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Publisher's Summary

What do you do in your teenage years when you realise what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes - and build yourself.

It’s 1990.

Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde - fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer - like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes - but without the dying young bit.

By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realises she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease, with a soundtrack by My Bloody Valentine and Happy Mondays. As beautiful as it is funny, How To Build a Girl is a brilliant coming-of-age novel in DMs and ripped tights, that captures perfectly the terror and joy of trying to discover exactly who it is you are going to be.

Please note: This audiobook contains explicit language.

©2014 Caitlin Moran (P)2014 Random House Audiobooks

What listeners say about How to Build a Girl

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  • Hazel
  • 25-10-17

Fly on the wall of a teenagers life.

Very good read the narration was excellent. Only criticism is the fowl language used and the repetitive sex references but l wont be marking it down for that ....maybe lm just more prudish than the average listener but it would have been good to know before hand about the language.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Kawie1
  • 28-08-14

How to Build a Girl

How to Build a Girl is a coming of age story with a difference. It's gritty, truthful, filthy, poignant and laugh-out-loud funny!! And sometimes all the same time!
I think this is the book I'll be recommending to all of my friends this year!

10 people found this helpful

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  • J. A. Croucher
  • 26-03-15

Beautifully written and performed.

I love Caitlin's refreshing frankness but having read some of her other work there were moments of déjà vue.
The performance would be hard to top.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Linfo2
  • 13-06-16

Hard listening!

Hard work all through. Strange way to write a book but probably appeal to some people!! Definitely a different mind set to me though!! Listen to a sample before buying is my advice

21 people found this helpful

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  • Ewan Melling
  • 22-10-17

Fan bloody tastic

Heartbreaking, mind bending, belly laughs a plenty. As a survivor of Wolverhampton in the 80s and 90s. I can tell you this book is bloody brill.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Rebecca
  • 14-06-15

Quite simply the story for any woman!

One of the funniest, thrilling and most ostentatious stories, made all the better by having Louise Brealey read it to me. The characters came to live with her use of voices and I truly fell in love with Johanna/Dolly. An inspiration in novella.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Lucy
  • 26-03-15

Fantastic narration of highly entertaining story

A supremely funny, filthy and clever book - and made one hundred per cent moreso by the flawless narration. Great stuff!

1 person found this helpful

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  • VLF
  • 21-03-15

Brutally raw and wonderfully obnoxious

Not one to listen to with your Nan. Thoroughly enjoyed this. One of my favourite narrators.

1 person found this helpful

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  • TeresaD
  • 25-01-15

Picked up momentum in the second half

I struggled to get into this at first, the protagonist being a troubled teenager from the Midlands wasn't something I could immediately relate to.
However, once she creates an alter ego the story picked up pace and interest, and by the end I was disappointed to say goodbye to both Johanna and Dolly.

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  • Glynwithonen
  • 24-07-21

Brilliant!

I laughed out loud. I cried. I learned a lot. Now I just need to decide how old my daughter should be before I buy it for her. (I’m thinking at least 30 ;-))

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  • Vanessa
  • 30-09-14

Fabulous story I could relate to

Would you listen to How to Build a Girl again? Why?

I'd definitely listen to How to Build a Girl again because it was so well read by Louise Brealey. She did all the accents of each character so well and so consistently. I really felt I was there with Johanna as she went through her often agonising experiences of teenage life. Every minute of Caitlin Moran's story was delicious to listen to. Not once did I feel like fast forwarding through filler because there is none.

What other book might you compare How to Build a Girl to, and why?

I guess all the music references reminded me a bit of Hi Fidelity by Nick Hornby but this storyline is completely different.

What about Louise Brealey’s performance did you like?

I just fell in love with the main character, Johanna, who is telling the story. Louise Brealey's performance was so believable.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I wanted to hug the main character and tell her everything is going to be alright and that I totally understand what she is going through. I laughed for a good part of this book. So, so funny!

Any additional comments?

Highly recommend for anyone, particularly if you were a teen in the early 1990s and love indie rock. Everyone is mentioned from Courtney Love, Manic Street Preachers, NWA and the Smashing Pumpkins plus so many more. While you can't hear the music on the audiobook you can still feel it through the words. Plus this book is hilarious. Did I mention this book is super funny?

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kaz
  • 10-05-21

Slow burner, but in a great way and it builds!

This is not my usual genre for reading/listening. Although I often have an eclectic taste in books, I usually avoid gritty reality. Please read to the end of this review for all my enthusiasm about the book, as these early words are more by way of explanation.

I don't recall exactly why I bought this book initially, but clearly something clicked in my head. Maybe it was the title combined with the blurb - who knows, but I am so glad that I did.

The story spans about five years during the late 80s and early 90s England, hopping between Wolverhampton and London. Whilst I didn't really partake of the indie music scene that the main character, Johanna Morrigan, revolves around, I grew up in that world being only about three years older than her. The story is spot on with the details and the thinking of that era, it read exactly like a genuine personal history, with all the honesty of adult retrospection.

I will not spoil your reading by including details, but I will say that it triggered any number of emotions as I continued to listen: cringing, laughing, gritting teeth in the face of adversity, sorrow and even tears. Caitlin Moran has written a book that starts as a slow burner, generating mild intrigue, but soon builds the story (just like the main character builds herself) to a powerhouse of observations, questions of morality, honesty, and above all, love. This is not a romance with an HEA, rather a coming to terms with reality: 'growing up'.
Bravo, Ms. Moran.

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  • IsaB
  • 18-09-18

Rich, intense, intimate, hilarious!

Such vivid story telling. Unmissable.
Brealey’s reading does not hold anything back and catapults the reader through the richly intense teenage world of Johanna in the most authentic, unapologetic, relatable and bravely honest way. Love every minute!

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  • Megan
  • 19-08-18

Great story

Great story and the narrator does a good job, except for her interpretation of John Kite's voice which I found a bit distracting.

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  • J. Mullens
  • 22-09-17

Amazing

As usual, Caitlin Moran published a piece of brilliance. Hilarious and heartbreaking, it should be mandatory reading in high school. Couldn't put it down.