After shaming herself on local television, fourteen-year-old Johanna Morrigan decides to reinvent herself. It’s 1990, prime time for sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Johanna transforms into Dolly Wilde and lands a job writing reviews for a music paper by the time she’s sixteen, determined to save her family from poverty. Eventually her new lifestyle catches up with her and she is forced to confront Dolly’s tragic flaw.
Johanna is incredibly intelligent. In a strange sort of way, she reminds me of an edgy Flavia de Luce. I think it’s the way her mind works. She’s discerning and sees things as they really are… yet, she can’t deny her teenage desires to be desired, to be beautiful, to be cool. She also can’t avoid the inevitability of making stupid choices and naive assumptions, though she recognizes the wrongness of her situation and the fact that she’s still a child.
This book is a wild and crazy ride, but it’s so much deeper than that. Johanna carries the burden and anxiety of her family’s poverty. We are privvy to her thought process as she works through her deepest inner conflicts. Her revelations are profound, sometimes sad, always enlightening.
There are sticky notes all throughout my copy of the book. I can see why some of my fellow bloggers broke this up in sections and were still able to write profusely about each one. Book groups will love How to Build a Girl; it’s guaranteed to inspire and encourage endless discussion. This is an unforgettable coming of age story with a nice, satisfying ending.