STARRED REVIEW
August 2018

A rollicking launch into adulthood

By Caitlin Moran
Review by

Caitlin Moran has a gift—in both short- and long-form writing, in both fiction and nonfiction—that hits like magic when it lands in the lap of the right reader. It’s a rare, mesmerizing talent to simultaneously move a reader and make them laugh so hard they risk falling out of their chair. In How to Be Famous, Moran’s follow-up to How to Build a Girl, she works that magic again.

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Caitlin Moran has a gift—in both short- and long-form writing, in both fiction and nonfiction—that hits like magic when it lands in the lap of the right reader. It’s a rare, mesmerizing talent to simultaneously move a reader and make them laugh so hard they risk falling out of their chair. In How to Be Famous, Moran’s follow-up to How to Build a Girl, she works that magic again.

Moran reunites readers with Johanna Morrigan, a teenager from the Midlands of England who moves to London to further her music journalism career as Dolly Wilde. Once there, she is swept up in a world of rock stars, comedians, parties and in particular John Kite, a newly famous musician with whom she is madly in love. Though they’re close, her love is not returned at first, and through a series of adventures Dolly becomes convinced that the way to draw John closer to her is to write her own way to stardom and seduce him with the power of her prose. Once she’s resigned to do this, things start to happen quickly for Dolly, and she must learn to deal with fame and infamy while also reaching out for the only person she’s really trying to touch.

How to Be Famous lives or dies based on Moran’s ability to render Dolly as an enchanting, vulnerable and hilarious guide through the mid-1990s London music scene, and Dolly’s charm immediately jumps off the page. Dolly is at once bitingly witty and achingly open, not just to the reader but also to the world she’s trying to find her place in, and it sets a tone that makes you both root for her and anticipate her next misadventure.

That might be enough to carry the novel on its own, but Moran doesn’t stop there. Her ambition, like Dolly’s, is to weave into this tale a kind of feminist manifesto that tackles love and sex, as well as the fine line between girlhood and womanhood. She succeeds throughout but keeps you waiting for the final, unforgettable exclamation point at the book’s hysterical climax.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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How to Be Famous

How to Be Famous

By Caitlin Moran
Harper
ISBN 9780062433770

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