defining chick lit

When people ask me what kinds of books I write, I tell them that I write novels for teens. When they ask what kind of novels, I say that I write about soul mates. Soul mates have been at the heart of every one of my books. So technically I write romance, but I would never describe my books that way. Language is an interesting thing. A word that has a negative connotation to me could be totally positive to you. But to me, the term “romance novel” smacks of a helpless girl clinging to a shirtless boy with way too many muscles. I can’t get past the cheese factor enough to describe my novels that way. Maybe I need to replace my old word association with an updated one.

Which brings me to the issue of chick lit. What is it? Does it have a negative or positive connotation?

Here’s the Kirkus review of Waiting for You:

Kirkus, 5/15

Marisa spent freshman year grappling with anxiety disorder and depression. Now the amateur photographer is heading into sophomore year with some coping skills and waiting for love to find her. While her best friend is IMing older guys and her once-“normal” parents are separated, Marisa thinks she’s finally found romance with popular Derek, her first boyfriend. Why, then, would she rather hang out and discuss her problems, especially her relapsing depression, with her “totally geeked out” chemistry partner, Nash? Maybe while Marisa’s been waiting for love, it’s been in front of her all along. The story isn’t new, but Colasanti keeps it fresh by speaking to teens in their own language. Marisa’s realistic, first-person narration ably captures the importance of typical adolescent problems. The author also offers a hint of mystery (although readers will soon figure it out) with a late-night radio show featuring Dirty Dirk, an anonymous student who reaches out to Marisa. Chick lit for girls who think. (Fiction. YA)

Now, I totally appreciate a good review, and this one seems okay. It’s just…um, I wasn’t aware that I write chick lit. I’m assuming “Chick lit for girls who think” is a good thing. If we’re going by the definition of chick lit recently mentioned in The New York Times, “fiction by and for women,” then I guess I write it. But if that’s all there is to the definition, then why do so many people perceive chick lit as fluff? It’s true that I write about love, but every one of my books deals with serious issues. Some of these include physical abuse, sexual abuse, death, neglect, divorce, infidelity, and depression. Does chick lit define books dealing with serious issues? Or does it imply a light, fun read?

How do you define chick lit?