Thursday, April 17, 2014

Discussion Post: A Look at Chick-Lit

Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:37 AM with 16 comments




Discussion Post:
A Look at Chick-Lit



A couple of weeks ago, I discussed the fact that I never read NA. Ever. I explained the tropes that drive me crazy and so on and so forth. The discussion can be found here. My original plan for the post was a side by side comparison of NA with chick-lit, but almost immediately realized that not only would the post be way too long (and I do understand you all have other things going on in your lives), but that a comparison wasn't the way to go as (again) I've never actually read any NA. Besides, chick-lit holds a special place in my heart, so it deserves its own post.

As I've stated in the past, I got my BA in English several years ago. After I graduated from college, I got a job at a small bookstore and immediately dived into books I didn't HAVE to read. Being an English major pretty much takes away any pleasure reading. I would still do a little bit, but when you are giving huge Victorian novels and Shakespeare and Faulkner and Chaucer and all those other dead white men's novels and told to read them in a week (if you are lucky) and, oh yeah, write a paper about them, too, the desire to read dissipates. It just does. So finally getting out of school and then getting a job at a bookstore was like a dream come true. 
 
The books that pulled me the most was this new genre labelled chick-lit which were so different from the books I'd been forced to read.  New authors were just emerging. The ones that quickly became my favorites included: Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green, Sarah Mlynowski, and Emily Giffin. The now defunct Red Dress Ink Publishing Company were putting out one or two new novels a month. I couldn't get enough of these candy-colored covers and their deliciously fun stories. Besides the above named authors--whose books I still seek out today--the chick-lit genre quickly developed its own tropes. Because that is just what happens when a genre gets popular.

Quick rant: I absolutely hate the term chick-lit which completely undermines these writers as the skillful authors they are who should be given the same respect as we give all authors. It is disgusting that books that are aimed at women are slapped with bright pink covers and belittled. This could be a post on it's own, and since this post is supposed to be a joyful one--mini rant over. For now.

Chick-lit genre tropes:
  • Girl in her early 20s, usually just out of college and in some entry level position
  • Said girl loses her job
  • Said girl gets dumped by her long-term boyfriend
  • Said girl finds love again, but only after a series of hilarious missteps


Is chick-lit predictable? Of course it is, BUT there is just something to be said about the genre. Besides, just like any other genre, you have to weed through some sub-par books to find the gems. A good chick-lit book has a lot in common with those cute, contemporary YA books so many of us are fond of. In fact, it seems like the cute YA book has all but replaced chick-lit as a genre. When chick-lit first became popular the YA genre was almost non-existent. Sure there was Judy Bloom and The Sweet Valley High books, but it was nothing like what it is today.

What I love about the chick-lit genre:

  • The early 20s is an interesting time in a woman's life. Shit is getting real. You no longer have the safety net that is college. You are completely responsible for your life. You probably have a job and an apartment (which means you also have bills and responsibilities).
  • The stories are fluffy and fun. Not only are they fun, they are also usually funny.
  • There is always a happy ending. Even if the girl doesn't get the guy (although she almost always does), you leave the heroine completely assured that life is going to continue to get better and better for her.


The thing that stuck out the most to me in the comments was when the commenter would say that they don't read adult books period. While I lean toward YA, I still pick up books by the above named authors (who are really writing more "women's lit" now), and will still give new up-and-coming chick-lit authors a try. (I also pick the occasional adult mystery or thriller--like Gone Girl--and the occasional adult memoir or non-fiction book, too. There are just so many books out there to limit yourself to a single genre.)

Here are some of my favorites:


Workplace

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Fashionistas by Lynn Messina
A behind-the-scenes look at a fashion magazine. Full of scheming, back-stabbing espionage. 
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
The beloved author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirls debut novel was this work-place romance full of missed connections and two friends exchanging hilarious emails. 
Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
This book. I love this funny, fluffy story that follows a sweet girl named Emma who finds out that the man she spilled ALL her secrets to on a turbulence-filled flight is actually the CEO of her company. 

