Cover image for How to build a girl
How to build a girl
Moran, Caitlin, 1975-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[New York] : Harper Audio, [2014]

Physical Description:
8 audio discs (571 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
It's 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, 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. But what happens when Johanna realizes 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?
General Note:
Title from web page.

Compact disc.
Geographic Term:
Added Author:


Format :
Audiobook on CD


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION CD Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
FICTION CD Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks

On Order



What do you do in your teenage years when you realize 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, fourteen, 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 Brontës--but without the dying-young bit.

By sixteen, 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 realizes 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. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.

Author Notes

Caitlin Moran (born Catherine Elizabeth Moran; 5 April 1975) is an English broadcaster, TV critic and columnist at The Times. Moran was the British Press Awards (BPA) Columnist of the Year for 2010, and both the BPA Critic of the Year and Interviewer of the Year in 2011. In 2012 she was named Columnist of the Year by the London Press Club, and Culture Commentator at the Comment Awards in 2013. Her book, entitled How to be a Woman, became listed on the New York Times bestseller list in 2015.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

To make money when she fears she caused her struggling family's government benefits to be cut, teen library-junkie Johanna Morrigan submits a poem about her best friend, her dog, to a contest. She wins, nabbing a cash prize and a spot on Midlands Tonight. One on-air Scooby Doo impersonation later, Johanna is wishing she'd never been born until she decides she'll be reborn instead. Nearly overnight, autodidactic freaky fat girl Johanna becomes feared music reviewer Dolly Wilde, her tools of transformation being hair dye, eyeliner, a top hat all black and her radio. As herself, Johanna is endearing ­hilarious, pathetic, and wise. Bawdy Dolly adopts a successful fake it till you make it approach, getting known by tearing new bands to shreds and hastily, gleefully, explicitly jettisoning Johanna's many virginities. Almost suddenly, though, Johanna feels she's missed the mark, because what is there to be afraid of, really? In her first novel, comedian Moran's (How to Be a Woman, 2012) characters are huggable and aggressively real; her setting 1990s Wolverhampton and London touchable; and her depiction of growing up well worth reading. One heartily hopes there's more where this came from.--Bostrom, Annie Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

"The 1990s are a bad time to be poor and not-famous," thinks 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan, who lives with her parents and four siblings on a council estate in Wolverhampton. Arguably, the new millennium brought little relief on this front, but for Moran (How to Be a Woman), the gritty British landscape of adolescence, set to a loud '90s soundtrack of the Stone Roses and the Mondays, is the stage for Johanna's fabulous reinvention of herself. Adopting the pseudonym Dolly Wilde, Johanna educates herself in eyeliner and contemporary music and begins submitting record reviews to a London weekly. In the process, she grows up, has adventures far beyond the estate walls, and learns to love herself. Moran's sharp sense of humor comes through in Johanna's observations. Gratifying, too, are the constant stream of '90s alt-rock references (Soup Dragons, anyone?) and the portrait of a pre-Internet world, where kids actually had actually leave their houses to find new identities. Unfortunately, Johanna's voice feels forced, and her exploits seem to surpass what might have been believable chutzpah. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Johanna Morrigan, 15, lives with her large family in the early 1990s in a council flat in Wolverhampton, a downtrodden city in the West Midlands of England. The family barely survives on disability payments from the government; her charming father is a drunk and a con artist, a wannabe rock star who despises Margaret Thatcher and pretty much all authority despite the handouts that keep them afloat. Johanna is friendless and extremely bookish, oversexed and desperate to lose her virginity, yet thwarted by her outsider status and complete lack of experience. A voracious reader despite her disregard for school, Johanna gets nearly all of her knowledge from the shelves of the public library. In an attempt to earn some cash for her family and break out of the confines of her narrow existence, Johanna reinvents herself as a rock journalist, bluffing her way into a job at a London magazine, where she creates an entirely new persona, complete with a new name. VERDICT It is rare to find such a brash, hilarious teenage heroine, unapologetic and open about her own sexuality. Moran's (How To Be a Woman) coming-of-age debut novel is both poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, a treat for young adults as well as those who remember the era and its music. [See Prepub Alert, 3/3/14.]-Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.