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.