How to Build a Girl: Endings (Read Along)

Posted 11 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

How To Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran
Read Along! Part Three.

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.

In case you missed it!

How to Build a Girl – Part One
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 5 – 10
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 11 – 15
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 16 – 20

Part Three

Well. I just have to say, I don’t know if this has been Mr. Toad’s Wild 
Ride for anyone else, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this book.

So at the end of Part Two I thought that Johanna was realizing that her behavior tearing down bands was kind of douchey – but then she continues to act douchey early in chapter twenty one. It’s just not very nice to get people drunk, off the record, and then make fun of their sexual fantasies that they’ve trusted you with. Don’t be a douche, Johanna.

Well, Johanna’s been a douche, so she gets a drink thrown in her face and seems oddly surprised about it. It’s a lesson. Words matter. You know who else is a douche? Kenny. Taking a seventeen year old girl into the bathroom and giving her speed? What the fuck is wrong with these people. But Kenny justifies their douche-baggery and Johanna feels better. Boo, Kenny. Booooo!

I did actually laugh out loud after Johanna blows her nose – thus blowing out her drugs and then asks, “Should I … eat it?” (p. 256)

Johanna becomes the M in the S&M sex with Tony Rich. Who researches S&M at the library? I love Johanna so much. Only tangentially related, I first heard the word ‘masturbation’ on a Roseanne episode and when I asked my parents what it was, I got a very unsatisfactory answer – so I looked it up in the dictionary. So I guess had I wanted to be a lady sex adventurer, I might have gone to the library to research S&M too. Damnit, April.

But, basically we’re back where we were last week – And so we’re back to Johanna not having sex for her own pleasure – but to for the pleasure of the man. Just reference the whole of page 260.

Finally Moran writes in a reminder that Johanna IS seventeen and for all her Lady Sex Adventures – she’s struggling with her feelings for Tony Rich. All the other men seem to be in the periphery, one night stands, but she keeps going back to Rich. In this section much more than the last one, we see Johanna confusing sex with love. Previously – she was using men to gain experience – even if she didn’t understand she should have been enjoying the act as well, she knew she was having casual sex – and she was okay with it. Here, not so much.

Yep. She’s seventeen alright and she has no sense of self … and I don’t think it has anything to do with the lack of mirrors in the house.

Then Krissi tells her how it is. Johanna goes to Krissi, in crisis trying to figure out whether or not Tony Rich is her boyfriend. Krissy: “He’s your smashing posh pedo not-boyfriend.” (p. 263)

Can we stop and talk about the age of consent? It’s really slippery subject that’s a necessary evil to legislate, but I contend that it’s truly different for every person. I’m not sure that 17 to 23 makes Tony Rich a pedophile – but I don’t like him and it has nothing to do with his age.

Before we move on, I want to go back to the scene where Johanna plays her co-workers Dadda’s demo.

I found this scene to be oddly tragic – I think it’s representative of that time in our lives where we finally realize that our parents are just people – they aren’t the all knowing gods and giants that we’ve held them up to be.

Tony Rich’s Parents House – Where Poverty Meets Middle Class.

The whole conversation at the dinner table with Rich’s parents is yet another brilliant commentary showing the juxtaposition between Johanna’s world, where the family barely has enough money to subsist, and upper middle class – where people can sip champagne and laugh at the antics of their black sheep son who chose not to be a lawyer. Similar things happen with Rich’s friends and Johanna’s inner dialogue tells us about her insecurity on the matter. Fabulous commentary.

Okay. Let’s get to the sexy parts.

Johanna’s conversation with Emilia. The subsequent humiliation and the poor poor decision making that the best way to save her pride is to get off with Emilia. She ends up, again confusing her own pleasure with that of someone else. She does what a lot of girls in college did/do – she puts on a show.

In my book – in big capital letters I wrote: this makes no sense!

OF COURSE Rich is into it.
God, he’s such a douche! But Johanna comes back from reapplying her makeup “I am like a dirty goth bride, preparing for her bisexual wedding night.” (p. 274) to find Rich and Emilia have already started. “And suddenly – for the first time in years – I get angry.” (p. 276)

At first I was cheering Johanna on here – because finally! She allows herself to get angry with Tony motherfuckin’ Rich, but then she starts crying and I realize that all this huffing and puffing is a standard teenage heartbreak response – she doesn’t really believe what she’s saying. She still feels less than Tony.


