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How To Be Famous

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A hilarious, heartfelt sequel to How to Build a Girl, the breakout novel from feminist sensation Caitlin Moran who the New York Times called, "rowdy and fearless . . . sloppy, big-hearted and alive in all the right ways." You can’t have your best friend be famous if you’re not famous. It doesn’t work. You’re emotional pen-friends. You can send each other letters—but you’re A hilarious, heartfelt sequel to How to Build a Girl, the breakout novel from feminist sensation Caitlin Moran who the New York Times called, "rowdy and fearless . . . sloppy, big-hearted and alive in all the right ways." You can’t have your best friend be famous if you’re not famous. It doesn’t work. You’re emotional pen-friends. You can send each other letters—but you’re not doing anything together. You live in different countries. Johanna Morrigan (AKA Dolly Wilde) has it all: at eighteen, she lives in her own flat in London and writes for the coolest music magazine in Britain. But Johanna is miserable. Her best friend and man of her dreams John Kite has just made it big in 1994’s hot new BritPop scene. Suddenly John exists on another plane of reality: that of the Famouses. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Johanna hatches a plan: she will Saint Paul his Corinthians, she will Jimmy his Pinocchio—she will write a monthly column, by way of a manual to the famous, analyzing fame, its power, its dangers, and its amusing aspects. In stories, girls never win the girl—they are won. Well, Johanna will re-write the stories, and win John, through her writing. But as Johanna’s own star rises, an unpleasant one-night stand she had with a stand-up comedian, Jerry Sharp, comes back to haunt in her in a series of unfortunate consequences. How can a girl deal with public sexual shaming? Especially when her new friend, the up-and-coming feminist rock icon Suzanne Banks, is Jimmy Cricketing her? For anyone who has been a girl or known one, who has admired fame or judged it, and above all anyone who loves to laugh till their sides ache, How to Be Famous is a big-hearted, hilarious tale of fame and fortune-and all they entail.


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A hilarious, heartfelt sequel to How to Build a Girl, the breakout novel from feminist sensation Caitlin Moran who the New York Times called, "rowdy and fearless . . . sloppy, big-hearted and alive in all the right ways." You can’t have your best friend be famous if you’re not famous. It doesn’t work. You’re emotional pen-friends. You can send each other letters—but you’re A hilarious, heartfelt sequel to How to Build a Girl, the breakout novel from feminist sensation Caitlin Moran who the New York Times called, "rowdy and fearless . . . sloppy, big-hearted and alive in all the right ways." You can’t have your best friend be famous if you’re not famous. It doesn’t work. You’re emotional pen-friends. You can send each other letters—but you’re not doing anything together. You live in different countries. Johanna Morrigan (AKA Dolly Wilde) has it all: at eighteen, she lives in her own flat in London and writes for the coolest music magazine in Britain. But Johanna is miserable. Her best friend and man of her dreams John Kite has just made it big in 1994’s hot new BritPop scene. Suddenly John exists on another plane of reality: that of the Famouses. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Johanna hatches a plan: she will Saint Paul his Corinthians, she will Jimmy his Pinocchio—she will write a monthly column, by way of a manual to the famous, analyzing fame, its power, its dangers, and its amusing aspects. In stories, girls never win the girl—they are won. Well, Johanna will re-write the stories, and win John, through her writing. But as Johanna’s own star rises, an unpleasant one-night stand she had with a stand-up comedian, Jerry Sharp, comes back to haunt in her in a series of unfortunate consequences. How can a girl deal with public sexual shaming? Especially when her new friend, the up-and-coming feminist rock icon Suzanne Banks, is Jimmy Cricketing her? For anyone who has been a girl or known one, who has admired fame or judged it, and above all anyone who loves to laugh till their sides ache, How to Be Famous is a big-hearted, hilarious tale of fame and fortune-and all they entail.

30 review for How To Be Famous

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    "Girls should smile, when they think about their sex lives. That is the greatest wish I have for them." I requested this as an ARC, just assuming it would be more of Caitlin's essays, which I really enjoy. Once approved, I saw that it was actually classified as YA fiction, and fully prepared myself to give it a try and then to inform Netgalley that unfortunately this is not my thing. To my surprise I really enjoyed it, packed with the author's trademark, irreverent sense of humour it swept me awa "Girls should smile, when they think about their sex lives. That is the greatest wish I have for them." I requested this as an ARC, just assuming it would be more of Caitlin's essays, which I really enjoy. Once approved, I saw that it was actually classified as YA fiction, and fully prepared myself to give it a try and then to inform Netgalley that unfortunately this is not my thing. To my surprise I really enjoyed it, packed with the author's trademark, irreverent sense of humour it swept me away to 1990's London and the rise of Britpop. Her books may not be for everyone - filled with LOTS of sex, drugs and rock n roll (not to mention the swearing), but what you need to know is that she can write. This little story is full of amazing ideas, energy and real issues. There were many giggles, but also some ugly crying when we got to the crux of the story. At its core this is an ode to teenage girls and young women. I loved her article explaining why teenage girls are the most important fans of all. She also takes a look at sexual inequality and things like slut shaming and sex videos, which is probably even more valid now than in the 1990's. Make no mistake, this book is far from perfect - for one thing, the hero John Kite is just way too perfect to be believable, but it was so different than anything I've ever read that I just got sucked up in this whirlwind story. I would like both my children to read this when they're older (but being Afrikaans, and thus a bit conservative I'm not sure what that age should be? Maybe 25 😃)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

