I’m often perusing various outlets for books–my local bookstores, the Barnes & Noble a few towns away (these are special trips my sister and I take, with conversation and catching up in the car on the way down and back, then separating on our own book odysseys in the store, followed by chat over coffee to discuss our findings), my library’s online newsletter (or just browsing the actual library), and a print flyer called Book Page with reviews, interviews and book advertising.
I’ve noticed something over the past few years, and maybe you have, too. I’m probably a little late in the noticing, but the thing is the abundance of book titles with the word “girl(s)” in them. Here’s just a sampling:
- The Girl Who Chased the Moon (Sarah Addison Allen)
- Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly)
- The Good Girl (Mary Kubica)
- The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Heidi W. Durrow)
- Or simply, The Girls (Emma Cline)
Don’t forget these classics:
- Girl with a Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier)
- Girl, Interrupted (Susanna Kaysen)
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larson) as well as the sequels The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and
I could go on and on. When I googled it, Goodreads had a list of 759 books with the word “girl” in it. 759! Why is this so?
One could point to the mega success of novels like Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) and The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins). Do authors–or publishers–really believe they can replicate that kind of success simply with a certain word in the title? Do they really think readers will flock to a book with said title, in the hopes of finding the same thrilling reading experience? I wouldn’t be surprised. Human beings are like sheep, content to go where they’re led.
Maybe it’s something about the word “girl” itself. It connotes youth, beauty, innocence, a nascent sexuality. It’s what men want, and what women want to be. There’s a yearning associated with it, or a nostalgia. There’s so much that can go wrong–the misconceptions or corruption of youth, poison behind the beauty, the smashing of innocence, inappropriate or destructive sexuality. These stories behind the girl are alluring. We’re drawn to these images like a moth to a flame.
Maybe I should take up this trend and insert the word “girl” into my titles. My wolf novel could be Wolf Girl, instead of Wolf Dream (and believe it or not, it’s an expanded version of a short story I originally called “Lost Girl”–maybe I already intuitively understood the power of that word). My dragon novel could be, of course, Dragon Girl, instead of The Last Dragon, or The Girl with the Ruby Red Scales. I don’t have a title yet for the story I’m planning right now, but maybe it could be Girl, Reincarnated. Or The Poet Girl. I’m kidding, but it just goes to show how important titles are, and the influence they have over readers.