How to Build a Girl: Wrap-Up

This is the final section of the How to Build a Girl readalong. You can head back to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 before reading!

We’re wrapping up the How to Build a Girl readalong today, and I’m a little sad to see Miss Johanna go. Needless to say, since this covers the final section of the book, spoilers abound. As always, you can find all of the posts linked up at As the Crow Flies (and Reads!) and pre-order the book from Odyssey Bookshop.

Our final bit starts with Johanna playing her dad’s demo for her co-workers, who hate it (of course). In the breakdown-she-won’t-admit-is-a-breakdown that follows, Johanna heads to a bar where she does speed for the first time and (very determinedly) leaves with Tony Rich. Creepy Tony Rich just loves all the dirty things he’s heard about Johanna, who ends up feeling more feelings about pleasing men for the sake of pleasing men. And Tony Rich very quickly has her wrapped around his little finger.

“Whether I’m in love with him seems far less important than whether he’s in love with me. I never take me to one side and ask myself, ‘Do you actually want him?’ because I feel like I never really see me around anymore. This is another drawback of living in a house with no mirrors.”

Tony invites Johanna to come to his parent’s place for the weekend and it turns out they have plenty of money. After a stumble down the road toward a threesome with Tony Rich and his (ex)girlfriend:

“I was objectifying you,” I continue, trying to suppress the sobs that will ruin this soliloquy of outrage. “I have a score card for shagging nobs. I’m on a fucking bonus run for banging you. I’m getting high fives down the Working Men’s Club. We make our own amusements on the council estates. I’m not your ‘bit of rough.’ You’re my bit of posh”


Clearly, Johanna’s breaking down here, but it’s just so refreshing to see her standing up for herself (and actually feeling it in the pages that follow).

The first person Johnna decides she needs to see is John Kite, who is thankfully willing to have her. They have a lovely night and Johanna tells him she wants to get on with kissing him, but wakes up the next morning unsure if anything happened. After reading and realizing the harm her reviews have done combined with everything else, Johanna cuts herself. Krissi helps her stop the bleeding, but not without almost forcing the vein to burst.

All of this becomes a catalyst for change, as Johanna decides it would be best for her to move to London. She talks with John Kite again, who assures her that they’re likely fated to have sex at some point, but for now he’s just too young for her.

A few specific thoughts:

  • I went back and re-read the parts with Krissi and clearly I was totally projecting my own excitement about him “coming out” (is it coming out if no one is listening to you/willing to accept it??) and totally ignoring the fact that Johanna just kicks the can down the road. There’s a little bit of a disconnect here. If Johanna hadn’t made the gay best friend comment, I would have been willing to accept that she was just so closed off from that world that she could never imagine her brother would be gay, despite him nearly screaming it in her face. But if you’re open enough to want a gay best friend, are you really going to be so blind?
  • I’m so glad that my concerns about John Kite were misplaced and he’s actually a good guy. Floaty butterfly sigh.
  • I loved that Johanna stumbled over the pronunciation of some words because she only encountered them in books. This girl, right here.
  • Something about Johanna’s cutting felt a little off or maybe misplaced to me, but I can’t really pin it down. Maybe because it came and went so quickly as a scene, it just felt a little like Moran/an editor inserted it as an afterthought because they felt they needed to address cutting.
  • I’m very, very curious if the POV is fixed in the finished copy. Something tells me it’s not, since that would be a ton of editing to do.
  • Overall, I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would. I was a little  skeptical going in and worried that it would be too rompy for me, but there was a great balance of romp and seriousness.
  • kayleigh M

    I have no idea what is going on with Johanna and Krissy. I mean, surely she isn’t that blind? But at the same time, I can’t see how completely ignoring it makes sense in their relationship. I do think that Johanna is pretty self-obsessed, it’s only when something relates back to her that she really seems to understand it. So it’s possible that she just doesn’t see the forest for the trees because it isn’t really about her. And it’s a mystery that we’ll never know the answer to. Unless Caitlin blesses us with a visit in-post and answers it for us.

    • Ha! We were saying the same thing about Krissi/Johanna at almost the same time. :)

      • kayleigh M

        Haha we did too!

    • Ignoring totally doesn’t vibe with their relationship or Johanna’s worldview, so it’s just throwing me off. I think we’re going to have to chalk it up to teenage self-involvement.

  • YES to the mispronouncing words because you’ve only read them. YES to the fact that the cutting scene felt a little out of place and I think I would have liked to see it either edited out, or dealt with more thoroughly (but like I said in my post, I guess you can’t cover all the teenage issues in one novel).

    I disliked Rich before this section, but I came away positively seething.

    I too am unsure of what the whole Krissi/Johanna dynamic is supposed to be here. I feel like she knows, she has to knowsurely she knows… but, yeah. I chalked it up to teenage egotism on Johanna’s part.

    • I mean, that scene at the Take That concert?? She has to know!! Embrace your gay best friend, he’s right next to you!

      • Katie

        I thought she’d realised by that point, but she seemed totally oblivious later when he was circling the gay clubs in the papers. “Oh, how nice, he wants me to make a gay friend.” Erm… silly Johanna.

  • amycrea

    Someone else blogged that they felt the cutting scene was a bit gratuitous too, and it did feel a bit “afterschool special” to me. It’s also curious that Moran would address cutting, but not the myriad things that could happen with unprotected sex.

    • Yeah, I still can’t quite put my finger on if that’s exactly what felt off about it or not, but it just seemed a little too inserted (that’s not really the right word, but..we’ll go with it).

      • amycrea

        I know what you mean, and I agree. :-)

  • Sarah Says Read

    “Something about Johanna’s cutting felt a little off or maybe misplaced
    to me, but I can’t really pin it down. Maybe because it came and went so
    quickly as a scene, it just felt a little like Moran/an editor inserted
    it as an afterthought because they felt they needed to address cutting.”


    Maybe I was reading the ending a little too fast, but it seemed like Johanna was acknowledging Krissi’s gayness without it really being addressed? It seemed like she knew he was gay, but there was no real big deal about it. Which would be great if she hadn’t been so glaringly oblivious to it before…

    • The first time I read it through I thought she had acknowledged it, too, but looking back a second time I don’t think she did. At the concert she was like, “Oh haha…good thing Krissi can be in on the joke about liking Take That.” and then when they were talking about going to clubs she was still harping about him finding her a gay best friend?? So odd and inconsistent.

  • Alley

    I dunno that Johanna wanting a gay best friend necessarily means she’s open enough to realize her brother is gay even though it’s OMG RIGHT THERE. I honestly think she’s that oblivious. And I’m sure her idea of a gay best friend is someone VERY stereotypical and her brother doesn’t seem that way.

    SO HAPPY that Kite turned out to be alright. I was worried there would be issues there but he is lovely and they will remain friends until he’s old enough for her.

  • Emily@Asthe Crowe Flies

    Maybe because I read this section a few weeks ago by the time I wrote about it, but I had actually forgotten about the cutting scene until people this week were commenting about it. That, for me at least, means that there was a cursory feel to it. So now I agree with you–fleshing it out more or eliminating it would have been better.

    but so much YES to the other parts!

  • UGH, the Dadda’s-demo scene. It was bound to happen eventually, but those D&ME douches made her see her Dadda as small for the first time in her life, and I thought that was heartbreaking.

  • I’ve also had the problem with only having seen words, never heard them, and getting the pronunciation wrong! Bookworm problems :)

  • Pingback: Showcase Sunday: building & reviving | Wensend()