It's no secret that everybody wants to read books with "girl" in the title right now. And these "girls" aren't meek and mild, either. Forget Little Women; in 2016, we prefer our girls twisted, fierce, and a little bit murderous. But here's an unnerving fact: these girls are more likely to die in novels written by men.
This surprising detail was uncovered by author Emily St John Mandel, whose book Station Eleven was one of those rare bestsellers that doesn't have the word "girl" in the title. Mandel was curious about the massive publishing trend, which started with the 2008 U.S. release of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and has exploded in recent years with thrillers from Gone Girl to Girl on the Train — so she took to Goodreads to look at the data.
Some of the results she uncovered were unsurprising — though sometimes frustrating, such as the fact that 65% of these "girls" are actually full grown women. Our obsession with calling women "girls" is problematic and condescending — but that's not the worst thing Mandel discovered. Out of the 810 popular books with "girl" in the title that Mandel investigated, the female protagonists were significantly more likely to die if the author was a man. In novels written by women, the eponymous "girl" had a 90% chance of surviving the book, whereas in novels written by men, this chance dropped dramatically to only 68%.
It's impossible to speculate what this might mean, but it's certainly an unsettling fact to think about. And as books about "girls" don't seem to be going anywhere fast, it will be interesting to see how this trend develops. Mandel's editor Jennifer Jackson suggests that the world "‘girl’ hints at a vulnerability that raises the stakes" — so I wonder if a move towards books with "women" in the title would make male authors less likely to kill off their protagonists. Do Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin 10 and the upcoming Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki signal the start of a new trend?