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?

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16 thoughts on “defining chick lit

  1. I don’t really associate Chick Lit with YA. I always think of it as adult books with pastel colors and funky font on the cover and some fancy designer name in the title. lol

  2. I don’t really associate Chick Lit with YA. I always think of it as adult books with pastel colors and funky font on the cover and some fancy designer name in the title. lol

  3. i think both the terms are weird… because yah, “romance” definitely has these weird and possibly negative connotations to it, and yet most of the books i read have some type of romance in them.
    “chick lit” is also strange… it’s associated with fluff and ‘nothing’ books. i… i don’t know. in one way i think it’s harmless, it’s just a label that doesn’t matter. but on the other hand, i think it’s entirely negative. why does a book, which deals with serious issues that people have to deal with, get labeled as “chick lit” just because it’s aimed at girls? i could be off base, but i’m under the impression that the majority of books now a days (except possibly in the war and sci-fi type genres) are aimed towards girls and women. so is every single book written by a woman and for a woman supposed to be under one big label of “chick lit”? it seems kind of insulting

  4. i think both the terms are weird… because yah, “romance” definitely has these weird and possibly negative connotations to it, and yet most of the books i read have some type of romance in them.
    “chick lit” is also strange… it’s associated with fluff and ‘nothing’ books. i… i don’t know. in one way i think it’s harmless, it’s just a label that doesn’t matter. but on the other hand, i think it’s entirely negative. why does a book, which deals with serious issues that people have to deal with, get labeled as “chick lit” just because it’s aimed at girls? i could be off base, but i’m under the impression that the majority of books now a days (except possibly in the war and sci-fi type genres) are aimed towards girls and women. so is every single book written by a woman and for a woman supposed to be under one big label of “chick lit”? it seems kind of insulting

  5. I think just because a book has a romance in it, that doesn’t make it a romance novel or chick lit.
    And btw, I just finished your book yesterday and I loved it! No surprise. But I couldn’t believe how many references you made to stuff I was totally into. I think I squeeled when you mentioned Pump Up the Volume. And I was thinking that the whole Dirty Dirk thing kind of reminded me of that movie. Hmmm…

  6. I think just because a book has a romance in it, that doesn’t make it a romance novel or chick lit.
    And btw, I just finished your book yesterday and I loved it! No surprise. But I couldn’t believe how many references you made to stuff I was totally into. I think I squeeled when you mentioned Pump Up the Volume. And I was thinking that the whole Dirty Dirk thing kind of reminded me of that movie. Hmmm…

  7. i think chick lit is a stupid term to just tag on to novels that could potentially be great.
    but once they are called ‘chick lit,’ it makes them a little unappealing.
    you are not chick lit.
    in my opinion, that is.

  8. i think chick lit is a stupid term to just tag on to novels that could potentially be great.
    but once they are called ‘chick lit,’ it makes them a little unappealing.
    you are not chick lit.
    in my opinion, that is.

  9. I would not consider your books ‘Chick Lit’. I really don’t connect any negative thought with the term, in fact, wouldn’t the Simon Pulse RoComs be ‘chick lit’? And those are some of my favorite books. But to me the term does go hand in hand with light, fluffy teen reads. Kind of like ‘chick flicks’ I guess :-p
    – Renee (The Book Girl)

  10. I would not consider your books ‘Chick Lit’. I really don’t connect any negative thought with the term, in fact, wouldn’t the Simon Pulse RoComs be ‘chick lit’? And those are some of my favorite books. But to me the term does go hand in hand with light, fluffy teen reads. Kind of like ‘chick flicks’ I guess :-p
    – Renee (The Book Girl)

  11. What an interesting question! Definitions are totally tricky, since everybody’s got their own spin on ’em. Let me just preface this by saying I’m in the MIDDLE of your book right now. (I know, how lame that I haven’t had time to finish it yet, but I’m leaving for a week-long vacation and things have been crazy! Every time I read it, it goes so fast though. Totally relating to the anxiety disorder, heh.)
    I agree with you about the “negative, embarrassing” label that a “romance novel” has. “Chick lit” doesn’t have *quite* as negative a connotation, IMO, but it definitely means “light read”, “sentimental”, “boring to guys”, etc. I agree with the person who said you can equate it to a “chick flick”.
    And *all* those connotations really belittle what lots of girls and women are into – what’s important to them. The media, the culture makes it almost superficial, which isn’t fair. Chick lit isn’t a bad thing, but it’s kind of like: “Oh, isn’t that cute! And frilly and pink and useless but adorable.” I don’t think this reviewer was using the term in a derogatory way, but seemed to view the read as “light” – i.e. those heavy issues can be part of the book, but they’re dealt with in a “light” way?? (I don’t even know what happens yet, so I’m just interpreting, not agreeing, lol!)
    The ironic thing is, I often like chick lit a lot. But it’s not “cool” to admit that for some reason. Maybe we need to make the term our own? Reclaim it and such.
    Plus, I think you actually want guys to read your books as well, from what you’ve said, so lumping your novels into chick lit doesn’t help with that any, either.
    Totally off topic, but I thought of you when I watched the premiere of Glee last night (and there it is again in someone’s icon!). I know you’ve got your quirky TV rules and all that, but keep it in mind for later… the show’s first episode seemed to portray high school in a very Susane-friendly way. I think you’d dig it. 🙂

    • Thanks for the tip on Glee. You’ll have to let me know how the season turns out. If you think it’s good all the way through, I’ll add it to my Netflix queue.
      And thank you for such a thoughtful response! I like what you said about reclaiming the term as our own. Working it and owning it 😉

    • Thanks for the tip on Glee. You’ll have to let me know how the season turns out. If you think it’s good all the way through, I’ll add it to my Netflix queue.
      And thank you for such a thoughtful response! I like what you said about reclaiming the term as our own. Working it and owning it 😉

  12. What an interesting question! Definitions are totally tricky, since everybody’s got their own spin on ’em. Let me just preface this by saying I’m in the MIDDLE of your book right now. (I know, how lame that I haven’t had time to finish it yet, but I’m leaving for a week-long vacation and things have been crazy! Every time I read it, it goes so fast though. Totally relating to the anxiety disorder, heh.)
    I agree with you about the “negative, embarrassing” label that a “romance novel” has. “Chick lit” doesn’t have *quite* as negative a connotation, IMO, but it definitely means “light read”, “sentimental”, “boring to guys”, etc. I agree with the person who said you can equate it to a “chick flick”.
    And *all* those connotations really belittle what lots of girls and women are into – what’s important to them. The media, the culture makes it almost superficial, which isn’t fair. Chick lit isn’t a bad thing, but it’s kind of like: “Oh, isn’t that cute! And frilly and pink and useless but adorable.” I don’t think this reviewer was using the term in a derogatory way, but seemed to view the read as “light” – i.e. those heavy issues can be part of the book, but they’re dealt with in a “light” way?? (I don’t even know what happens yet, so I’m just interpreting, not agreeing, lol!)
    The ironic thing is, I often like chick lit a lot. But it’s not “cool” to admit that for some reason. Maybe we need to make the term our own? Reclaim it and such.
    Plus, I think you actually want guys to read your books as well, from what you’ve said, so lumping your novels into chick lit doesn’t help with that any, either.
    Totally off topic, but I thought of you when I watched the premiere of Glee last night (and there it is again in someone’s icon!). I know you’ve got your quirky TV rules and all that, but keep it in mind for later… the show’s first episode seemed to portray high school in a very Susane-friendly way. I think you’d dig it. 🙂

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