How To Build A Girl is a rollicking sexual coming of age story about a poor, fat, unpopular teenager named Johanna Morrigan who lives with her large family in public housing in the far from posh town of Wolverhampton in the 1990s. Dad's an alcoholic failed rock star living on disability benefits and her mother is suffering from postpartum depression after giving birth to twins, her fifth and sixth children. Early on in the story a visiting public health nurse mistakes the 14-year-old Johanna for her mother and Johanna decides that she must find a way out. She is going to to escape Wolverhampton and become a writer because one can write even if one is poor. By the age of 15 she is writing reviews for a music magazine under the pseudonym Dolly Wilde (the name of Oscar Wilde's daughter). She has a keen eye and assesses who she must be to get ahead and that is a wisecracking cynic. She's been hankering, seriously hankering, for sex and is able to find as much as she wants in the rock and roll world and her descriptions of her encounters are hilarious. She also takes to drinking Mad Dog plonk and experimenting with speed. She is at times unbelievably precocious but so clever that it doesn't really matter. Perhaps this kid really could intimidate rock stars with her negative, career destroying interviews. She is a Doc Martened, top hat wearing, eyelinered goth and she'll do what it takes to gain acceptance as a journalist. Moran's own life followed a similar trajectory so presumably it is not outside the realm of belief. It's not a monumental work of fiction but Johanna/Dolly's snappy patter and the underlying message about social and gender inequality makes this a more interesting book than it might seem at first glance.
* Unsurprisingly How To Build A Girl is coming to the big screen. I'll go see it.