And now we've reached the end of How to Build a Girl. First I want to thank Emily and HarperCollins for including me on this event. It's always fun to read a book with other like-minded readers and compare notes.
Caitlin Moran is an interesting writer. She's created such an interesting character in Johanna, someone with real heart and intelligence, but (mostly) with the naivete that causes problems in the teen years. She's been on many adventures in this book, and now Moran swoops in and wraps up lots of loose ends, not always believably or satisfyingly. The relationship Johanna has with John Kite is too good to be true. I don't for a second believe that Johanna's father wouldn't have hounded her about that demo tape. Is she really blind to the fact that Krissi is gay, or is she being sarcastic? The pace is crazy-fast. I would have liked fewer tied-up endings and more time with Johanna in her present.
Again with the overly insightful:
"So what do you do when you build yourself--only to realize you built yourself with the wrong things?
"You rip it up and start again. That is the work of your teenage years--to build up and tear down and build up again, over and over, endlessly, like speeded-up film of cities during boom times and wars. To be fearless, and endless, in your reinventions--to keep twisting on nineteen, going bust, and dealing in again, and again. Invent, invent, invent."
Pretty calm, sage words from a narrator who is supposedly 17 years old and just suffered a humiliating sexual adventure and responded by cutting herself. Nope, not buying the present tense here.
This is Moran's first book, and she's got some definite strengths. She can create interesting characters that I care about, flawed as they are. She can tell a great story. But she needs to really think about the story she wants to tell overall. Is it better to tell it from Johanna's 17-year-old viewpoint, or from Johanna's adult viewpoint looking back? Doing both just did not work for me. There are pros and cons to either, but that's part of being a writer--having to make the tough choices. When the past-tense sections showed up, it felt like an authorial intrusion, not a plot device.
That said, I never felt like giving up on this book, and would likely read the next novel Moran writes. The promise is definitely there.