Thursday, March 03, 2011

If It Walks Like A Duck & Talks Like A Duck It's Not A Goose

At any given time I’m usually in the middle of reading three books. One that could be considered “serious literature,” one nonfiction and one light-weight escapist read. More often than not the escapist read is a chick lit title. But here’s the thing that bugs me, frequently I’ll read a review that classifies a certain book as being chick lit only to find out that it’s not chick lit at all. It’s a book written by a woman about a woman set in contemporary times and for some strange reason, the critics of the world have decided that all such books should be labeled chick lit. So what if the book isn’t really funny or even trying to be. So what if the issues that are being addressed have nothing to do with fashion and dating and everything to do with child abandonment and drug addiction. If the protagonist is a young woman who occasionally worries about her weight, it’s chick lit, period, end of story.

Of course no one would read Kenneth Miller’s excellent nonfiction book, Finding Darwin’s God and say, “hey, he just cracked a joke! This book belongs in the humor section!” No bookseller has ever said, “Check it out, somebody in this latest Grisham novel gets laid, let’s call it a romantic suspense!” No, those kind of mistakes never happen. But then again, those authors are men. Yes, I know, I just played the sexist card, but if the stiletto fits…

The reason I take issue with all this is because, as an author, I like to see books judged for what they are, not what they were never supposed to be. If you’re going to call my books romance novels then they pretty much suck. Romance novels have nice happy romantic endings and those don't always work out in the Sophie novels. She doesn't even get to have sex until the second book into the series and it takes three before she finds her way into a relationship (a relatively noncommittal one at that).  But if you call the Sophie novels what they really are (chick lit murder mysteries) then it’s fair to say they achieve their goals. They’re funny, suspenseful and a little gossipy (at least I hope they are). That series deserve to be classified as being part of a chick lit subgenre.

But So Much For My Happy Ending isn't chick lit. It's a story about a woman who marries her prince charming only to later discover that he's suffering from bipolar disorder and she tries to cope as he unravels in...well, in a Charlie Sheen kind of way. That novel is darker and a bit grittier than my Sophie series.  That's not to say it's not funny at times and my protagonist, April, is a character I think a lot of women will relate to but that doesn't make it Chick Lit.  And yet, one review praised it as being "a unique entry in the chick-lit genre and should appeal to those looking to move beyond the typical fare."  I realize that's a compliment but the reason it's beyond the typical fare is because it's not actually part of that fare and when you lead people to believe it is you're misleading them.  When you do that the people who might most enjoy the book will never pick it up and those who do pick it up are more likely to be upset because it didn't provide them with the emotional escape they were looking for.  On the same token, Jennifer Belle's books are also not Chick Lit.  In Little Stalker she writes about a woman who got pregnant at thirteen and had an abortion.  The whole experience changes her life, and not for the better. She grows up to become obsessed with a director who happens to be attracted to an adolescent girl in her neighborhood and we follow her as she uses that obsession to address some of her long repressed issues.  It's an interesting book and Belle manages to find humor in rather dark situations. But Chick Lit? No. And yet when I read the reviews that's the category everybody puts it in. My feeling is that once you start dealing with issues like pedophilia the book stops being Chick Lit regardless of how many times the protagonist makes you smile.  Not every book written by a young new female author is chick lit.

So you can imagine my frustration when I read an online review for Martha O'Connor's book The Bitch Posse that said, "Drugs, crime, mental illness…in chick lit? Got that right." I literally yelled at my computer screen, “No, you got that WRONG! Does the woman have to put a neon sign on every cover telling readers what her book is and isn’t?”

Maybe she does. Maybe we all do.  But until that happens I will continue to be irritated by the misclassification of books. 

--Kyra "Fashionista Fatale" Davis


Kristi said...

I love your Sophie novels. I buy them the second they come out, but I don't even consider them chick lit. Mysteries yes.

When I think of chick lit I think of books like Confessions Of A Shopaholic.

I read So Much For My Happy Ending too and I wouldn't label that as chick lit either.

Speaking of Sophie, when can I ease my withdrawl with a new one? Soon I hope.

Brandy said...

I've read your books as well and I wouldn't classify them as Chick-Lit, either. I agree that publishers and some reviewers are way too slap-happy with the Chick-Lit title/genre.

Amanda Brice said...

I'd definitely consider the Sophie novels to be chick lit mystery. But some other books that get slapped with the chick lit label? Makes no sense.

Katie said...

They should have a category "Awesome books everyone should read". We can put your books in that category.

Working at a book store some of them are in Novels and some in Romance. I don't consider them Romance. I love books that have Romance in them but aren't all about the relationship.

I was surprised and slightly disappointed when "So Much.." wasn't a "happily ever after" but I still loved it.

I'm tired of the "chick lit" books. Most of them are the same with different characters. They meet, they've never felt like this before, they fight, break up, get back together and get married. I often find myself disappointed. Not so with your books.

I often wonder how they even categorize a book. What makes it a Mystery over a Novel. If a John Grisham book is a Legal Thriller why isn't that considered a Mystery?

I can't even describe how much I loved Vows, Vendettas. The cliffhanger at the end, I still think about it. We need a new one soon! I know you're looking into it. Can't wait! Off my soapbox now.

kyradavis said...

Aww, you flatter me :-)

I'm working on the follow up to Vows, Vendettas & A Little Black Dress now. I don't have a release date yet but as soon as I do I'll be announcing it on Facebook & Twitter first.

Hope it's worth the wait!