REVIEW: How to be Famous, Caitlin Moran

Monday, 23 July 2018

I’m Johanna Morrigan, and I live in London in 1995, at the epicentre of Britpop. I might only be nineteen, but I’m wise enough to know that everyone around me is handling fame very, very badly. My unrequited love, John Kite, has scored an unexpected Number One album, then exploded into a Booze And Drugs HellTM – as rockstars do. And my new best friend – the maverick feminist Suzanne Banks, of The Branks – has amazing hair, but writer’s block and a rampant pill problem. So I’ve decided I should become a Fame Doctor. I’m going to use my new monthly column for The Face to write about every ridiculous, surreal, amazing aspect of a million people knowing your name.
But when my two-night-stand with edgy comedian Jerry Sharp goes wrong, people start to know my name for all the wrong reasons. ‘He’s a vampire. He destroys bright young girls. Also, he’s a total dick’ Suzanne warned me. But by that point, I’d already had sex with him. Bad sex.
Now I’m one of the girls he’s trying to destroy.
He needs to be stopped.
But how can one woman stop a bad, famous, powerful man?

Before I begin, I have quick point to make: despite the fact that nothing on the internet warned me that How to be Famous was a sequel, it is one; a follow-on from the apparently immensely successful How to Build A Girl which I hadn’t read and now, which I have absolutely no plans on reading. Although I suppose the book not being the first in the series wouldn’t actually bother anyone whose enjoyment of How to be Famous wasn’t encumbered by the plot of the novel and its unrealistic, inhuman characters.
Because, although I follow Caitlin Moran on Twitter and laugh along to her feed, I found How to be Famous near-intolerable. Instead of offering sharp insights into the nature of the mid-1990s Brit Pop scene, it followed a girl (who was supposed to be 19 but instead read like a character of 13) incessantly mooning over a guy who doesn’t even appear in that much of the book.
And when he does, he comes off as a total arsehole.
I know, I know. I have been there. We all have. But until I saw it on paper, I didn’t realise just how annoying we must come off as to everyone around us. It’s like in the second third or so of Mean Girls, when Cady won’t shut up about Regina: "I was a woman possessed. I spent about 80 percent of my time talking about Regina. And the other 20 percent of the time, I was praying for someone else to bring her up so I could talk about her more. I could hear people getting bored with me. But I couldn't stop. It just kept coming up like word vomit."
I have never used a quote in a book review. Never. Especially not one that isn’t from the book that I am talking about. But, in my relatively short not-career, a quote has never seen so apt.
And, because of this constant mooning and the general attitude of How to be Famous’ protagonist, no matter how many curse words, and drugs, and sex, Moran added to novel, it still came across as juvenile.
Like a bad 90’s sitcom or those Girls in Love books by Jacqueline Wilson. I mean, do ADULTS like this even exist? If they do, I wouldn’t want to meet them.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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