Chapter Twenty Three – The Next Day.

I love this realization because it’s the exact opposite of what society teaches girls and women.

Naturally, after coming to terms with the fact that she does indeed have control over her own destiny, she runs to John Kite. …and promptly bursts into tears.


Kite gives her a great pep talk.

Good God. That’s hard cold truth right there. I’ve been biting and scratching my way up, professionally, academically, personally and way too often I tie my self-esteem to my accomplishments, and my self esteem always comes up short. I should emulate Johanna here and put that quote on my mirror.

Kite and Johanna proceed to get incredibly drunk and the last thing we’re treated to before Johanna passes out is her spilling her guts to Kite on how she feels about him. Fade to black. Johanna wakes up the next morning in Kite’s hotel room, it was his turn to sleep in the bath. (p. 285)

Still drunk, with no idea how the night ended, Johanna feels strangely mortified and leaves Kite’s room to (finally) head home. On the bus she picks up a copy of D&ME and reads her own writing.

Johanna has devolved from a blogger before there were bloggers to being a troll before there were trolls. Complete with Godwin’s law.

Upon arriving home, Johanna falls into what can only be described as a deep, black depression. She turns to self harm, and, par for the course, Moran gives us such a great description on why people cut.

Full stop here.

Teenage girls generally don’t just cut once and stop. Just like most people aren’t cured from depression after being lifted from one episode. I felt that this part was just a little off and kind of skimpy on the severity of what it means when kids cut. But I suppose you can’t tackle every teenage issue in one novel.

I did love the bonding time with Krissi – how he cleans her up and takes care of her. Now I’m worried about him, it was astute of Johanna to question whether he’s addicted to Dadda’s pain pills.

Chapter Twenty Four is the culmination of Moran’s manifesto here. Basically, you could skip everything else in the book – read this chapter – and get the essence of the book.

Chapter Twenty Five – I liked – Johanna has reinvented Dolly to be more like herself, a music enthusiast, not a cynic. She’s changed her friends and decided what to keep and what not to keep. These lists have a bit too much clarity from what I’d expect from a teenage girl – but I’m glad she decided to keep having lots of sex with as many people as possible and reject cynicism. Though personally, I’d have gotten rid of the top hat as well.

I loved the heart to heart with mom – glad that the post-partum seems to have lifted and the acceptance and recognition of anti-depressants. In 1993 – that would have been a big fucking deal.

I think that Ali’s part in this book was to be a contrast for what the typical teen experience was versus the experience that Johanna had – it’s a clever device.

Then then then…. the twist we’d all been waiting for. (But kind of knew was coming) the benefits hadn’t been cut because Violet narced on the family – no they were cut because Johanna had decided to leave school, a weird stroke of irony that in her effort to save the family – Johanna caused their downfall.

JOHN KITE FTW. I can’t say much more here, but Ms. Moran, you made me very happy with the ending in regards to John Kite.

It’s still unclear if Johanna knows that Krissi is gay in the epilogue, where he’s coming to London with her for a few weeks – like most seventeen year olds she makes it about herself. “I know what he’s really coming down for: to take me to my first ever gay club, so I can finally make a gay best friend!” (p. 314) No sweetie, he’s looking for a man. I suspect she knows he’s gay – I would have liked to see the conversation – but maybe it was just a close sibling understanding.

That’s all she wrote, Readers! I have so much love for this book. If World Book Night US would have saved itself, I would have handed this out on street corners. Much love to all my fellow #moranalongers. I would have loved this book regardless, but it’s been much more fun with you ladies. How does everyone feel?

April @ The Steadfast Reader


  • Katrina Southern

    To be honest, I’m not the biggest Caitlin Moran fan. I don’t know what it is, I just can’t seem to enjoy or get anything she says or writes. This is still an interesting post to read though and I love the detailed look you’ve given it!

    I also nominated you for the Sunshine
    on my blog!

