How To Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran
Read Along! Part One.
Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun.
If you want to read along later go to Odyssey Books and get yourself a pre-order! Of course I want to extend a giant thanks to Emily at How the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and the good people at Harper Collins.
Note Two: These posts are going to have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. Clean readers: This book is not for you.
Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review (one less gushy and with fewer fangirl moments) will be published on the blog sometime in October. Read along continues every Monday until August 11, 2014.
Guys. Guuuuyyyssssss…. I’m freaking loving this book. I don’t want to get all fangirl-y, but I’m about ready to go out and buy Caitlin Moran’s entire catalogue.
I did a shitty job introducing myself in the introduction posts. I’m April. 32. Married. Owner of one three year old girl. American.
So! Part One. How are we feeling? (Another random note – I have a weird desire to use ONLY RuPaul Drag Race gifs during this read along. I may or may not make that happen.)
“The horror dawned on me like . . . nuclear.” (p. 20)
Then the juxtaposition with poor Johanna’s virginity? Priceless.
Imma gonna keep going, at least a little bit longer. But let’s move to major plot points. Johanna’s fateful visit with her best and newest friend, her only friend – 72 year old Violet. After a poor judgment call of telling Violet that her family is on benefits, Johanna realizes how grave the mistake is. (p. 33) Damnable people. With Violet getting all Judgy-McJudgerson, I really couldn’t help but be reminded of the national debate that we
just had are constantly having here in the U.S. about food stamps. But more on that later. (In another post.)
This dreadful error, also highly relatable in that I think in moments of frustration many teenage girls spill family secrets that they have no business spilling and then go into total panic mode. Her deal with Jesus (not to wank for six months – oh, the humanity!) feels like something my fourteen year old self would offer up in exchange for supernatural intervention. Then, nine terrible days later – Johanna breaks the deal and knows she’s in trouble. All variations on the theme that teenage girls have hormones too and are not the chaste Disney Princesses that the world would like them to be. Love it.
Her fantasies on what will happen, how her parents will react, when they find she, their beloved Johanna will be the cause of their impending doom remind me of the fantasies that pre-pubescent Ralph from A Christmas Story has on a variety of topics. (Aside: Next to Bill Murray’s Scrooged, A Christmas Story, is one of the few Christmas movies I can tolerate. Bah! Humbug!)
But this fear and teenage assuredness that as the center of the universe she is going to be solely responsible for the downfall of her family (never mind Dadda is kind of a deadbeat man-child and Mom hasn’t even named the twins) are the catalyst for the rest of the book.
I love Moran’s accurate and heartbreaking rendering of what society’s unrealistic beauty standards do to a girl.
“Because my biggest secret of all – the one I would rather die than tell, the one I wouldn’t even put in my diary – is that I really, truly, in my heart, want to be beautiful. I want to be beautiful so much – because it will keep me safe, and keep me lucky, and it’s too exhausting not to be.” (p.53)
What Johanna and most fourteen year old girls fail to realize is that beauty isn’t the answer. I can’t wait to see if she learns that hard fact of life in Part Two.
One more scene. Then I’m going to wrap this up, promise. After winning the poetry contest (see, that’s wholesome.) Johanna gets to appear on a regional(?) talk show. She’s a bundle of teenage nerves and insecurities, that even in my thirties I find myself relating to. Every awkward joke, (“It would be inappropriate for us to go on a date, Alan.” p. 54) all the anxiety about her looks, and perhaps the most powerfully amusing part of the interview; Johanna is trying to please the host, the audience. She’s trying too hard as fourteen year old girls are wont to do. (Hell, as thirty year old women are wont to do.) In an attempt to fill what Johanna perceives to be an awkward silence she launches into the nature of her friendship with her dog.
Moran’s visual here just made me laugh like a madwoman. God, don’t we all hate those awkward silences? Especially during a live interview? (Or an in-person conversation if you’re a bit of an introvert like me?) I’m also apt to start talking nonsense if you let that awkward silence go on long enough. Again. Oh, the humanity.
I basically just want to quote the whole book. Maybe Moran is looking for an American lady to create an annotated version of How to Build a Girl? Annotated with all the parts that are insanely funny to this one American lady? Probably not? C’est la vie. I think it would sell. One more quote for the road.
So question, fellow Readers. Do Mom and Dadda have actual names that I have missed? I hope not because I like the idea of nameless parents. After all, this is Johanna’s story and in the mind of a fourteen year old girl, parents are parents. Not people.
So far, even though it’s dealing with the sexuality and hormones of a fourteen year old girl it lacks the creep factor of Lolita or even Tampa because there’s no sexual abuse present. (Unless you consider masturbation to be self abuse – which clearly, I do not.)
What do you think, Reader? I can’t wait to see the posts of my fellow read along-ers. If you’re not currently reading along but read this post anyway, what do you think? Does this look appealing? See you back again next week for the second installation of How to Build a Girl!