Sisters

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In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner
Sisters Rose and Maggie have never had much in common, but after a major betrayal and forced co-habitation, the two begin to heal.
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
It's kind of a stretch to call this one chick-lit, but it shares a spirit. Three adult sisters find themselves back in their family home after separate incidents. They are nick-named the "weird sisters" by their Shakespearean professor father after the witches in MacBeth.
The Solomon Sisters Wise Up by Melissa Senate
Three sisters find themselves back in their father's house (sensing a theme?) for various reasons. This is a fun, quick read from the aforementioned Red Dress Ink.
She Myself and I by Whitney Gaskell
Three sisters try to support one another while one is going through a divorce, one is pregnant, and the youngest, wild one starts an affair with a married man. 

Friends

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Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
There are usually some pretty strong opinions about this book (and its companion Something Blue) that follows long-term best friends Darcy and Rachel. Emily Giffin's writing is superb. While I haven't loved her last couple of offerings, her writing in this one, especially, is second to none.
J.A.P. Chronicles  by Isabel Rose
Follows the lives of 7 women who once went to an elite Jewish camp as children. 
Huge helpings of Southern charm in a story that follows a stubborn women, her group of friends, and her daughter. 
Fishbowl by Sarah Mlynowski
Three young strangers share an apartment for the summer and are forced to join together after a small fire erupts in their apartment.

Mystery

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The Pact by Jennifer Sturman
This is the first of a four-book series that follows a girl named Rachel Benjamin. I was so bummed when Red Dress Ink went out of business and this series ceased to be.
Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot
This series follows former pop-star Heather Wells (a hybrid of Britney Spears and Debbie Gibson) who now works at an imaginary New York City university in the "Death Dorm."
Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
A self-professed regular, "grubby" mom stumbles on the dead body of one of the perfect mothers who regularly snubbed her. This one is my favorite from Ms. Weiner.
Love You to Death by Melissa Senate
A young woman scrambles to clear her name after her ex-boyfriend is found dead and two of her other old boyfriends claim brushes with murder, too.

Grad School 

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Monkey Business by Sarah Mlynowski
Follows 4 students who are getting their Masters in Business.
Testing Kate by Whitney Gaskell
Follows a woman in her late 30s who decides to quit her job, break-up with her long-term boyfriend, and move to New Orleans to tackle law school.
After her smug ex-boyfriend tells her she will never get into graduate school in England, a young woman decides to prove him wrong.


Purely Fun and Swoon Worthy

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Jemima J  by Jane Green
A young, English woman who has always been overweight and is hopelessly in love with a man at her work, transforms herself and flies to California. I adore this novel. 
Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot
The "Boy" series by Ms. Cabot includes this and Boy Meets Girl and Every Boy Has One. All 3 are epistolary novels that are written mostly in emails. So cute.
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Two words: Mark Darcy. 
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
A woman in her late 20s wakes up in the hospital and is shocked to find that she is perfectly groomed and married. As she tries to piece together the last 3 years of her suddenly perfect life she realizes that perfection may be overrated. 


As always, I'd love to hear from you. Are you a fan of the chick-lit genre? Or do you think it is all meaningless fluff? Any recommendations? Let me know!

16 comments:

  1. I agree this can be a really fun genre!! I love Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl and Cecilia Ahern's Thanks for the Memories!! I've been wanting to check out the Wierd Sisters and I looooved Ya-Ya Sisterhood!!

    Great post, Natalie!

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    1. I liked both of those, too. The Weird Sisters isn't really chick-lit, but I loved it. I would definitely recommend picking it up. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I honestly am not really into chick-lit just like I'm not really into NA. BUT! I have watched a few chick-lit movies that made me laugh a lot (is Miss Congenitally considered chick-lit?? That was awesome). Maybe one day I'll give it a go, because gosh knows, I've only heard raving things about Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. ;) I love the collections you put here, because it's making me rethink that I neeever want to read them!

