How to Build a Girl: Part 3


Phew, I had to stop and write this post because things are starting to roll and I want to keep reading. We’re on part three of the How to Build a Girl readalong! Things are definitely getting spoilerific now, but I’ll have the readalong broken down in sections in the archives if you’d like to pop by later after you’ve read.

So, Johanna gets the big break of her writing gig and heads off to Dublin to interview musician John Kite. She falls hard for John’s charm and the attention he pays her, as the pair spend an evening chatting like best friends. Later, he mails her a Serge Gainsbourg tape, which I’m not really sure she would dig as much as she digs the fact that it’s from John and sounds creepy sexy. I much prefer his daughter and imagine Johanna would, too, had she been recording in the early 90’s.


Unfortunately, Johanna’s hard crush leads to her writing a fangirling article that cuts her off from the magazine at the same time her family’s benefits are cut off. Not good. After several weeks Johanna is called back in by D&ME, who remind her to be a critic not a fan and take her to her first drunken industry party where she waits for John Kite to arrive. As fate would have it, John pops into the party for a few minutes, says he has to leave, and kisses Johanna before taking off. Johanna turns around to meet Tony Rich, D&ME’s star writer, who is quick to evaluate her and tells her she’s in for causing trouble.

A few specific thoughts:

  • As a non-smoker who frequently finds herself in socially awkward situations, I totally understood Johanna’s appreciation for the handiness of smoking. Such a good excuse!
  • Pretty much every scene between Johanna and Krissi is gold, but holy jeez the shared bedroom.
  • I’m trying to figure out how I feel about Johanna and this Kite fellow. Is he just an epic rockstar douchebag who charms every girl he meets and then floats off to the next city (and let’s face it, Johanna is pretty easily charmed)? Or were the moments they had together genuinely sweet and the spark of a great friendship with Johanna pushing it to be more? I think I’m just skeptical because we’re reading from Johanna’s point of view, and boy do I know how skewed my perspective was on male feelings at seventeen.
  • I am so excited for Johanna to be trouble.
  • Adding this in after reading some discussion on other blogs (look, you guys are an inspiration): This really made me realize how much of a utopia I’ve made countries like England and Canada out to be, mostly because of their healthcare systems, without really thinking about the fact that people are people everywhere. I mean, I know that benefits and welfare are hot button issues everywhere, but people here in the US just seem like such epic assholes about it. It was really interesting to me to see such frank discussion (both in the book and on other blogs), since I didn’t think it was something that hit a nerve in England the way it does here.
  • I had never thought about it hitting a nerve in other places the way that it does here either – yours is the first post I’ve read, so now I’m looking forward to what the non-Americans are thinking. :)

  • Emily@AstheCroweFlies

    If Johanna hadn’t spent the night in the bathtub, my feelings about John Kite would be a lot more suspect. I think if he had been truly predatory he wouldn’t have thought twice about sharing a bed with her after talking through the night until almost daybreak.

    I do love the international discussions of benefits and getting a better understanding of the infrastructure in England, as you mention. I hadn’t built the UK up as a utopian place in my head so much as I have done with, say, Australia, but it’s fascinating for me.

  • kayleigh M

    I really, really, really want John Kite to be a good guy. I don’t even necessarily want them to date, I just want her to have a nice, weird, fascinating dude in her life that isn’t family or her boss.

    Every country has its problems, and the grass is always greener etc etc but I think the conversations the book has provoked are fascinating. It’s interesting to see some people transplant their countries interpretation of those issues in their posts, or like you, sort of have their eyes opened to the realities of another country. I can’t wait to read more posts from everyone today.

    • Even though I’m a flaming liberal, I have to blame the liberal media for making me think that, given the opportunity, I could hop on a plane to Australia and live a perfectly pleasant life in a heartbeat. It’s just so easy to get crabby about the constant cyclical discussion here and forget that it’s probably playing out fairly similarly in other parts of the world.

      • kayleigh M

        I think that Australia is still a much better place to live if you’re poor or struggling but yeah, it isn’t without its problems. The biggest are actually being caused by the conservatives in power using America as an exemplar for why we should get rid of certain benefits and support structures. Which sucks.

  • amycrea

    You bring up a good point that I hadn’t thought of in terms of how people in countries outside the US think and talk about welfare and benefits. Interesting indeed. I’m not sure about John Kite yet, either. I’m not willing to write him off just yet, but I am suspicious.

    • I think I just always see the positive sides of welfare in other countries in the media here and it’s easy to forget everything isn’t always rosy.

  • Eleanor Baggley

    If Kite turns out to be a bad guy I think all my childhood fantasies of sexy and yet lovely rock gods will be destroyed. I really don’t want that to happen. This has been my favourite section so far and I could talk about it forever if that didn’t mean not reading it for a while. The Krissi and Johanna bedroom thing was pretty darn awkward. Ouch.

    • I totally hope he’s a good guy. There were some great glimmers of sweetness there, especially with the bathroom scene that Emily mentioned. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best!

  • Rayna

    “people are people everywhere”

    That just about sums it up – because there will always be assholes among those people, and they’ll somehow find a way to gain power and use it to keep others down. I’m also always assuming the U.S. is the worst in this regard, but maybe that’s partly due to the fact that we 1) don’t teach our kids jackshit about other places in the world and 2) seem to glorify assholes and idiots by giving them the time of day on our airwaves, out of some sort of obligation to have a “fair debate” despite the fact that some opinions are never going to be fair to others.

    Blech, who knew a readalong about a teen girl’s journey toward fame and sex would turn into so many rants about politics? :)

    I feel like John Kite is probably a good guy deep down, since he wrote her a letter and all. Though a not-so-small part of me keeps thinking that his totally adorbs endearment of calling her The Duchess is really because he’s too drunk to ever remember her real and/or fake name…

  • Sarah Says Read

    POOR KRISSI. Have they been sharing a bedroom this whole time and he’s just now noticing?

    I am excited AND worried for Johanna to be trouble. Because her being trouble seems to be mostly dangerous things, like underage drinking with her elders and smoking and whatnot.

  • Alley

    I really hope Kite is a good guy. Really, really hope. I mean, he hasn’t done anything…untoward yet. Well, I guess he did pee while she was sleeping in the bathtub. That’s sort of odd. But ANYWAY, nothing that makes me think he’s a bad guy yet, but a lot of that could be hope.

    Poor Krissi. I’m glad he got his own bedroom

  • I’m concerned about Kite! Honestly, I think a guy who charm such a young woman is probably not a good guy and the fact that he spent a similar night charming a different journalist makes me guess that he’s the same way with everyone. I’m glad Johanna’s at least seems to be going well, because I’d hate for her to have lost it because of Kite!

  • Kayleigh vW

    Oh god, I forgot he made her a tape. No wonder I love him unabashedly. You’re so right to be wary of Johanna’s colouring of Kite’s actions and intentions – I hadn’t even really considered the fact that we’re just seeing him through her eyes. She’s likely not the most reliable judge of character, in this instance. DO NOT HURT JOHANNA, KITE.

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