Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Discussion - Where Has All the Chick Lit Gone?

A conversation in the comments of Janelle’s review of Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married got me thinking: is chick lit dead?

Six or seven years ago we seemed to be drowning in chick lit.  From Kinsella to Bunshell, Cabot to Weiner, chick lit was a force to be reckoned with.  I remember reading anything Red Dress Ink, published (a company, which, by the looks of it hasn’t published anything since 2008) and dreamed about writing for them myself one day.  Chick lit was everywhere.

What happened?  Sure, there’s still some out there, but the good stuff (in my opinion) is harder to find, and the pickings are slim.

An article last year in Slate cites the recession as the cause of decline in chick lit, and while the recession hit all book sales, I find it hard to believe that the recession killed an entire genre.  Are we supposed to believe that women can’t write fun, smart novels without talking about shoes and shopping?  Look at the novels of Jane Green and Megan Crane; none of their characters were especially wealthy or clothes obsessed.  Yet, it’s been over two years since Crane published a novel. (I’m aware she’s publishing under a pseudonym for Harlequin, but romance and chick lit are two very different genres)

NPR posted a sort of response to the Slate article saying that chick lit isn’t dead that the "shoe lit" of Kinsella and Bunshell was never an accurate portrayal of the genre despite receiving most of the attention and sales, which is true. 

What I’m starting to realize, the more I think about the present state of chick lit is that the genre has grown up.  The writers whose tales of fun and conflicted twenty-somethings once drew me in, now write about fun and conflicted marrieds with children and dealing divorce or marital issues, something I, as a still twenty-something myself, can’t relate to (maybe it says more about my life choices that at this point in my life I’m still eating ramen and worrying about both paying rent and buying groceries this month, but I have a feeling I’m not the only one).

There doesn’t seem to be a new generation of chick lit writers coming in to fulfill what I want in my chick lit:  stories that don’t pander to me, but represent a reflection of where I am in my life (while also satisfying the romantic in me).  At least, without the main character being a witch, vampire, werewolf or other fantastical creature (I love those books, too, but they’re not what I remember as the “golden age” of chick lit).  Perhaps its because chick lit is no longer seen as viable market, so publishers are buying up more YA, the current publishing craze.

Now, I read a lot of different genres and I know that an entire genre isn't just going to "die," despite my initial hypothesizing, but there is a definite absence of fun, smart women's fiction these days.

Since I feel like I'm on the verge of rambling, I turn to you, my fellow chick lit lovers, am I wrong?  Am I simplifying (or complicating) things?  What do you think about the current state of chick lit?

And, most importantly, have you read some new, good chick lit lately?


  1. Erin you are so right.

    I started reading chick lit that I was maybe 20, now I am almost 29 (two months left) and I feel a bit disappointed in a genre that used to be my favorite but right now doesn't represent me. I don't want to read about marriage, divorce, children, illness...but neither I like writers like Louise Bagshawe or Jackie Collins, all that glitter blinds me.
    I share an apartment with other four people!(That's me, not a very accomplished woman).
    The good stuff is very hard to find, here are three chick lit that I read and loved in the last 12 months:

    * Slacker Girl by Koslow Alexandra
    * Calendar Girl by Neale Naomi
    * If Andy Warhol had a girlfriend by Pace Alison

    Not exactly new but they don't seem to be very popular

  2. [...] 30 Jun Yesterday  Lit Snit posted this really insightful  “Discussion – Where Has All the Chick Lit Gone?”, [...]

  3. I have If Andy Warhol Had A Girlfriend on hold at the library. I'm really looking forward to reading it since you recommended it. I probably wouldn't have tried it otherwise just from the title. I'll have to try those other two as well!

    It's strange how the genre seemed to jump from stories about 20 somethings struggling to make it, to marriage/children-oriented or supernatural oriented stuff. It seemed to go from hundreds of books about 20 somethings to almost nothing!

    Also, with the advent of Twilight, YA has become more popular with adults so I think we see a lot of stories that used to get told in the chick lit genre are now being addressed in YA, which is great; I love YA that doesn't talk down to teens, but I feel like there should be a bit more balance.

    It feels like the market is even shifting away from vampires and the supernatural and maybe even YA in the near future so it'll be interesting to see what comes next.

  4. I read a wide variety of genres and age groups, and so the decline of chick lit isn't something I've *noticed* exactly, but the remarks in this post ring true.

    My favorite chick-lit novels are the ones that can be both light and witty while still addressing real issues & dramas women my age face. ("Frenemies" by Megan Crane comes to mind). These days, though, I feel like I'm much more likely to pick up a YA novel than chick-lit when I'm craving something on the lighter side (and looking at my to-read list, that isn't going to change any time soon).

    Did Harry Potter make it socially acceptable to read books in younger age groups, thus expanding the market? Maybe some of the authors I read in YA (Maureen Johnson, Sarah Dessen, Anna Godbersen, for example) would be writing chick-lit if the young adult market wasn't booming.

  5. You're right. YA has kind of become what chick lit used to be for me as a reader. I posted a comment over at Emily's blog that I think as the readers that are making YA such a booming market right now grow up we'll see another resurgence of chick lit. Not that everyone that reads YA is a teen (I certainly read more than my share) but I think, like us, teens that grew up with Dessen, Johnson, etc. will begin looking for something they can relate to as an adult.

    I just wish those books were here NOW! :)

  6. Erin, I love this post!!

    The whole reason I fell in love with the chick lit genre in the first place isd because they were twenty-something women starting out on their own & trying to find their place in the world in some form or fashion. I liked reading about young women and their struggles--career-wise, romantically, financially.

    I'm 29. I'm not married. I have no children. Like you, I worry everyday still about balancing my budget. I also still worry about whether the current object of my affection thinks I rock and whether I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing with my life. It's hard to relate/enjoy the recent onslaught of books dealing with the decision of children/no children, broken marriages, etc.

    I'm waiting, waiting, waiting for Megan Crane's new book (although I admit the premise seems a little odd) and I'm exploring the recommendations made so far. Other than that, YA seems to be the way to go for the moment...