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    1. You should definitely give the genre a try. Some of the books that focus on girls in their early 20s go hand-in-hand with many older YA. Attachments is awesome. Definitely give it a try and Miss Congeniality would definitely be considered a chick-flick. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. It's funny, when I was a teen I read chick-lit, and now as an adult I read predominantly YA! I have Attachments on myself and a bunch of old chick-lit that I'm considering giving away, including Size 12 - but seeing as you mentioned it here, I'll hang onto that and read it!

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist

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    1. Yep. Well, when I was in my early 20s I read chick-lit and now that I'm in my 30s I read YA. Definitely read Size 12. I LOVE that one. So funny. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I loved Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot when I was younger. I only read one Lynn Messina - Tallulahland, which I read multiple times. Over here I read a lot of Lisa Jewell and Jenny Colgan too. Attachments felt like throwback to the good old days! Thank you so much for this list-I think I'm all YA'd out and I need some cheering up so I'll try some of these for my lighter reads. Emily Giffin has a new one this year, doesn't she? I'll definitely look into that one. As for my recent favourites, I read a couple of Sarah Pekkanen books and really liked her style-very thoughtful.

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    1. Tallulahland was a good one. I haven't read any Lisa Jewell, but I loved The Boy I Loved Before (I think was the title) by Jenny Colgan. Attachments did feel like a good-ole chick-lit book. It kind of refreshed my love for the genre actually. Emily Giffin does have a new one out this year--next month if I'm not mistaken--and Jennifer Weiner has one out late spring or summer, too. I haven't read anything by Sarah Pekkanen. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  5. Chick lit is very predictable but honestly that predictability is part of what makes me love it so much! It's familiar and I know that whenever I'm starting one, it'll always be a book that cheers me up and sweeps me along with the fun.

    And I love how you had a little note about the term chick-lit because I absolutely DESPISE it as well. I feel like there're a lot of negative connotations associated with it and also, I think it's pigeon-holeing the people who do read it.

    Anyway. Thank you for all the recs! I love Sophie Kinsella and Sarah Mlynowski! These all sound super fun and interesting, I'll be sure to check them out whenever I need something fun to read! Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Annie! I also like the predictable nature, but love it when the author is a little different. The term sets my teeth on edge, but it is what it is, I guess. Yay! I hope you find something that you love. I was worried I was going a bit overboard on recs. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. I used to read a lot of chick-lit and I will still occasionally read some. Sophie Kinsella and Emily Giffin were two of my favorites. And of course Bridge Jones's Diary…did you hear about the newest book from that author and what she did to Mark Darcy????

    I may have to try Testing Kate, that one sounds good. And I agree, these books are like the "grown-up" versions of books like Anna and the French Kiss. Always so much fun, I do like reading happy books every once in awhile. Great post! ~Pam

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    1. YES! I checked it out from the library and then just couldn't do it. For one, she's like in her late 50s maybe even early 60s and Mark is dead and just NO, NO, NO! I read the first page and just returned it unread. Testing Kate was really good. The author went to law school so it is authentic. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. I haven't really entered the New Adult - Chick Lit genre, I should check out some of these!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

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    1. I really never read NA, but chick-lit is completely different. It's just a fun genre. Like rom-com in book form. Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I agree that the term chick-lit isn't a very good one, but I love the genre all the same!

    I adore Meg Cabot's Heather Wells books, so I'm glad they're in your list. I also love Nora Roberts, although I don't think her books really fit the term chick lit (which is partly why it's a rubbish term) - they're more romance with a sometimes supernatural twist, and she also writes thrillers.

    Sarah

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    1. Heather Wells is the best. I still need to read the last one, though. I've never read anything by Nora Roberts. I've always considered her, like, romance or "women's fiction." I didn't realize they had supernatural elements. That's interesting. Thanks for stopping by!

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Hello, there! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I read each and every one and will do my best to respond--usually on your blog instead of on mine. I will, however, always answer direct questions. Due to serious time restraints, this blog is now an award free zone, but I appreciate the thought!