The girl title trend in publishing is interesting because it is popular despite some pushback against using the word ‘girl’ to refer to grown-ass women.
Author Emily St John Mandel wrote this week about why so much of the bestselling fiction this year has ‘girl’ in the title.
- It’s an evolution on all those titles from a few years ago which emphasise a woman’s relationship to a man. The [X’s] Daughter/Wife and so on.
- Book titles are like book covers — not decided by authors but by marketing departments.
- This ‘girl’ trend probably started with the phenomenal success of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and marketing departments are hoping to replicate that success.
- There may be something about ‘girl’ that promises a character arc (with the ‘girl’ becoming a ‘woman’, regardless of the fact she’s already a woman in years at the beginning of the story.)
- I am slightly disturbed by the stat that when men write books with girl in the title the girl is significantly more likely to be dead by the end of the story than when the book is written by a woman. This leads to the question: Are male authors more likely to kill characters of any gender than female authors, or do best-selling male authors take a particular pleasure in killing off girls?
Those are my takeaway points but the entire article is well worth a read.
Basically, books with girl in the title tell the reader that this is a ‘psychological thriller about middle class white women with jobs’.
The Girl Title In Kids’ Books
This book impresses me about as much as the UN’s decision to appoint Wonder Woman as its gender equality ambassador, even as the UN itself haemorrhages women in leadership roles.
Contrast with the ‘boy version’ of the book, reinforcing for everyone that when girls have power it’s ‘girl power’, but boy power is the unmarked version.
It may be 2016, but be very suspicious about books for young readers which emphasise gender on the cover.
YA titles are a slightly different matter.
Girl Titles In YA
The basic criticism of all those adult novels with girl in the title is about the infantalisation of women. This isn’t an argument when it comes to YA characters who are, indeed, minors.
While Mandel’s article looks only at books marketed at an adult audience, I wondered if those bestselling adult thrillers were influencing marketing decisions in the YA department.
On the Barnes and Noble list of bestselling YA 2016 (so far) we have a standout collection of titles about kings and queens, with a not-insignificant number of covers which are quite obviously hoping to attract Stieg Larsson crossover audiences. When a YA book has ‘girl’ in the title in 2016, it’ll probably be a gritty crime thriller.
The word ‘gone’ in the Heidi Heilig cover will also appeal to the Gone Girl audience. (About fifty percent of YA readers are adult women.)
This book doesn’t have ‘girl’ in the title but the cover design is very reminiscent of ‘Gone Girl’. Same font, perhaps?
Moth Girls is a YA thriller. The book tells the story of Mandy, and her friends Petra and Tina. Petra and Tina had gone into an old local house years before and never been seen again. Mandy is only around because she refused to go in with them.
In case the American Girl series with the expensive dolls springs immediately to mind, this new publication is a YA crime thriller focusing on a 15-year-old who runs away to Los Angeles to live with her D-list actress sister. The sisters are based on the Manson sisters, who the author researched heavily.
This book is marketed across the pond as My Favourite Manson Girl. So, same book, different English speaking cultures, both with girl in the title.
If I Was Your Girl breaks the mould. This isn’t a crime/thriller but a realistic coming-of-age novel about a transgender girl by a transgender woman.
This Goodreads question gave me a chuckle:
What will 2017 look like for YA?
I predict more books about transgender because there is a need there, and those books are highly likely to indicate gender in the title or title graphic somehow.
Mandel is hoping adult titles will evolve to include woman in place of girl, and offers an example of that starting to happen. But we’ll have to wait and see, I guess.