Guest review: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

In which my boss and erstwhile boss team up to review the latest book from Caitlin Moran (They’re both huge fans. Ahem, Sam, Lili? While you’re at it, can one of you please return the book so that I can read it?).

Disclaimer: Please note that this review first appeared on 

If you haven’t read Caitlin Moran yet, brace yourself, because it’s time. And if you already love Caitlin Moran, you’ll love How to Build a Girl. 

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (Ebury)

If you love Caitlin Moran you'll love How to Build a Girl. I do, and I did.

The problem is – as is often the problem with columnists turned novelists – it’s a stretch to call it a novel.

A chubby girl growing up on a British housing estate, in a huge, funny family prone to drink and dependant on social benefits?

A girl who, donning a ridiculous top hat, then breaks into the London music reviewing scene?

The similarities to Moran’s own life are impossible to miss and in some areas it feels as if Caitlin just changed her own name to Johanna.

The novel so closely follows the path of her own life, that you feel the only substantive change she really made was to brush up her family memories with snappier dialogue and perhaps a little extra paternal drinking.

That said, it’s a warm, lovely read. As a chubby, smart, angst-ridden but practical chick myself… there are few things cooler than relating completely to the women in the books I read. Which is why Moran is such a fucking icon.

- Sam Wilson

Like Sam, I adore Moran. She’s smart, she’s cool, she’s wickedly open about taboo topics like female masturbation and promiscuity, and reading her generous, snappy, warm prose is like having a conversation with your best friend.

Her first book, How to be a Woman, was a delight from start to finish. In her semi-biographical (she calls it a work of fiction, but there are extreme similarities to her own life – either way, it’s rollicking) novel she tackles growing up and, oh how I hate this phrase: coming of age.

Reviewer’s have likened it to a female Portnoy’s Complaint (mostly, I think because of all the masturbation) and many are praising her for writing so openly, and so warmly about the specific challenges that girls face when they grow up.

In How to Build a Girl Moran tells the story of Johanna, a fat, funny teenager growing up in Wolverhampton estate housing with her large, rowdy family.

Johanna realises that her life is not up to snuff and decides to build a new persona. Teaching herself to drink, smoke, wear funny clothes, and experiment with sex, Johanna soon finds that maybe building a girl is not that simple.

- Lili Radloff


Becky G said…
Moran sounds like a fantastic author, always looking for good ones for my kids. I recommend Alane Adams, her book The Red Sun is my kids fav at the moment. is her site. I am going to get Moran's book for my oldest, she will love it!
Ooh, I've never heard of Alane Adams - going to check her out. Caitlin Moran is definitely a book that every woman/girl should read. Actually, everyone should just read it, period!

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