Well, we've arrived at the last week of the How to Build a Girl readalong. Once again, thank you to Emily over at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) for hosting this wonderful thing. You can find the rest of this week's posts here.
Warning: this post will spoil the ending of the novel. So, you know, watch out.
When we last left Johanna, she was recovering from a bout of sex gone very, hilariously wrong. Chapter 21 opens with her finally biting the bullet and playing her father's demo for her colleagues at the magazine. Basically, their reaction:
It's actually kind of painful to read. And poor Johanna seems genuinely shocked at how bad her father's music sounds when she listens to it outside of her living room.
Soon after, Johanna snorts her first line of speed:
"This is the game," I repeat. I take a tissue, and blow my nose.
"Oh my god — your drugs, Wilde!" Kenny says in horror — staring at my tissue. "Don't blow out your drugs!"
I look into the tissue, where I've just deposited the half of the line my nose didn't have time to absorb. I look at Kenny. It seems I have made a drug faux pas. He stares at me.
"Should I... eat it?"
And you know what else made me want to throw up in this section? Tony Rich. What a colossal asshole. Unfortunately, it takes Johanna quite a while to realize what a horrible human being he is. Before she works that out, she even meets his parents (who, apparently, have no problem with their grown-ass son dating a 17-year-old; no wonder he turned out shitty) and all his posh friends, who she worries are secretly judging her.
When Johanna finally comes to her senses about Tony Rich's lack of decency, she does it in style:
For I am indignant. I am affronted by this. My carriage has arrived, it's a high dudgeon, and I am getting into it.
After she makes the executive decision to ditch Tony Rich, she stakes out John Kite's favorite bar until he shows up. We are then treated to this gem while they caper drunkenly around the local zoo:
There's something very beautiful about watching a man you love dueting with a monkey.So How to Build a Girl has a happy ending, after all — Johanna moves to London and seems headed for eternal friendship (or maybe more) with John Kite. And it turns out that loose lips didn't sink ships this time; the Morrigans' benefits were cut because Johanna decided to drop out of school.
Moral of the story, for any children whose parents have unadvisedly allowed them to read these posts: STAY IN SCHOOL AND DON'T
Here are my final-ish thoughts on How to Build a Girl...
If I judged my books exclusively by the number of times I embarrassingly cackled in public while reading, this novel might be in my top five books of all time. I truly did enjoy most of it, and found parts of it painfully relatable.
And I loved the book's frankness about everything: puberty, sex, class divisions, poverty, and what's it's really like to always worry that you'll be considered a bit less than for just being a girl. There is some deep stuff in there, mixed up with the swearing and the drugs and the awkward nymphomania.
Of course, there were also things that bothered me. I've already discussed the lack of plausibility in Johanna's writing timeline, so I'll skip that. My main other complaint is that Moran seems to want to use a framing device in her novel, as shown by Chapter 24 and the other random times when Johanna seems is looking back on her teen years from the future. I can see what she was going for, but it mostly just led to me flipping back and forth, trying to see why the tense was changing all over the place.
I also found myself in a mixture of relief and frustration that one of the continuous lines of conflict in the novel — her father's lack of musical ability and blind faith that his daughter would help him achieve success — never amounted to anything. Sure, I'm glad he didn't kick her out of the house, but when a character is set up to be both 1) delusional and 2) erratic, you expect a little more from them on the chaos front.
All things considered, I'd give this book four out of five stars. The readalong itself gets a million stars, because I love you ladies! Thanks again to Emily for pulling this together and keeping us on track. Let's do this again sometime.
I never know how to end these things, so here is a puppy floundering gently in a bowl.
---How to Build a Girl will be released in September. You can pre-order it through the wonderful Odyssey Books, or through your local bookseller.