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Monday, August 18, 2008

Since When Is Okay To Call All Chick Lit “Trashy” and “Cliché”?

If you’re reading my blog, you know that I write YA. And technically the term “chick lit” is usually reserved for adult women’s fiction, but I think it’s safe to say that many YA novels are written with a similar voice. Now, if you’re new to the publishing world, lemme sum up: “chick lit” gets a lot of flack. (Don’t believe me? Here’s one of the many articles on the subject.)

And I never really understood all the hub-bub. God forbid, women put out books that are clever and entertaining. I know all I ever want to read about is death and depression (note the hint of sarcasm).

Personally, I don’t consider Amor and Summer Secrets to have a strong chick lit voice—but the style is definitely closer to that than it is to say, The Grapes of Wrath. So if reviewers want to lump my novels into that category, then I consider myself in good company. After all, some of my favorite authors—Marian Keyes, Helen Fielding, and Jennifer Weiner (who’s my neighbor, by the way)—have made the genre famous and have elevated it to a level that I think should be synonymous with “smart and witty” and not “trashy and cliché.” But alas, that is was what I recently read in one reviewer’s blog.

Now, I’m new to the publishing biz, so I don’t plan to start things off by burning any bridges. This means (sorry to disappoint you), that I won’t be giving the reviewer’s name. (My book isn’t even out yet, people! I can’t be creating enemies already!)

However, I will say that the review I speak of here is NOT for my own book. Seriously. Actually, it’s for a YA book that I haven’t even read yet, so take from that what you will.

But in this review, which received a good rating, the blogger laced it with more backhanded compliments than a Simon Cowell critique on American Idol. First, it started off by stating that you might expect this novel to be “cliché,” but it was actually kind of good. Gee, thanks. I’m sure the author felt all warm and fuzzy after that. Then, the reviewer—who called the book “definitely chick lit”—said it was a perk that the novel didn’t convey the “bad messages” that most other books in the genre do. And that it is impressive that the book managed to be a fun read without being “all trashy.”

Wow, now that’s a cover blurb. “Read XXXX, it’s not as trashy as you think!”

I don’t even know the author in question here, but I took offense to this. How horrible it is to have novels featuring female characters who A) go to school or have jobs, B) have personal and professional conflicts, C) solve their own problems, and D) are enjoyable to read about? Talk about your bad messages…

But I’m betting that this reviewer is jumping on the bandwagon with the other cool kids who think that chick-lit, and it’s YA counterpart, promote materialism . (Omigod! Did you know that Carrie Bradshaw owns a lot of shoes?)

And while the brand-dropping stereotype might be true at times, to use that as a basis for a book review seems pretty shallow in my opinion. And don’t get me started on people who judge a book by the color of its cover. (Oh, no! My cover has pink in it. What does that say about it me? Oh, wait. That’s right. I didn’t design the cover, a marketing department did…But I love it anyway. Isn’t it awesome?)

But I digress…take a look at the Gossip Girl series. Yes, it features designer tags, but the characters are also highly educated, motivated, and focused on making it into Ivy League colleges. Where’s the bad message there? The characters are also under immense pressure to succeed from their high-powered parents whose careers pay for the Prada labels on their backs. Does that factor in at all?

My point is, when are reviewers going to stop blindly attacking the “chick lit” genre? What happened to reading books for their individual merit rather than through the lens of some preconceived stereotype? “Not as bad as the other books in this genre” is NOT a compliment. In fact, I don’t think other books in the perceived genre have much of a place in any reviewer’s remarks—especially when the review is only a couple of paragraphs long and not an in-depth feature analyzing an entire classification of literature. Stick with the book that is in front of you and judge it based on that.

Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a woman wearing nice shoes—fictional or otherwise. What are we supposed to do, dress all our characters like the Amish? Hey, I could be onto something… “Amish lit.” Everyone would have to take that seriously. I see a Pulitzer in my future.

POP-CULTURE RANT: Buffy-vs.-Twilight

I just got Season 2 of Buffy in a discount bin and I’m LOVING re-watching these episodes. And I must say, reminiscing with Buffy so soon after reading Breaking Dawn has got me thinking. Clearly Bella is no Buffy Summers. Buffy’s dialogue alone leaves me in awe, let alone her ability to kick some vampire butt. But my question is, who’s the better vampire boyfriend: Angel or Edward Cullen? Both are undeniably hot, both are “vegetarians,” both have been undead for more than a century and are thus perfect gentlemen, and both put their women on a pedestal. But if it came down to it, vampire-to-vampire, who would win in a fight? My money’s on Angel. His “scary vampire face” beats Edward’s “sparkling” any day ;-)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the author in question, I have to say that I wasn't offended by that review. Perhaps that is because I have received far, far worse! This particular blogger's review was meant to be positive, and that's the way I took it. I understand what you mean, and also hate the stereotypes that seem to follow chick lit around as a genre, but, like I said earlier, I've seen FAR worse. I've experienced demeaning, obnoxious, dismissive reviews which clearly go out of their way to be hurtful--this blogger's review while perhaps unintentionally offensive to you, was well-meaning in its intent.

August 20, 2008 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger Diana Rodriguez Wallach said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 20, 2008 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger Diana Rodriguez Wallach said...

I agree, Jennifer, that the review was meant to be positive. Like I said, my offense was more in regards to the comments about the genre as a whole. We take a lot of flack. :) But I'm glad you took it all in stride, as you should have. You have a fabulous outlook on the business and congrats on your book's success. I plan to buy it in my next round of YA purchases.

-Diana R. W.

August 20, 2008 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger Alice Berger said...

Amish lit? Too funny! :-)


August 22, 2008 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

I prefer BtVS as well.

August 22, 2008 at 11:44 PM  

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