Angry Book Review: The Unoriginal Writer’s Daughter Revisited

Yes, the writer of this review is, well, let’s say “uncharitable” and let it go at that. But we gotta tell you: Where she’s coming from is a golden place. Read and absorb, Young Jedi Writers, for your own sakes:

madmans-daughterby Shana Mlawski

This week, the YA world is abuzz about The Madman’s Daughter, a new piece of historical fiction about the teenage daughter of Dr. Moreau. (Yes, that one.) (Yes, there is a love triangle in it.)

When I first got wind of the title, my mind immediately went back to one of the very first articles I ever wrote for (Don’t read it. It’s meh.) In that piece, “The Unoriginal Writer’s Daughter,” I took writers – mainly women writers – to task for continually naming their booksThe Such-and-Such’s Wife and The Such-and-Such’s Daughter. A quick jaunt over to Amazon will show you that this trend is still very much in play today.

However, today I’m not going to criticize. I know how hard coming up with a title is. My publisher and I went through a list of maybe 50 titles before settling onHammer of Witches, a name called “cool” by some and “huh?” by others. (It makes sense in context.)

Instead of criticizing, I’m here today to quantify and analyze. In other words: overthink! And, as is true in every good overthink, There Will Be Charts. My big questions for today are

  1. Which family members get it the worst? Are there more daughters, sons, wives, husbands, mothers, or fathers in these titles?
  2. Are these titles more common in certain genres of literature?
  3. Do certain genders get this sort of title more than others? Put another way: is there sexism afoot?
  4. Is The Such-and-Such’s Family Member really that common a title anyway?

Let’s find out!

1. Which family members get it the worst? Are there more daughters, sons, wives, husbands, mothers or fathers in these titles?

To answer this question, I hopped over to Amazon and did some simple searching. To make things easier for myself, I limited the searches to all works of fiction released after April 2008, which was when I wrote my last Overthinking It article on this subject. Here’s what I found:


As suspected, there are lots of daughters and wives in fiction titles, but there some fathers and mothers, too. Most surprisingly, there are a ton of sons – you can see “sons” has the highest share of the above pie.

Okay, easy-peasy. Now let’s move on to the more difficult and I think more interesting questions.

2. Are these titles more common in certain genres of literature?

To answer these questions, I had to get my hands dirty with some advanced searching. The following data won’t be super-scientific, because Amazon doesn’t categorize its literature perfectly – I’ve found non-fiction in fiction genres and Harlequin romances in “literary fiction” – and there’s a bit of overlap between genres. For example, if The Madman’s Daughter were not YA but an adult book, it would be slotted in under “Horror,” “Historical Fiction,” and possibly “Romance” and “Literary Fiction.” I tried my best to separate different genres – you’ll notice when you look at the following graph that I separated regular historical fiction from literary historical fiction and romance-historicals as best as I could.

First, the raw numbers:

Read it all

2 thoughts on “Angry Book Review: The Unoriginal Writer’s Daughter Revisited”

  1. Hey there, TV Writer! I’m the author of the article you’ve posted above. I just wanted to note for the record that I haven’t yet read The Madman’s Daughter and the above article is not meant to be taken as a review of the book. It’s an analysis of titles in the vein of The X’s Daughter, which we’ve seen a lot of lately. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for clarifying that, and welcome to TVWriter™!

      I totally agree with you about the Unoriginal Title Problem, btw.

      And as for whether or not you were “uncharitable,” I confess that when it comes to what writers, um, write, I’m probably the toughest audience of all. Because when I’m reading I’m entrusting my entire soul to the author, which means that whenever s/he takes the easy way out it’s not just a matter of feeling let down but of feeling totally betrayed.

      I kinda get the feeling I’m in good hands with you, though, Shana!



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