    Much like the first book in the series— How to Build a Girl—this was incredibly raunchy and hilarious. Moran doesn't sugarcoat anything, and it's very refreshing. Yes, at times it's awfully lewd, but Johanna is such a fantastically crafted heroine you can't help but fall in love with all aspects of her personality, including her extreme openness about...well everything. The last 10% or so was a bit too on the nose for me; I wouldn't have minded a bit more nuance in the storytelling. But overall Much like the first book in the series— How to Build a Girl—this was incredibly raunchy and hilarious. Moran doesn't sugarcoat anything, and it's very refreshing. Yes, at times it's awfully lewd, but Johanna is such a fantastically crafted heroine you can't help but fall in love with all aspects of her personality, including her extreme openness about...well everything. The last 10% or so was a bit too on the nose for me; I wouldn't have minded a bit more nuance in the storytelling. But overall a fun ride and one that had me turning the pages, reading the entire thing in 1 day. Definitely looking forward to the final installment in this series. (Be warned if you pick this book up it has very explicit material in it.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben Babcock

    This is not a drill. I repeat: NOT A DRILL. Yes, Caitlin Moran has written a sequel to the sublime How to Build a Girl . I never expected this, never asked for this … and I definitely don’t deserve it, but young women do. This sequel is arguably better, brighter, more brilliant than the first book. I devoured it in a day, and I already want to go back and re-read it, underline it, find quotations, make my friends read it to hear their opinions. This is a book I want to share and evangelize and en This is not a drill. I repeat: NOT A DRILL. Yes, Caitlin Moran has written a sequel to the sublime How to Build a Girl . I never expected this, never asked for this … and I definitely don’t deserve it, but young women do. This sequel is arguably better, brighter, more brilliant than the first book. I devoured it in a day, and I already want to go back and re-read it, underline it, find quotations, make my friends read it to hear their opinions. This is a book I want to share and evangelize and enjoy again and again, but it is uncompromising and unflinching in its feminism … yet it also contains so much joy. Spoilers for the first book! Content warnings for this book: lots and lots of drug use, explicit sex (if you are sex-repulsed you are not going to like this), sexual harassment/misconduct, discussions of eating disorders/purging/fatphobia. How to Be Famous picks up where the first book leaves off: 19-year-old Johanna Morrigan, writing under the pen name Dolly Wilde, reviews music shows and lives in London. She is, in her own words, a raunchy “Lady Sex Adventurer”—but really, of course, she is still young and learning her way through the sometimes terrifying and disappointingly misogynistic world of the London music scene. Johanna refuses to sleep with a comedian, then gives him a second chance—but when she snubs him yet again, he takes revenge. Soon Johanna finds herself in a situation too many prominent women face: being publicly shamed for her sexual behaviour (which is really no one else’s business). Once again, I’m struck by how much I like Johanna as a character. She is a raw and honest narrator, telling the story with some distance from her younger self but still exposing us to her younger self’s earnestness. Once more she lives this split life: on one hand, she is Dolly Wilde, fearless music journalist and Lady Sex Adventurer; on the other hand, she is still Johanna Morrigan, nineteen-year-old girl trying to figure out what the hell this life is all about. This is particularly noticeable when she talks, at length, about her feelings for John Kite. As much as Johanna evinces this confident, sexually liberated exterior, deep down she is still inexperienced, still trying to figure out who she wants to be—and there’s nothing wrong with that. Indeed, one of the most poignant moments in the book for me comes when Johanna finds herself in the position to take a friend’s virginity, to teach him and show him the ropes, and she discovers how enticing a prospect this is for her. Suddenly, the sex act is not about showing how good she is at pleasing a man; it’s this collaborative experience. Johanna is basically a microcosm for portraying the epochal shift that feminism underwent over the decades, from perceiving “liberation” as “we can or should have as much sex as we want, when we want” to “we can have as much sex when we want, with whom we want, entirely on our terms”. Moran recapitulates this much more resoundingly later in the book. In between then, of course, we have the juxtaposition of Johanna’s unsatisfactory experiences with Jerry Sharp. Although set in the mid-nineties, this book will obviously resonate with the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Johanna discovers firsthand the inequity of being a woman who has casual sex. In addition to the professional fallout from refusing Tony (in the first book), there’s the way Jerry Sharp essentially goes out of his way to target her—something that sounds all too credible to me, unfortunately, just from what I read, and will no doubt feel even more familiar to some women readers. Moran masterfully manages the emotional upheaval that Johanna endures, the ups and downs culminating in a fantastic nadir, a flight, and then of course the redemptive realization that she would rather fight (but how?). This is where How to Be Famous departs from some of the more gritty takes on rape culture that I’ve read over the years: it has a happy ending, and Johanna gets some measure of closure or retaliation. Despite dealing with a very serious subject, it nevertheless remains hopeful and buoyant and defiant in that way. And I want to be clear: I’m not saying that’s better than books that adhere to a less optimistic storyline. The whole point is that we deserve all sorts of narratives about this topic. We need narratives that portray the brutal, uncaring realities about rape culture. We also deserve narratives about how it is possible to fight and to win against men who abuse their privilege. Just as How to Build a Girl made me excited for teenage girls to read it because it talks so honestly about some of the feelings they might wrestle with, I’m excited that How to Be Famous exists for young women. It shows them that you can be strong and still be scared, and upset, and at a loss at times. You can fight back and still be terrified and unsure of yourself. Media often simplify narratives, raising up some people as paragons and casting down others as unworthy—and it is never that simple. It is always more complicated. Moran captures that in Johanna’s behaviour here. This book feels a lot more focused, in terms of plot, than the first one, which is another reason I find it even better. That being said, don’t mistake this book for solely a novel about sexual misconduct. There’s so much more happening in here, so many fascinating feminist subplots. Let’s just briefly list them: Johanna and her dad, the way she’s acting as this proxy mother figure (and at odds with her own mother); the hilarious conversations between Johanna and her brother Krissi, which always warmed my heart; the ruminations, once again, on the effects of poverty on one’s psychology and actions—see the scene with Johanna and her brother Lupin; Suzanne and the record deal and the way Suzanne has a lot of ideas but is scared to commit them to a recording; and, of course, the quixotic love story between Johanna and John Kite. There is just so much happening in this book it actually beggars belief. I definitely need to re-read it at some point because there are so many rich little nuances I probably missed as I tore through it this once. If you want something that is honest and uncompromising in its portrayal of women’s sexuality, yet also fun and optimistic and hopefully empowering (not really my lane here), How to Be Famous might be that. You don’t have to read the first book, but I would highly recommend it. This is not just a worthy sequel: it’s an exquisite pleasure, a story I never thought I’d get—and honestly one that I wasn’t really clamouring for, yet now I’m so happy to have it. Again, this book isn’t really for me per se … I’m so excited to share it with my female friends, to see what they recognize of their own experiences in this, to have fascinating conversations with them. But it definitely helped me, helped expand my empathy and my understanding, which is why I would recommend it to a general audience. Moran’s writing is humorous and humane, and I always want more of that in my life.