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Chick-Lit, Feature

Chick-Lit is Not a Bad Word

Everyone now and then, someone gets their knickers in a twist over the use of the term “chick-lit” and it being demeaning to their work. It’s certainly not the readers of the genre, who use it with affection. We can’t blame the marketing people for using it when it sells books. Anything that increases reading in any way is good and sales keep the publishing industry going so they can publish more niche books too. The use of cartoonish covers in pastel shades probably don’t help matters but we’ve all been taught not to judge a book by its cover. I think most authors that fall within the genre are pretty clued up on the audience they’re writing for and, again, the label actually sells stuff so they can’t complain.

So that leaves the people that don’t know what they’re talking about. The ones that confuse chick-lit with Mills & Boon (though there’s nothing wrong with reading that sort of romance if it’s your thing). Do we care what these ignorant people think? We should just pity them for not taking a chance on an unknown book. Think of all the great reads they’re missing out on!


  Photo by dæxus

It wasn’t so long ago (OK maybe it was) when chick-lit was limited to “bonkbusters” by the likes of Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins. Actually, I quite like Jilly’s books, they hark back to a day when showjumping was considered glamourous after all. But then Bridget Jones came along. I know there is a lot of mixed feeling about the book but Helen Fielding brought back what Jane Austen did best with a rework of Pride & Prejudice for the modern day. The heroines are less than perfect, they make bad choices and they have a network of family/friends to prop them up and share confidences with. Oh yeah, and they’re funny. No wonder a host of other novels were hot on its heels when it proved successful.

So what is chick-lit then? I like to think of it as literature (that’s the lit part) that appeals to a female audience (that’s the chick part). Us women read a wide range of fiction, but there’s something about a girl meets boy scenario that scares the male reader off. The heroines are rarely tomboys so there is a lot about their lives that wouldn’t be of interest to the average man. I’m not saying that they can’t be enjoyed by both sexes, but it’s rare. The books can cover all sorts of issues, from the age old not being able to find a decent man (a serious enough issue for many) to domestic violence but they always have a lighter edge and usually a romance to keep us going. If not, I’m not sure they have been correctly categorised.

Sophie Kinsella’s Secret Dreamworld of Shopaholic is one of my favourite chick-lit reads. Our heroine is instantly likeable, the writing is funny, there’s a will-they-won’t-they romance and at the core is the serious issue of debt. For those who have always been solvent, Becky’s crazy spending habits might have just been amusing or weird but it’s actually a scarily realistic portrayal of what can happen. The credit crunch has given us all a glimpse of it.

Of course, Marian Keyes is always brought out to defend the genre. I do think it’s partly marketing that has classified her as chick-lit rather than the content itself. I’ve never felt that her books are fundamentally about the romance, actually most of her books are pretty unromantic. I think she’s a fantastic writer and Is Anybody Out There is one of my faves but I’m thinking chick-lit is much more about being an updated romance genre.

People say that books for men don’t have an equivalent but I’m pretty sure that dick-lit exists. I don’t want to pick up a book by Andy McNab at any point in my life…unless it’s to move it out the way. There’s a whole host of authors that write for the male market, it’s just credit to the female sex that we’re a bit more forgiving and are more likely to try out the other side.

I don’t read as much chick-lit as I used to but that’s not because I think it’s beneath me. I have read a lot in the past and it’s hard to find something that stands out as different. Coupled with the sheer number of amazing books out there to read across all genres, they’ve taken a back seat in recent years. Of course, I still like to get lost in a bit of romance now and then, and I will turn to chick-lit when my reading starts to lack in that department.

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  1. Rachel

    I completely agree. Chick-lit should not be seen as a bad word for below average romance books but rather a genre that appeals to strong independent interesting women who like to read about other strong independent interesting women.

    Anybody Out There is also one of my favourites and it really goes to show the range that a chick-lit genre can give you.

    I love your idea of Dick-lit. In fact my boyfriend recently had a book that perfectly fit into that genre. A book about a guys experiences in the Afghanistan conflicts it really didn't appeal to me and if I could remember the name I'd write it but unfortunately he's loaned it out to one of his guy mates (the second one whose read it) and they all love it. So Dick-lit definitely exists! 🙂

  2. KarenSi

    I have to confess that I hate Chick Lit with a passion. It just doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. Having said that I would never judge anyone else for liking it. As far as I'm concerned life would be completely boring if we all liked the same things. And I would be offending a large number of my friends if I did start judging.

    It's funny how easily authors are offended by classification. They can be precious about the littlest things. I suppose if they have put so much work into it then they have a right to be precious. However, I think it says more about how secure the author feels than anything else. Maybe they themselves feel they are being judged because they are placed in that category no matter how popular it is. I remember reading that Diana Gabaldon gets very irritated when people categorise her books as romance. She says it's more science fiction. I managed to read half of her first one (I really don't like romance) and I would say it's definitely romance. Nothing to be offended about though.

    I love your Dick-Lit category. Believe it or not I have a female friend who loves Dick-Lit and a male friend who likes Chick-Lit. Shows there are exceptions.

  3. Carol

    Hurray for Chick-lit. I am one of those who say it with affection.

    I do love historical fiction, contemporary fiction, and the odd classic but Chick-lit has a big section on my shelves.

    Reading is escapism and for fun most of the time for me. Chick-lit hits the spot.

    I have to agree, those who think that chick-lit is not to be taken seriously are those who have no interest in it.
    I am not interested in the Andy McNab style of books but do not go out of my way to put them down. I just leave them to those who do appreciate them.


  4. Sophia

    I totally agree with you. There's nothing wrong in wanting to enjoy a lighter read with romance and a bit of humour. It's true that the cartoonish covers have done a lot to pigeonhole this kind of literature as fluffy and worthless, but they do a disservice to the many authors whose books are a definite cut above the Mills & Boon type.

  5. karen!

    Great post.

    My problem with the Shopaholic books is that while they do tackle the credit card debt problem, they aren't quite realistic. What I mean is that the protagonist should be racking up much more debt that she does in the books based on her spending habits (and that seems to trivialize the problem to people who struggle with it).

  6. Becky LeJeune

    Chick lit has definitely gotten a bad rap. I love chick lit and I want more of it again.

  7. Sam (Tiny Library)

    I love a bit of chick lit, and have done ever since Bridget Jones first came out!

    I turn to fluffy chick lit when I want some escapism (Shopaholic series is great for this) but agree that not all chick lit is light, with Marian Keyes being a good example of that. I think Nick Hornby wuld be pigeon holed as a chick lit writer if he was female.

  8. Hannah @ Dragons and Whimsy

    Haha, great article. Love the use of the term 'dick-lit'!

    I haven't had chance to read any chick-lit recently, but I've been collecting it. I do judge books by covers, if I spot a cartoony, girly cover, I'll assume it's chick-lit, read the blurb, if it sounds like a fun read I might pick it up. The thing is, I'm not into romance. At all. Not as the integral part of the story. Which is why I like chick-lit, because while it is pretty big on romance (usually), there is more to it than just a quick shag. Maybe an issue, a bit of comedy. And I like that it is a genre else I wouldn't look at these books twice, more than likely!

    Once Upon A Time

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