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
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?