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    How to Be Famous was a little disappointing. Caitlin Moran clearly had a lot of points to make, mostly about how women are perceived by the larger culture, and I was fine with that. I like novels that make points. But nothing about this particular novel felt unified or organic; it was a bunch of interrelated points held together by a shaky scaffolding of plot. I think maybe How to Be Famous has a case of middle-book syndrome: It's neither the exciting opener of a trilogy nor its (hopefully) gran How to Be Famous was a little disappointing. Caitlin Moran clearly had a lot of points to make, mostly about how women are perceived by the larger culture, and I was fine with that. I like novels that make points. But nothing about this particular novel felt unified or organic; it was a bunch of interrelated points held together by a shaky scaffolding of plot. I think maybe How to Be Famous has a case of middle-book syndrome: It's neither the exciting opener of a trilogy nor its (hopefully) grand conclusion, just the book that gets you from one of those to the other. I still enjoyed it, just not as much as I expected to.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    3.5 stars Sex, drugs and f*#$king rock n roll. This is snarky, raunchy with a good dose of feminist views and as much as I loved it, I know this may not be for everyone. Johanna Morrigan (AKA Dolly Wilde) is 18 and for the first time living on her own in London, at the height of Britpop hype. She works for a music publication and tend to meet a lot of famous and almost famous people. She makes the fundamental mistake of having bad sex with a bad man and must deal with the aftermath of public sexua 3.5 stars Sex, drugs and f*#$king rock n roll. This is snarky, raunchy with a good dose of feminist views and as much as I loved it, I know this may not be for everyone. Johanna Morrigan (AKA Dolly Wilde) is 18 and for the first time living on her own in London, at the height of Britpop hype. She works for a music publication and tend to meet a lot of famous and almost famous people. She makes the fundamental mistake of having bad sex with a bad man and must deal with the aftermath of public sexual shaming. The way that she dealt with that is one of my favourite parts of the book. But the book is far from perfect, I wasn’t completely sold on the John Kite angle, but I enjoyed the build-up to it, and I loved the audio narrator so much that I have decided to round up to a full 4 stars. If you know this author you will have some idea of what to expect, she does not hold back or shy away from ugly truths even if it means making the reader (and her characters) uncomfortable. I have read almost all of her non-fiction books but must say I was mightily impressed with this fictional story. Raw, funny and thought provoking. A friend of mine said in her review “At its core this is an ode to teenage girls and young women” and its such a wonderful way to sum this up.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    I enjoyed this so much more than the first book, and here’s why. How to be Famous has all the good bits of How to Build a Girl - you’ve got a fabulously witty and outrageous protagonist, a gaggle of quirky and interesting characters, and a writing style that is both humorous and engaging. What How to be Famous improves on is the plot and the overall story. I finished this book and I felt so...positive? Euphoric? Dolly/Jo is a much more relatable and real character in this book, and although there I enjoyed this so much more than the first book, and here’s why. How to be Famous has all the good bits of How to Build a Girl - you’ve got a fabulously witty and outrageous protagonist, a gaggle of quirky and interesting characters, and a writing style that is both humorous and engaging. What How to be Famous improves on is the plot and the overall story. I finished this book and I felt so...positive? Euphoric? Dolly/Jo is a much more relatable and real character in this book, and although there was still a lot of wicked humour and nonsense, there was also a real, profound story to be told. I love what Moran did - she took this world that she built and she’s created a novel that is funny but also hard hitting, as it addresses issues that are still so prominent today (e.g. the #MeToo movement). How to be Famous really impressed me, and I’m even more excited because I have tickets to her book tour so I’ll be seeing her next week! Aaaah!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    Thank you so much to Harper Books for providing my free copy of HOW TO BE FAMOUS by Caitlin Moran - all opinions are my own. This is the follow up to Moran’s HOW TO BUILD A GIRL and it did not disappoint. Johanna Morrigan or rather her alter ego, Dolly Wilde is such an engaging, complex, yet relatable character. Dolly is an eighteen-year-old in the mid-nineties, living in London, and writing for a music magazine. She’s extremely infatuated with her musician friend, John Kite. However, she has a f Thank you so much to Harper Books for providing my free copy of HOW TO BE FAMOUS by Caitlin Moran - all opinions are my own. This is the follow up to Moran’s HOW TO BUILD A GIRL and it did not disappoint. Johanna Morrigan or rather her alter ego, Dolly Wilde is such an engaging, complex, yet relatable character. Dolly is an eighteen-year-old in the mid-nineties, living in London, and writing for a music magazine. She’s extremely infatuated with her musician friend, John Kite. However, she has a fortuitous one-night-stand or maybe two that ends in a very scandalous way. I really enjoyed reading a story surrounded by the Britpop music scene with concerts, late nights, and after parties. I graduated high school in the nineties, recognizing all these bands and pop culture references, so this was especially nostalgic. Luckily when I got this book, I quickly ran to the bookstore to get a copy of her previous novel. I loved them both, but this one I loved even more. Moran is a talented writer with such honesty and grit that you just instantly fall in love. Dolly’s character is effusive, clever, witty, and often inappropriate, so what’s not to like? HOW TO BE FAMOUS is the perfect blend of coming-of-age, feminism, and humor - like laugh out loud, highlight half the book, funny. Moran captures the backstage scene of sex, drugs, and rock and roll with precision. I loved that her characters were written with such raw emotion and sharp dialogue. You definitely don’t need to read HOW TO BUILD A GIRL first, but I’d recommend it for the full experience. My motto is buy them both...it’s more fun that way.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    This was even better than the first one - moving, joyful, heart-shaking, wonderful. I wanted the "villain" to be punished more than he was, and my ship didn't sail, but I loved the whole thing anyway, and I love Johanna 💛

