How to Be Famous by Caitlin Moran (ARC Review)

How to Be Famous by Caitlin Moran
Publisher: Harper Books (July 2, 2018)
Description from the publisher: 
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.

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!


  1. I'm so happy to read your very positive review of How to Be Famous. Like you, I loved How to Build a Girl, but was nervous about the sequel (they so often disappoint). Because of that I din't even request a copy, but now I'm adding it to my TBR list. Off to put on a library hold!

  2. Wasn't it fabulous?! I love these books. I didn't know it was a trilogy so there is still one more to come.

    I feel about Moran the way Johanna felt about Suzanne. I would just love to have a drink with her and listen to whatever she wanted to say.

    1. I have yet to read her nonfiction memoir, How to be a Woman and I think I need to GET ON THAT! Sorry about the late responses on comments - I've had a blogger snafu :/

    2. Ugh- that's the worst! I hope everything got worked out without too much fuss.

      Honestly, I read her memoir and didn't care for it. For whatever reason, I like her fiction voice better.

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