing it, in these last ten minutes.”



And then she instantly makes me feel completely sorry for her brand new sex life, in which she talks about how great sex is because you get ALL of a person’s attention, which she used to have to pretend to die to get. And then about how her purpose to to make men come. And then how she writes letters to John Kite vividly describing the sex she’s having.

Clearly, Johanna has some self-esteem issues. This is nothing new, it’s kind of a main theme of the book – that she likes herself, but in general, never thought she would get the kind of attention “pretty” girls get. I just wish that her self-esteem issues weren’t leading her towards such a self-destructive path. Which I guess makes this a good book for teen girls who might be going through that? Sure.

On the one hand, I am totally okay with women having casual sex and good for them, if they’re being healthy and smart about it.

On the other hand, it concerns me that Johanna says she wants to be introduced as a “legendary piece of ass”. And that throughout this relatively descriptive section, she hasn’t mentioned condoms once. Please, please let there have been condoms.

And then she says things like “I’m a Lady Sex Adventuress! I’m a Pirate of Privates! I’m a swashfuckler!” and I think that she’s going to be okay. I hope.

Johanna talks a bit about how only the men come in all the porn she’s scene (jesus, I can only imagine the amount of spam I’m attracting by writing this post), and I know Moran’s written about that before so… snore. I don’t care. And it kind of bugs me that Moran’s non-fiction is overlapping so directly with her fiction yet again.

And then this section ends with the chapter about Al, the apparently hugely endowed guy, and… I don’t even know what to say. It was kind of funny. It also made me uncomfortable, because aside from s/he said jokes, I don’t really talk… like this. And because SERIOUSLY Johanna, please tell me there were condoms involved here. I am WORRIED. Johanna only has one more section to really get her shit together and be safe and more herself.

I enjoyed her calling the cat a vagina-ruiner, though. That was amusing.





  1. I have exactly the same concerns about Johanna’s sex life as you do. I just don’t think she’s mature enough to really pull off the lady sex adventurer thing. And YES where are the freakin’ condoms!!!


  2. I love that Krissi likes rap too, I think she’s misguided on how she’s using sex – which I think is incredibly common – casual sex is fine (with proper precautions) but when she says she’s losing her virginity AT John Kite — nonono. That’s not casual sex.

    But I do like that there’s no slut shaming here- Johanna may not be ready for casual sex -but that’s completely different than demonizing it for all women everywhere.


    1. I’m really glad there’s no shaming here too. But I also wish that Johanna was being a bit more careful and choosy… so far her only real limitations are geographic. Girl needs to have some standards.


  3. You are in excellent gif form today Sarah. That penguin wiggle! And Pushing Daisies!

    I loved the descriptions about kissing. That all consuming obsessive new relationship stuff is always so fantastic and it does make you feel like you’ve invented it, or at least perfected it in a way no one else has. I am, maybe, just a tad, a bit of a romantic.

    I have attracted so many spam comments on my readalong posts, it’s kind of amazing to see how many have been blocked by Intense Debate. Congratulations Caitlin Moran, you’ve turned my blog into a smut attractor!


    1. Why thank ya 🙂

      I am a bit of a romantic too, and that kissing scene was so perfect. Although weirdly, it seemed more romantic than was really appropriate for her and that Rich guy, since they’re just hooking up and she doesn’t seem to have real feelings for him yet.


  4. YES THAT PUSHING DAISIES GIF! That show gives me a lot of feels

    I’m sort of hoping there are condoms and they are just not mentioned. Hopefully. Maybe. (But probably not, dammit)


    1. I really want to re-watch Pushing Daisies. (Also, Lee Pace is a bad guy in Guardians of the Galaxy and he did a REALLY good job. I didn’t see that coming.)

      I’m going to assume that there are no condoms unless she mentions them. Especially since I bet Johanna would’ve had something weird and funny to say about condoms.


  5. Lee Pace. LEEE PAAAACE yes please. He has a perfect mouth for kissing. It makes me do that same little penguin wiggle.

    Okay. I’m ready to talk about actual content now. I AGREE with you about being concerned about Johanna’s potentially bad decisions, but it’s pretty clear that she’s got a good head on her shoulders. Sure, she’s sex-crazy, but as the last (rather ominous) sentence of this section points out, the situation cannot hold for long. And she’s being as smart about it as someone with her level of caring adult/parental involvement can be. Teenagers are so oblivious about how CLOSE to disaster they are at any given moment; it’s stressful to BE them but I think it’s a whole different brand of stressful to WATCH them be so oblivious.

    There are a whole bunch of Cultura Doxa that I need to unpack about this novel. I did essentially the same thing she’s doing when I was 21 with the same crowd of people, and I know it’s not a real data point – being anecdotal and all – but no one I know was mortally or substantially injured by the sex and rock’n’roll lifestyle. Possibly because we stayed away from the drugs part of the equation, now that I think about it.


  6. I was apparently WAY less bothered by this section than most folks. I certainly had passing moments of concern, particularly as regards prophylactics, but I rather liked Johanna’s bold, yet fumbling, attempts to self educate herself in the ways of sex. So radically free from the guilt that consumed me in the same situation that I actually came away a bit impressed.


    1. I feel the same way. I’m impressed with the way Johanna is getting through this; I’m pretty sure she’ll be just fine, with some “I can’t believe I did that” memories. And really, those are often the best kind.


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