How To Build a Girl

Harper. Sept. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780062335975. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062335999. F
OrangeReviewStarJohanna 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.]

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