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    While not as fun as How to Build a Girl, this follow up was still a smart, humorous look at growing up in the 90s. In this book, Johanna learns that girls do have a voice and learns to listen to her own. With more maturity, she finds greater strength as she struggles through some interesting challenges.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    This is a fucking brilliant love letter to girls and all their power and possibility. It's also an ode to art and music and food and sex and all the things that make life worth living. I checked this out from the library to read it, but I am now going to buy my very own copy to own and keep on the special shelf of favorite books that's next to my bed. These are the books I want to revisit, even just in part, the ones that I consider friends. This book is one of my dear friends, and I think Johan This is a fucking brilliant love letter to girls and all their power and possibility. It's also an ode to art and music and food and sex and all the things that make life worth living. I checked this out from the library to read it, but I am now going to buy my very own copy to own and keep on the special shelf of favorite books that's next to my bed. These are the books I want to revisit, even just in part, the ones that I consider friends. This book is one of my dear friends, and I think Johanna/Dolly would appreciate that.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daniela

    How to Be Famous felt so relevant to me because there was an episode in my life where I religiously followed a band everywhere. It was fun, and a bit insane. Johanna is living the dream: she's young, lives in London, goes to concerts and writes about musicians. In my opinion, she's totally winning the "London game", but she's still inexperienced about love and sex. I know this is a love story, but to me, romantic love came second. The most important part was Johanna's standing up for herself: qui How to Be Famous felt so relevant to me because there was an episode in my life where I religiously followed a band everywhere. It was fun, and a bit insane. Johanna is living the dream: she's young, lives in London, goes to concerts and writes about musicians. In my opinion, she's totally winning the "London game", but she's still inexperienced about love and sex. I know this is a love story, but to me, romantic love came second. The most important part was Johanna's standing up for herself: quitting a job where she wasn't appreciated, giving hell to a bastard, and just being her hilarious, amazing self. Both Johanna and Suzanne are wonderful feminist icons, and I wish they could be my friends. Even though it's set in 1994-5, the problems Johanna faces are too real, too contemporary. We actually have a glimpse of the Me Too movement, and it made me happy that young women reading this book will learn about the many sides of sex and consent. I've practically highlighted the entire book, but my favorite quote was: "Baby just got her Angry Wings! Oh, babe—it's always a festal day, when a woman finally gets angry for the first time. I'm so happy for you." Big thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review purposes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nerdette Podcast

    It is difficult for me to express the absolute perfection that is this book. It's funny and ridiculous and messy, but it's also incisive and gorgeous. It hits me right in the middle of my heart and captures a sense of purpose and delight that I've never quite known how to express. A friend told me she loves Moran because the author puts words to feelings she's never been able to quantify, and I couldn't agree more.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Leonie Byrne

    Thank you to Netgalley, Ebury Publishing & Caitlin Moran for my ARC of How to Be Famous. Anyone who knows me, knows that Caitlin Moran is one of my favourite people in the whole world who I don't actually know in person. After picking up How to Be a Woman in a charity shop years ago I fell fast and hard for her blunt, brilliant and hilarious but serious approach to feminism. How to be Famous is the sequel to Moran's How to Build a Girl another of my firm favourites. So I was expecting great Thank you to Netgalley, Ebury Publishing & Caitlin Moran for my ARC of How to Be Famous. Anyone who knows me, knows that Caitlin Moran is one of my favourite people in the whole world who I don't actually know in person. After picking up How to Be a Woman in a charity shop years ago I fell fast and hard for her blunt, brilliant and hilarious but serious approach to feminism. How to be Famous is the sequel to Moran's How to Build a Girl another of my firm favourites. So I was expecting great things, and it definitely delivered. We catch up with the main character Johanna or 'Dolly' as she's now known. Now 19, Jo has made it in the world of being a music journalist but after sleeping with her boss and being treated badly for it, she decides its time to see what the rest of the world has to offer. It's 1995 and Brit Pop is at large, feminism is only just starting to rear its head and Dolly is having to navigate the problems that are now thrown her way. From public sex shaming, drugs, rock n' Roll, sleeping with a friend, watching her best friend and love interest take the world by storm and managing misogyny in the workplace, it's a hard world for a 19 year old girl to be. But somehow this bittersweet novel is also extremely funny and fun! It's like you're learning things but having fun at the same time. What I love most about Moran's books, fictional and none fictional is that they make you sit up and say hold on that's exactly the way women are treated in this world and it's not bloody on! I really hope that there is more to come in this series, I can't wait to see what Dolly does next!

  14. 5 out of 5

    L.A.

    Please click here to read my review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeannie Zelos

