While Joanna could never really be described as a role model (quitting school, lots of v. casual sex, drugs, etc) she's a child of wild imagination, determination and reinvention - what amazing qualities to find in any character, much less a real-life person.
All my life, I've thought that if I couldn't say anything boys found interesting, I might as well shut up. But now I realize there was that whole other, invisible half of the world--girls--that I could speak to instead. A while other half equally silent and frustrated, just waiting to be given the smallest starting signal - the tiniest starter culture- and they would explode into words, and song, and action, and relieved, euphoric cries of "Me too! I feel this too!"The story of Joanna is quite similar to Moran's own bio - a young woman from Wolverhampton grows up in a "council house" (that's like subsidized housing in the UK, I guess) and becomes a successful rock critic as a teenager. Moran goes to some pains to illustrate that this is a work of fiction, which I merely note because I'm obsessed with art that borrows heavily from the artist's life, and I also have the radical idea that we shouldn't label book types. (Alphabetical by Last, à tute!) See my review of The Wallcreeper for more of my V. Important Thoughts on this subject.
Just as I lol'd and hell yeah'd through How To Be a Woman, so too did I alternately lol and nod in sage agreement with Moran's spot-on assessment of girls' growing up in the 90s. Another theme, near and dear to my heart, is the role of the critic. Joanna finds it more fun to eviscerate the bands she reviews, until she realizes that her "bile-filled persona" makes working-class kids like herself feel ashamed of the thing they love. "I started writing about music because I loved it. I started off wanting to be part of something - to be joyous. To make friends. Instead I've just, bafflingly, pretended to be a massive arsehole instead." I've had a similar trajectory in writing book reviews - long ago I found it easier and more amusing to write what I thought was a devastating review - but for the last few years I've tried hard to write about the positives, even of books I hate. It's harder and it's not as fun, but I'm not spewing infective into the world. I love reading, and the idea of other people finding what they want to read. I never want to stand in the way of that.
I am also not ashamed to admit I learned some new words (and not just for my special lady area! In one glorious page she referred to her "wedge", "fnuh" and "toilet-parts") Here are a few I picked up:
FrangibleMoran writes, "So what do you do when you build yourself-only to realize you built yourself with the wrong things? You rip it up and start again. That is the work of your teenage years - to build up and tear down and build up again, over and over, endlessly, like speeded-up film of cities during boom times and wars." Even though she specifies that it's the work of "your teenage years" I'm not so lucky to be finished yet. But this book gives me confidence to keep working on that girl.
ontic: of or relating to entities and the facts about them
ignominy: public shame or disgrace
Hebridean: people from some islands off Scotland
Blag: To obtain something by dubious means - I wish I knew the derivation...
loo roll: Toilet paper! Isn't that the best?