Tackling the “girl” trend has become a bit of a trend in itself, but often these pieces elide a meaningful distinction between two kinds of “girl” book: those whose plots revolve around actual, underage girls and those whose titles describe adult women. Conflating the two makes sense if you’re wondering how girly the market has gotten (answer: very), but—as any thirty-something woman who’s been called “girl” by a well-meaning waiter or retrograde employer can attest—the word evokes different connotations for those of us old enough to vote.
What we talk about when we talk about grown-up girl narratives: almost always, the Gone Girl girls, wounded women on the warpath. But that’s just one subset of a cultural moment that’s spilled across genre and medium, girl stories by and about women. The last few years alone have given us grown-up rocker girls (Girl in a Band, Rat Girl, Violence Girl, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl), science girls (Lab Girl, The Girls of Atomic City, Rise of the Rocket Girls), WWII girls (Lilac Girls), ballet girls (Girl Through Glass), and journalist girls (Good Girls Revolt), not to mention all the grown-up girls struggling to find themselves on screen, 2 Broke Girls, New Girl, Supergirl, and, of course, Girls. There’s a Good Girl’s Guide to Sex, a Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study, there are Girls in White Dresses and 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, and thanks to Amy Schumer, there will soon be The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo. There is, it seems, a girl for nearly every kind of woman. I think it’s worth asking why.