Discussion: Girls, Girls, Girls – Why Are There So Many “Girls” in Mysteries & Thrillers?

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Top Ten Tuesday has been one of my favorite memes ever since I started blogging, so huge thanks to Jana for taking over the hosting duties!


This week’s TTT topic is Frequently Used Words In [Insert Genre/Age Group] Titles.


Okay, so I have no clue if I’ve really properly addressed this topic or not, but what immediately popped into my head when I read it is how many times I’ve seen the word GIRL or GIRLS in the titles of mystery/thriller novels.  And maybe it’s something I read too much into, but I can’t help but wonder why so many authors choose to use that word.  I’m sure there are plenty of other words that are used equally often, but I just seem to see this one so frequently that I’m literally like “Oh look, it’s another ‘GIRL’ book” whenever I come across a new title that has it.

Every time I see it, the same series of questions pops into my head.  Is it just a coincidence or are these authors making a conscious choice by selecting that word?  If it’s a conscious choice, are they trying to make some kind of statement?  If so, is it a statement about how often girls are victimized?  Although in the case of a few of the titles I’ve highlighted below, said ‘girl’ is not necessarily a victim at all so I’m not convinced I’m on the right track in my line of thinking.  (Did I mean that I might be overthinking this topic?)

Another question I often have when I see the word GIRL in the title of these kinds of books is why GIRL instead of WOMAN.  Again, in the case of most of the titles I’ve listed below, the majority of the female characters are grown women, not girls at all.  So why refer to them as girls? Are they coming at it from the perspective of the criminal? Do they think of their victims as girls?  (Seriously, am I giving this too much thought?)

I don’t really know if there are truly any concrete answers to my questions but I know I would find it hard to believe that any author would painstakingly pore over every word in his or her novel only to then just willy nilly slap a random title on it.  There’s a reason for GIRL; I just don’t know what it is.

Anyway, those are my ramblings about GIRLS in mysteries.   I’d love to hear your take on it. Why do you think there are so many GIRLS in Mysteries/Thrillers?


Why Are There So Many “Girls” in Mysteries & Thrillers?


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  all the missing girls 


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46 replies
  1. Cam @ Camillea Reads
    Cam @ Camillea Reads says:

    I may have laughed outloud! What are the chances that on the day you post this I buy the ebook, The Girl in the Ice hahaha but yes, I’ve also noticed the trend! I thought it was because the term sort of carries an innocent tone to it, so adding it to a crime fiction makes the title seem more grim.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Haha, talk about timing! Ooh, that’s an interesting perspective on it. I could see that definitely being a possible reason for putting that word in a thriller’s title.

  2. Verushka
    Verushka says:

    This is pretty much my topic too this week. My working theory is they’re trying to capitalise on Gone Girl, and it’s popularity, and years later, I wish that book would just disappear. *shrugs* Sincerely annoys the stuffing out of me.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I could see that. Capitalizing rather than trying something more original, kind of like all of the remakes flooding the TV and movie market right now.

  3. RO
    RO says:

    This is a really good topic and I never noticed, but you’re absolutely right! I’d love to get all these authors together to find out their thought process when they chose the title. I’m quite fascinated by this and need to know the deets now.(lol) Hugs…RO

  4. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books says:

    Wow. I’ve never consciously noticed that before but now that you’ve pointed it out I can think of loads. And “girl” is an interesting/puzzling choice since in almost every case they are really referring to women, not girls.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yeah, of the ones I listed, very few deal with what I would classify as ‘Girls’. Most are definitely adults. It just seems strange.

  5. Angela
    Angela says:

    I totally agree with this and almost did the same topic myself. It is VERY WEIRD that a lot of these books have Girl in the title when they are actually about grown women; it bothers me, and I’m not sure why they choose the title like that. Maybe it flows better? Maybe it gives an air of innocence to the characters? It really bothers me it’s not a mystery/thriller but a nonfiction or even historical fiction about women doing amazing things, and they’re referred to as “girls.” (Atomic City Girls, Radium Girls, etc.) It’s kind of demeaning!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I agree about the nonfiction and historical fiction. Why refer to women who are doing incredible, groundbreaking things as girls? Makes no sense to me.