    How To Be Famous, Caitlin Moran Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre:, General Fiction (Adult) Women's Fiction Gah, I can't believe it, Caitlin is described as “feminist sensation” in publicity blurb and then this book gets stuck in that old, dated, “women's Fiction” category. Why do we do this? Moan about equality and then prop it up with stereotypes about what men will and won't read!! Anyway, that over, what about the book. I was so keen to read this, love the rockstar trope, and though m How To Be Famous, Caitlin Moran Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre:, General Fiction (Adult) Women's Fiction Gah, I can't believe it, Caitlin is described as “feminist sensation” in publicity blurb and then this book gets stuck in that old, dated, “women's Fiction” category. Why do we do this? Moan about equality and then prop it up with stereotypes about what men will and won't read!! Anyway, that over, what about the book. I was so keen to read this, love the rockstar trope, and though my era was a decade or so before the story and setting really appealed to me. Sadly it didn't work out though. I found Johanna's voice, brash and grating, found her to be pretty shallow as a character. I didn't finish the book though, couldn't get past the forced humour and to me, artificial feel of it. Maybe if I'd read more I would have seen hidden depths to her but the story just wasn't working. A shame as flipping to the end I can see that there's a serious and very pertinent issue with the comedian. I think for me this book was trying to deliver too much, a romance with rockstar theme, a snippet of recent history in a kind of biographical way, the humour – which fell so pushed on me (I felt it was telling me: go on – laugh dammit, its funny, even when I was left mystified) and then the feminist sex issue with Jerry. That happens to men too though, and is one of my pet hates, when something is seen as exclusively the province or issue of one sex only. It's also a power issue not just a sex one and recent political news had burst out just how serious this is in the media industry. I can see others love this story, that's great, we all have different tastes and there's books to suit all out there. This just isn't one for me though. Stars: Two, I wanted to like it, expected to like it but... ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher  

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrea (Born and Read in Chicago)

    (For more reviews and bookish musings, visit: http://www.bornandreadinchicago.com/) I ADORED How to Build a Girl, and when I learned that there would be a sequel, I jumped at the chance to read it! Expectations for sequels are high, and rife with the possibility of disappointment. Rest assured that Caitlin Moran still writes with amazing heart, humor... "He was drunk, and there was nothing on TV - that is how 80 percent of kissing starts in Britain." and searing hot takes on feminism. "The idea th (For more reviews and bookish musings, visit: http://www.bornandreadinchicago.com/) I ADORED How to Build a Girl, and when I learned that there would be a sequel, I jumped at the chance to read it! Expectations for sequels are high, and rife with the possibility of disappointment. Rest assured that Caitlin Moran still writes with amazing heart, humor... "He was drunk, and there was nothing on TV - that is how 80 percent of kissing starts in Britain." and searing hot takes on feminism. "The idea that women carry the shame for shameful things that have been done to them is Bible old, and Bible black." As with her previous novel, How to be Famous also feels hyper realistic: full of crazy situations, over the top characters and dialogue that suits the business of rock n' roll, which delighted me to no end. Her brother and father reappear in this novel, and the way these siblings deal with dad's midlife crisis like a hot potato had me guffawing. I also loved the introduction of Johanna's new larger than life musician friend Suzanne Banks who, according to Johanna, "...she's so f*cking fizzy and delicious, I want to swim around in her innards, like a dolphin." There's no shortage of f-bombs, crass talk and sex scenes, fair warning. But they absolutely serve a purpose in the broader feminist message that Moran delivers with such unrestrained wit. There is indeed an engaging plot that moves at a good pace, as we buckle up for another ride along with Johanna's rollicking highs, and terrible lows as she makes questionable decisions and deals with a bad situation. The story is a perfect vehicle for such important messages for women and girls to take to heart about being comfortable in our skin, in our hopes, in our desires, that girl culture is COOL, owning our sexual pleasure, and the importance of being in a relationship that lifts us up, that does not tear us down. There are so many books with a feminist slant being published lately, many with a terrifying Handmaid's Tale tone. These works are important and needed, for sure. (If you haven't read Margaret Atwood, now is definitely the time.) But Moran's work is equally significant while being so very refreshing with uplifting, galvanizing and hopeful feminism. I marked up How to Build a Girl, but I pretty much wanted to take a highlighter to the entirety of How to be Famous. If (WHEN) you read it, I'd take note of: Dolly's letter to John about how teen girls run the world, when John's fans line up to meet him she writes about the intimacy of art and meeting our heroes, and the last five or so pages about love and a relationship being two people invested in building 'the very best you' just made me swoon with love and light. Run, don't walk, to get your hands on this brilliant book. Thank you SO, SO MUCH to the lovely people at Harper Books for a free review copy in exchange for my honest review! P.S. - My husband and I talked about Peggy Orenstein's Girls & Sex a while ago and, upon reading How to be Famous, I hastily moved it further up in the to be read queue. I read Cinderella Ate My Daughter the year after I gave birth to my daughter and highly recommend it!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I just finished galloping through this audiobook--it kept me laughing and engaged all the way through summer traffic on 495 and 95, and it kept me up till 11 (11! ME!) last night. I'm already a Moran fan, and Louise Brealey, the reader, is fantastic. But the book is more than just a well-read story with a few glitches and one or two spots where perhaps/maybe just maybe/possibly an editor might have convinced Caitlin to trim a bit, which most of the reviews I read (Guardian and something else) me I just finished galloping through this audiobook--it kept me laughing and engaged all the way through summer traffic on 495 and 95, and it kept me up till 11 (11! ME!) last night. I'm already a Moran fan, and Louise Brealey, the reader, is fantastic. But the book is more than just a well-read story with a few glitches and one or two spots where perhaps/maybe just maybe/possibly an editor might have convinced Caitlin to trim a bit, which most of the reviews I read (Guardian and something else) mentioned. It's more than just a continuation of the story Moran's building based on her own life (which readers of her other memoirs, collections, and/or novels will recognize). What blew me away was Moran's clear-eyed effort to address the experience of being female in the world--in the novel, 1990's Britpop Europe, but her honest observations ring true in 2018 America as well. And they ring importantly true: Moran (in the voice of Dolly/Johanna) meditates on sex, rape, coming of age as a woman, sexism, relationships, shame (amazing descriptions of shame), sex-shaming, learning to set limits, finding one's voice--the list goes on and on. Yes, at times her unwavering descriptions made me uncomfortable: if I'd been reading a "real book" during the final chapter or so, I would probably have skipped some pages, but there was throughout a strong, victorious sense of claiming. Through Johanna's experience and no-holds-barred, no-physical-experience-undescribed, no-sexual-act-out-of-bounds storytelling, Moran is honoring and presenting the reality of women's whole beings, as whole beings, as sexual, strong, funny, physical, talented, hungry, thoughtful, contradictory, fearful beings. While the subject matter that's most boundary-pushing is sexual, Moran also discusses creativity, the importance of reading and writing, making an entrance, the wonders of American restaurant breakfasts, and the joys of physical exercise as well as good, bad, terrible, and beginning sex. There are great characters--Jo's dad, Susanne and Julie of The Branks, and, of course, John Kite. There is a painfully-resolved conflict that some may critique as unrealistic, but that I loved. As I listened, as I laughed and winced and cringed a bit and wished I had a hard copy to mark up some of her strongest metaphors and best one-liners, I realized that How to Be Famous is a revolutionary creation that tells the complete story of a person in a way I have never heard it told before. I want many of my female friends to read it, but I also want my sons to read it as well. If you're up for what a family member once referred to as "risky bits," go buy a copy of this book or listen to the audio, and pay attention.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Clarissa

