Staff Picks: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Picked by Michelle N.

This book sat on my to-read pile for a really long time—close to a year, I think—because while initially it appealed to me, I started to have reservations about it and it got lower and lower on my list. Finally, though, I was in the mood for something a little nostalgic, even if it was British working-class crumbling-industrial-town nostalgia; so I went for it.

And actually it was really great. I’d say that the protagonist, Dolly, totally reminded me of myself at that age, if it weren’t too embarrassing—oops, did I say that out loud? Of course, Dolly’s humiliations and triumphs are exaggerated in order to make them better reading. But it is, indeed, wonderfully amusing reading, especially her gleefully lusty enjoyment of life in general and of lust in particular. And her cultural touchstones—Blackadder, Blade Runner, and her blundering entry into the local Goth and indie music scenes—made my heart go pitter-pat.

The basic idea: a young working-class (and just barely that) girl manages to completely humiliate herself on television—and she wasn't exactly Miss Popularity to begin with. She has absolutely no desire to be herself anymore, but decides, very sensibly, that suicide isn't an option. That's the last sensible decision she makes for some time, though. What she decides to do instead is to completely reinvent herself, name and all, and become a music critic for a major rock magazine, in spite of having no experience and no knowledge of the current music scene. Oh, and a dad who is convinced he will be the next major working-class rock star, if only he can get someone in the industry to listen to his demo tape.

I am so glad I decided to read this book after all. I haven’t had so much fun cheering a character on in a long time; she just can't catch a break, and her humiliations pile up on each other, but she never quits. Oh, and the narrator for the audibook version was spot-on perfect. I can’t imagine this in anybody else’s voice.

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