Bite Somebody · Book Review · Publishing

Gone Girl ruined women’s fiction


As part of my job, I review books, which means I receive about nine advance review copies a week. Yes, nine. My husband just loves the immense stack of never-to-be-read books piled willy-nilly in my office. Why will some books—many books—never be read?

Because they’re all the same book.

I’m not saying I blame Gillian Flynn for the current overbearing trend in women’s literature. In fact, I think she’s extremely talented and introduced a groundbreaking genre with her masterpiece Gone Girl. The publishing industry apparently agrees, considering they’re now almost exclusively publishing Gone Girl wannabes OR books about Sad Shit.

Allow me to quote some cover copy from upcoming releases:
“A provocative and relentlessly gripping novel about seduction and betrayal …”
“The heartbreak is overwhelming …”
“A suspenseful novel about a woman who fakes her death …”

There are troubled girls, missing girls, revenge, and ostensibly, everything is now Suspenseful, Stunning, and Shocking. (I guess alliteration is big right now, too.) In this new era of women’s fiction, everyone is betrayed or abandoned. Everyone is broken.

I used to get excited when FedEx knocked on my door with another specially-wrapped ARC from HarperCollins, St. Martin’s Press, et cetera. Now, I barely bat an eye, because I just know I’m going to open that package and see another book with a sad woman on the cover.

Why won’t you LOOK AT ME?

(By the way, this is a trend we can’t blame on Gillian Flynn. There’s a joke that all Nicholas Sparks books should be called “White People Kissing,” based on the covers. Well, now, all women’s lit books are pictures of women facing away from the camera, presumably because they’re all crying. Yawn.)

I am so tired of a) suspense novels about disappearing wives/murder/deceit/dead children and b) sad ass stories about redemption and reconciliation. If I get one more book with “gripping” in the marketing copy, I might scream.

The publishing world is so oversaturated with depressing women’s fiction, I have to wonder if the big publishing houses are even paying attention. I understand they’re looking for the next Gone Girl or Girl on the Train, but I’ve had enough.

I’m not innocent. I do write some depressing stuff on occasion, but for the most part, I write stories so far outside the realm of reality, I dare to say I’m depressing no one. Take my novel, BITE SOMEBODY. It’s about an awkward, 80s-obsessed vampire named Celia who’s in love with the smell of her neighbor. She drinks A-positive blood because it makes her feel like she got a good grade.

Now, you could say, “Not another vampire book!” However, mine is different. It’s a vampire book that makes fun of vampire books. It’s also not particularly “gripping” or “provocative” or “shocking” (unless you count the bit about a pilfered Virgin Mary statue).

I’m really hoping someone notices the Gone Girl trend and writes a parody. It would be super simple. Just make the husband run away, have nobody notice he’s gone, and The End.

Thanks to popular publishing, we are now being fed the same book over and over infinitum. Do we blame Gillian Flynn? No. It’s not her fault her book was successful. However, she did start this whole mess, so perhaps, she gets a bit of my flack. More so, it’s the industry itself that can’t stop publishing depressing shit in an era when depressing is the last thing we need because, oh, terrorists.

I say go out and read something funny. Read something not under the umbrella of “suspense thriller.” Read something that isn’t about cancer or betrayal or infidelity. I realize that really cuts down on your modern literature options, but maybe, if we all huddle together and read funny books, the publishing houses will realize there are only so many incarnations of Nick and Amy Dunne we’re willing to read.

8 thoughts on “Gone Girl ruined women’s fiction

  1. Makes me think of a letter I got from a friend when I went away to college: “Since you left, it’s been a non-stop party at your house and the property values have improved considerably.”

  2. Oh for the old versions of Nick and Nora Charles, Thin Man. Lauren and Humphrey, “You know how to whistle, don’t you?” Cary & both Hepburns. Mystery and humor, glamour and fun. I think they’re timeless but seem to be out of fashion right now. Anyone want to bring back glamour with an update! Where’s Gary Grant when we need him?

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