“Hey Girl Hey!” A Half-Assed Deconstruction of a Title Trope

It has come to light that I have read a lot of books in the past year with the word “girl” in the title. These books include:

  • The Girl Next Door
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
  • The Girl with all the Gifts
  • The Forgotten Girls
  • Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl
  • The Girl on the Train
  • The Wicked Girls
  • The Shining Girls
  • Gone Girl

In contrast, I have only read one book in the past year with the word “man” in it (The Ascent of Man) and none with the word “boy.”

Why this glut of girls? Where did they come from? Who let them out of their yellow-wallpapered powder closets? Before we all pump a fist in the air and cry “Yay, feminism!” let’s break it down a bit.

  • Of the books on the list, 6 are authored by female writers, 3 by male.
  • 5 of the book titles are age appropriate, meaning there are actually girls under 18 who figure into the story. The rest are about grown-ass women.
  • 2 of the books are memoirs.
  • In 6 of the books, girls get murdered.
  • 4 books involve the titular girl(s) doing the murdering and/or being a hot mess in general.

What could be the meaning behind this? I have a few theories:

  • I am subconsciously drawn to books with the word “girl” in the title. Perhaps I think “Hey, I was once a girl too! We have so much in common!” According to the latest Pew report on American reading habits, more women than men read (77% vs. 68%), so inserting the word “girl” into a title isn’t a bad marketing strategy.
  • “Girl” is a secret best-seller buzzword. I blame Stieg Larsson and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I have never read and never will and you can’t make me!).
  • Girl = Probably Murder. In all of the books on my list, only the memoirs don’t involve murder and violence of some kind. I am all for bloodshed and mystery (my dog is named Agatha Christie), and yet somehow invoking a girl in the title implies a prurient kind of death; no impersonal poisons or heart attacks here. The end is usually bloody and brutal and tortuous. Rape and mutilation are par for the course. Girls don’t get off easy in these types of books; they die hard. Sometimes this is important, but often it’s voyeuristic and vile.
  • Putting “Girl” in the title of a book acts as a built-in trigger warning. That way no one picks up the book only to discover to their chagrin that it is populated by at least one female character. “Nooo…there’s ladies in my word-fantasy! Some of them even have personality! Quick, bring me whiskey and The Old MAN and the Sea!”

As I was writing this, Facebook recommended a book called The Girl from the Sea. Now that I am hip to their marketing schemes, do you think I fell for that blatant pandering to my delicate sex?

You bet. It was a steal on kindle!

 

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