“So what do you do when you build yourself-only to realize you built yourself with the wrong things?"
Today, I’m going to review a book, and this actual book made me want to write reviews more often because it’s about a music critique. Let’s get started.
“How to build a girl” is what I call a “wild child” story, which could be a branch of coming-of-age novels. It’s basically when the story is about a kid who seems to be in the “right path” but something happens, the déclencheur as teachers say, and to go into a “bad behaviors” of drugs, sex, alcohol, lies, prostitution, whatever, then they go too far and then they kinda get a little better in the end. You don’t get to see them become little perfect adult, just a glimpse of hope. So yeah that was a long introduction to how to build a girl.
How to build a girl,2014 by Caitlin Moran published by Harper Avenue
Johanna lives in a tiny town in England and humiliate herself so embarrassingly on TV she decide to make the saying “fake it till you make it” her escape. She creates a new self, aspiring to be like her rock star idol, to be a legend, someone who is never awkward, who everybody want to have sex with, to have friends and lots of lovers. The novel is about figuring who you are as you go, which we all do all the time. There’s this fantastic quote that sums it up:
“ I don’t want him to see what I look like when I do something for the first time. I don’t want anyone watching me change. I will do all my changing in private. In public I am, always, the finished thing. The right thing, for the right place. “ p.139
Another one of the theme explored is sexuality, it was at times very innocent or confident but never mocked or shamed, after all she called herself a “Ladysexadventurer”. The only part I didn’t get was that she said they were only a few streets and neigh boroughs where she would have sex, I didn’t find that whole metaphor/part relevant. If you don’t like graphic (explicit?) sexuality, this book contains a lot, the first page starts with masturbation, so you may not enjoy it.
There is also a few takes on cynicism, which Johanna first view as the attitude of cool, grown up people, especially as a critique she doesn't want to be viewed as a hormonal teenage megafan but then she comes up with this:
“Because they (cynical people) are fearful their innocence will be used against them-that when they run around gleefully trying to cram the whole world in their mouth, someone will try to poison them. Cynicism is, ultimately, fear. Cynicism makes you contact with your skin, and a thick black carapace begins to grow-like insect armor. This armor will protect your heart, from disappointment-but it leaves you almost unable to walk. You cannot dance in this armor. Cynicism keeps you pinned to the spot, in the same posture, forever.” P.263
I loved this book. I loved that in the end, she didn’t look back as a period of mistakes, we see that she even succeed in creating something. A few other words I think describe this book very well: rude, relatable and vulnerable. I say this because, as told in the quote, no one want others to see them figuring things out, but in this book, you read the conversation Johanna has to herself, the machination behind her personality, the same one we do at the end of a bad day when we think tomorrow I’m going to be more like this, and it never sugar-coats the reality of family, first experiences and music industry (I’m not well placed to argue on that one, but it seemed credible to me).
Lullabies for a little criminal, 2006 by Heather O'Neil published by Harper Perennial
To conclude this review, I wanted to link to a very similar novel called Lullabies for little criminals, which is one of the best book title of all time. In brief: it happens in Montreal, is about a thirteen years old called Baby who his taken under the wing of a pimp, and talks about being a little girl when everyone sees you as a grown up. It’s very touching!
Tell me if you have read any book similar and your thoughts on those two!
If you want to read a French version copy-paste to google translate.