  6. ShootingStarsMag
    ShootingStarsMag says:

    Oh gosh, yes, it’s everywhere. I feel like publishers are capitalizing on the trend a bit – once these books started doing really well like Gone Girl and then Girl on the Train. They probably think if they have Girl in the title, it will stand out, and who knows? It probably does make people pick up the book more often than not. As for not using Woman – well, same reason before…but also, Girl just seems to flow better most of the time. Maybe?


    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I could see it being something like that — I know in my head if I replace girl in some of the titles I listed with woman, it doesn’t flow as well, but it still just bugs me. It’s like ‘Come up with a more original title, please!’

  7. Literary Feline
    Literary Feline says:

    Great topic, Suzanne. I wrote about something similar a couple years ago, which hoes to show its a longstanding trend, doesn’t it?

    I remember reading an article that said it comes down to marketing and which words readers gravitate more towards. Girl evidently is one of them.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      That’s fascinating, which then makes me wonder why we as readers tend to gravitate to the word girl. This whole topic has kicked my brain into overdrive, lol.

  8. Jordan Rose
    Jordan Rose says:

    Yeah, the prevalence of ‘girl/s’ in titles is something that’s been bothering me for a while now. Especially since a lot of times it’s about adult women, also. This is one of the first ones I thought of after seeing the TTT topic. Great post!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thanks! Yeah, the part about referring to grown women as girls is probably what bothers me the most. I’d love to know if there’s a rationale behind the choice or if it’s just marketing since a few Girl books have been such huge sellers.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      And that could definitely be a possible reason. I tried replacing the word Girl with Woman in the titles I listed and it did not flow as well as Girl did.

  9. Greg
    Greg says:

    I know right? I thought of that too. You have some great examples! Vanishing Girls and All The Missing Girls- I wanted to read both of those but haven’t yet. As to why it’s used so often, I don’t know although they say there are more female readers than men, so maybe they’re using “girl” for that reason? Although using “girl” instead of “woman” kinda baffles me too…

  10. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight
    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight says:

    There really are a lot of titles in this genre with the word girl! I remember Daniela @ Nocturnal Devices had a similar discussion once. It does make you wonder if maybe authors or whoever makes the titles or just society in general are using it for the connotation of girls being victims or weak or whatever. Or maybe they’re using it for the opposite reason, to show that girls can be strong? I guess it would depend on what actually happens to the girl in the book. Or maybe we are just reading into it too much and it’s just that a couple books with ‘girl’ in the title sold well and so now everyone else is copying them lol.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Haha, that thought has crossed my mind too. It definitely seems like marketers look for the easiest sure-fire way to make a buck so using a word that has been on best-sellers would make sense to try to lure readers.

  11. Aj @ Read All The Things!
    Aj @ Read All The Things! says:

    I’ve noticed this too! I wonder if it’s a marketing thing? When I was working in publishing, I learned that cover designers sometimes copy elements of covers that sold well. After The Fault In Our Stars came out, there were suddenly a lot of YA books with blue and white covers. I know that the Stieg Larsson series sold really well, so all the “girls” might be publishers trying to draw people in with similar titles.

  12. Sam@WLABB
    Sam@WLABB says:

    Girls is the word getting a lot of attention today. I never realized how many books I read with “girls” in the title. I have 5 pages of “girl” books on my GR read shelf, including 3 you mentioned.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      It’s kind of mind blowing how many there really are. It only took me a couple of minutes to think of all the ones I posted and I’m sure a little research would have generated a list 2 or 3 times as long pretty easily.

  13. sjhigbee
    sjhigbee says:

    Oh yes – have you noticed the word ‘woman’ is only used when said female is some villain or power-hungry. Or if they are some ugly palsied crone… you know – grey-haired and over the age of 40…

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      OOh, that’s wild that people have actually written articles about this and I’m also glad that it’s not just me reading into this, that more people are noticing what has been driving me crazy for a couple of years now, lol.

  14. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction
    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    I’ve seen others discuss this word in book titles too, but I never thought about the prevalence in mysteries and thrillers. It does seem a little demeaning since they’re all grown women. You would never see a book about a man with “Boy” in the title.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Right? Sitting here thinking about it, I can’t think of any books with the word ‘Boy’ in the title where it was actually referring to a grown man. So annoying!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Right? And someone recently made the comment on this post about how you rarely, if ever, see authors do the same thing with using ‘Boys’ to reference grown men.

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