    Laugh out loud funny, unapologetically honest, crude, and written in her classic authoritative Wolverhampton tone. This is unmistakably classic Caitlin Moran. I can’t wait for the next instalment of Johanna Morrigan (aka Dolly Wilde’s) journey!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Adele

    I cannot find the words to describe how much I UTTERLY LOVE this book. Brilliantly written and hilariously funny (in parts) whilst having some very serious issues to deal with. This book is very apt with the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, but our main hero Johanna takes back control (of what was a pretty awful situation) in a spectacular way. Now whilst I did not feel completely sorry for the initial situation, she made a choice (and admits that), the fallout was something that has happe I cannot find the words to describe how much I UTTERLY LOVE this book. Brilliantly written and hilariously funny (in parts) whilst having some very serious issues to deal with. This book is very apt with the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, but our main hero Johanna takes back control (of what was a pretty awful situation) in a spectacular way. Now whilst I did not feel completely sorry for the initial situation, she made a choice (and admits that), the fallout was something that has happened to many, many women all around the globe, and that was definitely not her choice. If anything you can see both sides, as the younger character points out when she is trying to be warned off from a famous sex-pest. I love Johanna, her spirit and bravado (a world away from what I was at 19) and would love to see Caitlin write more from her in the 00's and current times.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Oryx

    What I talk about when I talk about editing. Was this book even edited? The AMOUNT of missing words and clauses was unbelievable, and, also, there was even a typo. And the tenses kept changing. And it annoyed me. But it was very readable. Even if it was, yeah... plastic. Look. I understand it is communicating important issues in a very accessible way, and for that, I can't fault it. Good on you, Caitlin, but ya know, you've been doing this whole writing gig a while now and I would just like to s What I talk about when I talk about editing. Was this book even edited? The AMOUNT of missing words and clauses was unbelievable, and, also, there was even a typo. And the tenses kept changing. And it annoyed me. But it was very readable. Even if it was, yeah... plastic. Look. I understand it is communicating important issues in a very accessible way, and for that, I can't fault it. Good on you, Caitlin, but ya know, you've been doing this whole writing gig a while now and I would just like to see you do it better. The tone made me want to vomit. The dialogue was rank, almost as bad as a John Green novel. Atrocious writing. It's like a bouncy ball calling itself 'edgy'. Blah. I can't knock it. I knew what it was. And it was hard to put down, though I'm not sure why. 3.5961

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Three and a half stars, but it was a lot of fun to read so it’s a Goodreads 4. This was delightful - kind of a Bridget Jones meets Georgia Nicholson from Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, with a blue collar background. I would love to read more of Caitlyn Moran. Jo, the main character, is 19 and making her way in London in 1995 during the BritPop era (I was in high school in 1995 and never heard of BritPop, but I was a little square). Anyway, she works for an entertainment magazine, quits Three and a half stars, but it was a lot of fun to read so it’s a Goodreads 4. This was delightful - kind of a Bridget Jones meets Georgia Nicholson from Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, with a blue collar background. I would love to read more of Caitlyn Moran. Jo, the main character, is 19 and making her way in London in 1995 during the BritPop era (I was in high school in 1995 and never heard of BritPop, but I was a little square). Anyway, she works for an entertainment magazine, quits because they don’t respect her, works for another magazine, gets tricked into making a sex tape, and other shenanigans and hijinks ensue. This book made me laugh out loud multiple times. It has a feminist bent and said a lot of things about women and also sex that needed to be said, without being preachy. This is a YA book, but seems like an older YA because of all of the sex, cocaine and really heavy drinking (seriously, how the Brits function is beyond me). The plot is also extremely far-fetched. That said, it has a great message about female self-acceptance and empowerment that really rang true for me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Let me get this clear: I love Caitlin Moran. I think she is, bar a few cringe-worthy mis-steps, intelligent and hilarious. I don't think I love her as a fiction writer, though. On the face of it, I am all about this book: it's feminist book exploring abuse of power within the male-dominated music industry. Music! Feminism! Yay! And the general story was fairly enjoyable, the main character was fairly fun to read (mostly because she was essentially Caitlin Moran, who I love). BUT. But throughout it a Let me get this clear: I love Caitlin Moran. I think she is, bar a few cringe-worthy mis-steps, intelligent and hilarious. I don't think I love her as a fiction writer, though. On the face of it, I am all about this book: it's feminist book exploring abuse of power within the male-dominated music industry. Music! Feminism! Yay! And the general story was fairly enjoyable, the main character was fairly fun to read (mostly because she was essentially Caitlin Moran, who I love). BUT. But throughout it all, it seems like Caitlin never really settled into the first-person narration of her main character. At times, it became too obvious that Caitlin-the-outspoken-feminist was writing what she thought 19-year-old-girl-who-isn't-aware-of-sexism would think about things. The sentences that ended "this is just what girls do" felt a little too much like Caitlin was silently adding in parentheses ("BUT THAT'S BECAUSE THE WORLD IS SEXIST") that it didn't feel like a believable inner monologue. But aside from that, there were other occasions that just felt more like Caitlin than the protagonist. And yes, I get that, despite what the opening page claims, the protagonist basically IS Caitlin. But times felt like obviously Caitlin thought of something witty, and decided to shoehorn it into the book, even though it didn't really feel like a natural observation of a first-person narrator. So maybe... a third-person narration style would suit Caitlin's voice better. It's almost like she's someone who is very used to being a journalist and a columnist, and 90% of her writing has been her writing her own thoughts, and being allowed to add Caitlin Moran's side-comments wherever she wants to. My final issue with the writing is that the tense didn't always make sense. While mostly written in present tense, there were a few occasions where suddenly something would be described in the past tense - which, again, sounded like Caitlin make a narrator's observation from 2018 about what life was like in the 90s. Which is a totally and valid fine thing to do, if the rest of the book isn't written in present-tense and set in 1994. You can't talk about these being 'the days when people could smoke in gigs' if your narrator is not even aware of a future where you CAN'T smoke in gigs. And your 19 year old protagonist can't have a short paragraph talking about how nice her hangovers are, 'not like the hangovers you get when you're over 30' because... she's not over 30. She has no experience of that. My one other gripe is the HUGE amount of grammatical errors. I will slightly let this off and hope they are corrected in future re-prints, but good lord there are a lot. There are words missing, there are grammatical errors (like "a enemy") and there are random mis-spelled words, like "sayid" instead of said. And... presumably proofreading is somebody's job? Whoever it was, may I suggest they hire me instead. Anyway, despite all of these complaints I feel I should clarify again that I did enjoy the story, and I mostly enjoyed reading the protagonist. I just really wish that some tighter fine-tuning could have been done on the narration style - either by removing some elements that were clearly written by Caitlin rather than Dolly, or else just making the book narrated in the third person, and allow Caitlin full reign to give the commentary that is so clearly going on in her head as she's writing. (Also, sidenote: I haven't read How To Build A Girl (to which this is the sequel) since it came out in 2015. I rated that one 4 stars, and I'm not sure whether I was just less critical for that one, or whether the issues I had with this book weren't very noticeable in that one.) ((Incidentally, I just went back and read my review of How To Build A Girl. Funnily enough, I had the exact same criticisms there - that the voice was basically indistinguishable from Caitlin Moran's own voice, and the fact it was very distracting when switching from present tense to some indeterminate future self 'looking back on those days'. So nice to know that the writing style is in fact consistent between both books, and that my irritation by it is also consistent.))