    Katrina @ Chased
    By My Imagination

  • kayleigh M

    I agree with you on the cutting, but at the same time I feel like Johanna is the kind of girl who tries everything (she even has that quote about not being able to say no because she’s still terra-forming) so I was able to rationalise it that she tried, she got the result she was after and then Krissy talked sense into her and she moved on.

    I really liked this book. I agree that at times there was a little too much clarity for a teenager but for the most part I feel like it really successfully dissected life as a teenage girl even if it wavered from the path now and then.

    • That’s a good point about Johanna being the type to try everything – so maybe you’re right, I hadn’t thought of that.

      I too, have really enjoyed this book – I related to it on many levels, despite my many years of separation from being a teenager. It’s also been interesting to see the attitudes of the other people, reading along – I feel like my view would have largely remained unchanged – but I always love differing perspectives.

      • kayleigh M

        I mean, that’s probably me ham-fistedly refusing to accept fault in Caitlin’s writing but it made the slight disconnect passable.

  • Ah, I would have loved to pass this out for WBN! I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and think it has much more to offer than some people are going to be willing to give it. I’m really glad we ended up doing it this way, too, because other people picked up on things I would have missed and some of the discussion has been really fantastic.

    • Definitely! The differing perspectives from the gals in the readalong have been great. I hope that people are willing to give this book a chance – because you’re right – it has tons to offer.

  • amycrea

    I found myself wishing Moran had slowed down in this section. She tied up an awful lot of loose ends awfully quickly. I really, really wish Johanna would have dealt with Krissi’s sexuality. Given what she’s been through, she could be a real help to him.

    • Good point! There were a lot of real opportunities to address some heavy issues that were kind of missed. This book could have easily used five more chapters.

  • Alley

    I loved Johanna getting huffy over Tony being a bad S. Not angry or sad or scared but just “UGH I could do this SO MUCH BETTER. You have no idea what you’re doing.”

    I’m so happy John Kite turned out to be so lovely and wonderful and they ended as friends.

    We both used the same Andy gif. GOOD TASTE!

  • Sarah Says Read

    I do not understand the rage-y anger towards Tony Rich. He was promiscuous, and so was she… they weren’t exclusive, he never led her to believe they were, she didn’t even want to be exclusive with him… they were both kind of dumb, but I don’t see that he actually did anything wrong TO Johanna.

    The cutting scene felt super out of place… I guess it provided some nice bonding moments with her brother, but otherwise it would have been better left out. It didn’t seem to fit. (Note though: I knew girls in high school who did cut once or twice, and then stop because they realized how stupid it was, not to mention inconvenient to have to hide it all the time. Johanna’s description about her feeling relief after cutting though – that was spot on.)

    • I don’t know – I feel there’s a big difference between promiscuity and disrespect. The whole ‘my bit of rough’ and the classism – which yes, I suppose could be chalked up to dumb youth, really rubbed me the wrong way.

  • Katie

    The big monologue at the end of the last part did seem to be Johanna’s big epiphany, but to me it read like something she realised retrospectively, an adult Johanna (or Caitlin Moran) looking back on her past mistakes. It took me out of the novel a bit, but explains why she hasn’t learned what she seemed to learn yet.

    The conversation with her mum was lovely. I come from a very different family but saw my own parents there: parents who love me unconditionally whatever I do. And that’s what’s important.

    • Oh I agree – my situation growing up was nothing like this, but I still found so much of my teenage experience in here through bits and pieces and different insecurities. The same thing with my parents.

  • Emily@AstheCroweFlies

    You’ve got so much stuff here this week! I kinda skimmed over the cutting and the drugs parts as being secondary to the standing-up-to-asshole and the benefits cuts and Johanna’s finally coming into her own, in terms of self awareness. THanks so much for joining in!

  • “I think that Ali’s part in this book was to be a contrast for what the typical teen experience was versus the experience that Johanna had.” Ooooooh. That’s a good point.

    That whole consent issue is pretty sticky, isn’t it? When I was 18, I dated a guy who was 24 (so same age difference as Johanna and Tony), and although it was legal at that point, I hesitate to say that I was any more ready for such a relationship than I would have been at 17. That 1 year doesn’t make a hell of a lot of difference in the end. But I suppose we have to draw the line SOMEwhere.