Monday 4 August 2014

How To Build A Girl readalong: Part four

Chapters 16-20

This readalong is hosted by Emily at As The Crowe Flies (And Reads.)

When we last saw Johanna Morrigan, a highly respected critic had given her a dangerous new element to add to the recipe for "Dolly Wilde": the label Trouble. Yes, she likes that label, and proceeds to live up to this reputation as well as she can. Her fangirl gushing has gone out of her window and her writing becomes vicious, tearing the bands she reviews to shreds all over the national music magazines. Outside of work, she embarks upon satisfying her curiosity about... other matters... and perhaps I brought a different set of values to the reading of this section than Moran put in, but I felt that "Dolly" was heading down a self-destructive road, sleeping with people who had no real interest or respect for her. I feared she would end up getting hurt.

I confess I'm not sure that I like this new Dolly very much, and she irritated me a lot in her conversation with her brother when she told him she'd love a gay friend - like a trendy new accessory - but not Kenny from the magazine, because he's "the wrong kind of gay." Johanna hasn't figured it out yet, but if you've read the cover blurb, and probably even if you haven't, her big mouth is being all kinds of offensive towards her closeted brother. Just shut up already! (I know I'm being very harsh on a tactless teenager, probably because she reminds me of some of the worst parts of myself at the same age.)

Most of this week's section dealt with Johanna's outrageous and hilarious musings about her new voyage of discovery. Here the plot started to fizzle out a bit, Moran's usual style of entertaining journalistic anecdotes taking over. Yes, these were fictional rather than autobiographical (though I continue to wonder how much of her own experience informed this book) but structurally, the writing didn't feel like the end of the second act of a novel. It becomes a string of laugh-out-loud funny incidents (and a Star Trek reference that had me longing for the brain bleach.)

The last chapter of Section Two culminates in a big, angry rant about why this working-class girl feels the need to write such brutal reviews of music, about power and revenge and voice - and then the monologue changes to something else, a retrospective look at how, actually, this isn't her role after all... that she got into music because she loved it, and somewhere along the way she missed the point of it all and could be responsible for destroying the very thing that she loved. Again, this is very Moran, very passionate and moving - but I thought it was quite weak for fiction, as the epiphany happens as retrospective prose rather than as action. It read like journalism.

After several chapters of lots of incidents, lots of pondering, but not a lot of plot development, Moran ends the section on a whammy of a cliffhanger that made me very worried indeed.

That's the one positive thing about being so young. You've got plenty of time left to make things right.
Except, as it turns out, I haven't got plenty of time.

What do we think, guys? What dramatic circumstances are going to shatter Johanna's naive youthful delusion of immortality? A terminal illness - for her or a loved one? A car crash, caused by her father's drink-driving? Or is she going to lose her job, her reputation and her security? Part three is entitled "Rip It Up And Start Again," so my money is on the Dolly Wilde image coming crashing down, repercussions from all her negative reviews and wild behaviour.

Key Quotes
"This is not my first time at a rock star bath-party."
"Because rich people, powerful people, cool people or the kind of swaggering men that form these bands, are the kind of people who would usually look down on a fat teenage girl from a council estate, and in the one place I am more powerful than them - the pages of D&ME - I want my revenge - revenge on behalf of all the millions of girls like me."
"For when cynicism becomes the default language, playfulness and invention become impossible."


  1. I'd forgotten about the Star Trek reference until seeing that Picard gif. Oh dear. :)

    How was I the only one that didn't realize Krissi was gay until this section? Bad, reader! But I agree, I much prefer authentic Johanna to Dolly.

    1. Mwahahahaha! It was the only reaction gif to use.

      It's mentioned in the cover blurb, I probably wouldn't have picked up on the clues quite so soon if it wasn't, as Johanna is so completely oblivious.

  2. Many points for the Natasha GIF, I love that scene! In fact, you get points for ALL the excellent GIF-age this week. I did feel sorry for Krissi when Johanna was going on and on about having a gay friend - though at least she was showing her general openness, and Krissi knows her well enough to know she doesn't mean any harm.

    I started to slow down a bit at this point too. Not because it wasn't a lot of fun to read - it was ALWAYS fun to read, and there are so many quotable lines - but because the forward momentum started to fizzle out a bit. I've found myself reading a couple of books like that recently - books that are funny and wonderful while you're reading them, but that you don't necessarily feel compelled to rush back to once you've put them down. Shame.

    1. Oh, you're right of course - Krissi knows Johanna and at least has a good idea of what sort of reaction he'll get from her when he does decide to come out.

      I got though this section pretty quickly, mostly enjoyed it but was a little bit "GET ON WITH IT" when it started turning more like Moran musing than a novel. I've finished the book now, but found myself more critical of the second half than the first, which is a pity.


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