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily Whitmore

    Johanna (AKA Dolly) is the absolute best. Her journey and adventures are hilarious, fun, ridiculous, and amazing. The plot is moved forward by the sex tape scandal that Dolly finds herself in after having sex with a terrible man. Sadly, it is still easy to equate with current events. While this story line is powerful and relevant, I am really just in it for Dolly.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kendall Morgan Hall

    How To Be Famous by Caitlyn Moran Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018. Publisher: HarperAvenue Genre: Contemporary General Fiction How To Be Famous takes place in 1994. Nineteen-year-old Johanna is living in London where she has a job as a rock journalist at D&ME. She writes under the name Dolly Wilde. The one true love of Johanna’s life is a man named John Kite. He has become a famous pop musician and is now constantly on the road. She decides to write a column to dissect fame, hoping to win him How To Be Famous by Caitlyn Moran Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018. Publisher: HarperAvenue Genre: Contemporary General Fiction How To Be Famous takes place in 1994. Nineteen-year-old Johanna is living in London where she has a job as a rock journalist at D&ME. She writes under the name Dolly Wilde. The one true love of Johanna’s life is a man named John Kite. He has become a famous pop musician and is now constantly on the road. She decides to write a column to dissect fame, hoping to win him over with the power of her words. Her guide to fame will help him feel less alone in the world, like he is truly understood. Johanna says, “I’ve noticed that fame appears to be a metaphysical word laid onto the corporeal world, in which all the rules are different, and which makes the famous the same, but not the same as everyone else.” When a horrible short affair that Johanna had with a comedian comes back to bite her, and she is slut-shamed, you root for her to deal with it gracefully. Her biggest defender is her friend Suzanne Banks, a tough and lively rock singer. “I spent three days painting my flat electric blue, because, in Sound & Vision, that is what David Bowie did, and there is no better person to take interior decorating from than David Bowie.” Caitlyn Moran’s quirky, unique voice is what makes this novel good. At times the writing is a little over-the-top but you feel as though you are immersed in the world of this young woman. This book talks about what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world and the power dynamics of men and women when it comes to sex. You will love the character of Johanna and her brother Krissi and absolutely loathe Jerry Sharp. Suzanne was an interesting character. I liked how plucky and confident she was, even though I hated her for being so unpredictable and unprofessional. In doing so she wastes a lot of Zee’s money. Zee, on the other hand, is a more traditionally likeable character and he was my favourite of the whole bunch. I found it hard to understand Johanna’s love of John Kite for most of the book. Other than the times when he defends her honour, his main defining feature is that he is always drunk and/or high and bragging about the money he is making. At one point he introduces himself: “‘I am John’ he said, beaming. ‘I have taken drugs. I shall now open Champagne.’” But love is often not logical and he eventually redeems himself. The references to 90s music in this book transports you back in time. Sometimes it feels like an enjoyable and fascinating music history lesson. “The last greatest rock’n’roll band in the world, Nirvana, ended when Kurt Cobain became so unhappy with the pressures of fame that he shot himself, which put the world on a massive downer, to be honest.” The life of a rock’n’roll journalist is an exciting one. Johanna drinks and travels for free to meet and interview interesting bands. This book will definitely make you wish you had her job even though she is disillusioned by the boy’s club atmosphere at her place of work, which is “blokey.” “The sound is ferocious - tight; fierce; like something trying to claw and swagger its way out of a small space.” Sights and sounds are described delightfully in this book. The dialogue flows quickly and sounds the way real, witty people speak. Some of it came off slightly inauthentic but for the most part it was pretty well done. “Having someone read bad poetry to you, angrily, is oddly sinister.” Overall, I liked the book even though I found the wording to be, as I said earlier, a little over-the-top at times. The pacing of the book is well done and the characters are all their own individual people. They come alive on the page. “I’m so sorry,” I said, eventually, because that’s what girls automatically say when something bad happens to them.” Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperAvenue for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. Grade: B/B+

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anna M

    4.5. Es una carta de amor a las fangirls. Y es una maravilla justamente por eso.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sam Still Reading

    Ever since I heard that there was going to be a sequel to How to Build a Girl, a funny, raw and honest story of a young girl trying to make it out of her town and into the music industry, I have been desperate to read it. Johanna Morrigan was a funny character with wisdom beyond her years in a top hat. Now Jo is back as a nineteen year old, living the life in London in the early 1990s as a music journalist. There are glimpses of Blur off duty and an Oasis concert to start off Jo’s glamourous lif Ever since I heard that there was going to be a sequel to How to Build a Girl, a funny, raw and honest story of a young girl trying to make it out of her town and into the music industry, I have been desperate to read it. Johanna Morrigan was a funny character with wisdom beyond her years in a top hat. Now Jo is back as a nineteen year old, living the life in London in the early 1990s as a music journalist. There are glimpses of Blur off duty and an Oasis concert to start off Jo’s glamourous life as Dolly Wilde. But then things become not so wonderful… Some of Jo’s problems are family based and some others are more serious. Her father has rediscovered his youth which is hanging around in Jo’s flat, smoking dope and going to pubs and clubs for music. It’s a bit hard to be independent when your father is having the munchies on your couch. There’s also the problem of John Kite, who Jo is seriously in love with. But now he’s become the Robbie Williams of the 1990s and girls want him across the planet. What else can he do but drink, do drugs and lament that everyone thinks he’s sold out. (And still not notice Jo). Jo’s also a bit sick of the boys’ club at her job on DM&E where she’s the butt of many sexist jokes. Then there is Jerry Sharp. Hot comedian who is a bit weird in the sex department and way ahead of his time when it comes to intimate films. Now Jo is in one of them and as she and new friend/hot singer/sex cousin Suzanne decide to take Jerry down, Jerry decides to bring Jo down. It’s a hot tumult of drinking, friends, sex and music. How to Be Famous was overall a fun read. There were heaps of Oasis references early on, some Blur ones and some that I’m sure went straight over my head. The story is just like Jo – non-stop. There was always something happening. However, sometimes it seemed a bit disjointed. The Jerry Sharp incident and subsequent revenge fits in with the #MeToo movement and demonstrates that females don’t have to sit and take sexist rubbish. It’s well written but sometimes it didn’t seem to quite ‘fit’. The tone ranged from fun and frivolous to very, very serious very quickly. Sometimes this subplot was glossed over quickly to go back to the raucous Suzanne or awkward friend-sex. It was a little weird. All the parts of the plot are valid, but sometimes they just didn’t fit in the right way for me. The characters are wonderfully quirky again from Lady Sex Adventurer to members of rising Girl Power indie rock band, The Branks. Julia is delightfully grumpy and so grounded she’s in the Tube. Suzanne is pure craziness with 10000% confidence and the ability to say what everyone else is thinking – bluntly. There is a lot of humour in this novel. Perhaps the least funny character is John Kite but that’s probably because Jo idolises him and we see him through her own eyes. He’s sweet and the letter Jo writes to him to bring him out of his ‘I’m a sell-out mood’ is just wonderful. The only real let down for me was a lack of proofreading in parts and some typos (words missing, near miss words). Overall, I’d love to see what happens to Jo and her career and life. I wouldn’t say no to another book! http://samstillreading.wordpress.com

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andy Lillich

    I feel pretty sure that I am not the intended audience for this book, but the buzz made me feel like giving it a try. True, I had my youthful time of being devoted to drugs, sex and rock 'n roll, but that was several (four or five?) decades ago - and in the U.S., rather than Britain. Still, it was the humor that hooked me - even though its characters' youthful excesses rather appalled me. Still, there was enough going in this book (I ALMOST put it down about halfway through, thinking "this is no I feel pretty sure that I am not the intended audience for this book, but the buzz made me feel like giving it a try. True, I had my youthful time of being devoted to drugs, sex and rock 'n roll, but that was several (four or five?) decades ago - and in the U.S., rather than Britain. Still, it was the humor that hooked me - even though its characters' youthful excesses rather appalled me. Still, there was enough going in this book (I ALMOST put it down about halfway through, thinking "this is not for me," but -) that I persisted. And I am very glad I did. If you ARE the intended audience, this will earn all five stars from you, surely, because the second half is full of pay-offs that well-reward the time spent. In a world full of false relationships, our heroine manages to forge a few of the real kind - and these, along with her #ME, TOO message - make this one a winner, even if you may be, like me, a little too old for it(?)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Fans of Moran's "How to Build a Girl" will enjoy this sequel, which continues Dolly Wilde's journey as a music journalist in the '90s. This follow-up is perfect for the times, as it focuses a lot on Dolly's feminism, self-exploration, and her very own "Me Too" experience. I'm still not a fan of how explicit some of Moran's writing is, but for those who don't mind it, it's fun to get caught up in her humor and wit.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Macklin

    How To Build A Girl was one of the funniest books I ever read, but How To Be Famous is a thoughtful follow up to Jo's wild, blundering youth. At 19, she is slowly figuring out what she actually desires, instead of simply mirroring what she thinks a cool, punk girl should be. Still just as funny as the first, this book has more emotional moments, as it leans into both Riot Grrrl and #MeToo culture.

  30. 4 out of 5

    DebsD

    I adored How to Build a Girl, so it was always going to be a tough act to follow. How to Be Famous is a great book, but it did not, for me, have the originality, perspicacity or whimsy I found in Girl. It did, however, make me laugh out loud on the very first page, and I feel kinda mean for criticising it when really, my only criticism is that it didn't make me love it the way Girl did.

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