Growing up and attending school within the U.S. education system meant reading a ton of books I didn’t want to read–The Scarlet Letter immediately comes to mind. But while I was struggling to get through whatever classic I had been assigned, I would take a break, curl up on a Saturday, and get through a whole chick lit young adult novel in one sitting. On more than one occasion I’ve stayed up until the wee morning hours (4 or 5 a.m.) in order to finish a book because I needed to know what happens. So it’s safe to say I’m a book-lover–and chick lit is my favorite genre.
Chick lit, which refers to literature written for and mainly appealing to women, is often brushed off as silly or trashy fiction with weak female characters. Of course, if you’ve read chick lit, you know that is a complete misconception. Sure many chick lit novels contain a romance aspect or plot, but they also delve into the main character’s professional life, as well as their relationships with family and friends. The best chick lit deals with all aspects of a woman’s life, not just her love life. I’m not the first or only person who’s defended chick lit, though, so has Jamie Beckman of The Frisky. But, since I’ve read many, many chick lit novels–both for women and young adults–I thought I’d list some of my favorite authors who specialize in women’s fiction, as well as some of my favorite novels.
It’s been years since I’ve read Rachel Cohn’s Cyd Charisse series (and to be honest, those books are in storage somewhere with most of my young adult library,) but I remember loving them. I also distinctly remember the night I stayed up until 3 or 4 a.m. reading Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Cohn wrote Nick & Norah with David Levithan, and as I’ve previously mentioned on my blog, it’s one of my favorite books of all time. Norah’s sections are written by Cohn–while Nick is written by Levithan–and I fell in love with Norah so fast while reading the book. From her insecurities, to her quirky thoughts, to her mistakes, to her entire worldview, I found myself relating to Norah no matter how different our lives happened to be. Cohn is able to build relatable female characters within her works, that have unique voices and are completely lovable. Although technically Cohn writes young adult fiction, I’m classifying her work as young adult chick lit.
My personal favorites: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Gingerbread, and Shrimp
I only recently read E. Lockhart’s most well-known series, Ruby Oliver, which I probably shouldn’t be showcasing as a 23-year-old lady, but damn do I love it. I read the first three books of the four-part series in just a few short weeks and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final novel: Real Live Boyfriends. One of the reasons I still relate to Ruby Oliver, even though she’s 6 years younger than me and lives on the other side of the country, is because of her panic attacks. Anxiety can affect anyone no matter their age or where they live or what their life is like and I think Lockhart’s interpretation of anxiety, as well as her descriptions of panic attacks, are spot on. Not to mention Ruby handles her issues in the same way many 16-year-olds would: by not taking her attacks entirely seriously–she calls them “panic things.” Since it’s easy to relate to this part of Ruby’s character, it’s easy to get involved in her life and the books. I’m excited to finish the series and read other novels that Lockhart has written.
My personal favorites: The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, and The Treasure Map of Boys
For most of my teen years if you asked me who my favorite author was, I would unhesitatingly answer: Sarah Dessen. While in high school, I read my way through most of the young adult fiction section of the school’s library which included This Lullaby by Dessen. When I finished, I quickly powered through every single Dessen novel in the library, then all of those that weren’t. My personal library contains nearly ever novel Dessen ever wrote. (I still haven’t gotten my hands on her newest book The Moon and More.)
I’ve always loved Dessen’s writing style because it makes her novels interesting, but relatable. She always manages to create a cast of unique characters I can’t help but fall in love with. Plus, all of Dessen’s novels exist in the same world and throughout her later works a character from a previous novel could make a cameo in the next book. Although I don’t love every single book Dessen has ever written (Lock and Key was mostly forgettable and That Summer left me feeling awful,) I don’t think I’ll be able to give up reading her novels.
My personal favorites: Just Listen, This Lullaby, and Along for the Ride
In my From Print to Screen: Books That Should Have Stayed Just Books post, I ranted about how horrible the movie version of Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging was and I’m still mad about it 5 years later. If there was one book series, one character, one chick lit author who was instrumental to my formative teen years it’s Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series. Georgia is a sassy UK girl who is in her early teen years when the series begins. Over the course of ten books and ten years, I followed Georgia as she grew up from preteen to full-blown teenager. Sure, by the time the final book came out in 2009 I was a college girl, but I had stayed with Georgia for so long I couldn’t give up on her. (Plus I needed to know if she ever got together with Dave the Laugh–sigh.)
I spent so much of my life reading and re-reading the Georgia Nicholson series that Georgia isn’t just a character in a book, she’s been a constant presence in my life–always the friend I could turn to when I wanted to tune out my own life and her Snogging Scale is much better than the baseball analogy in telling your friends how far you’ve gotten with a boy. Recently instead of re-reading the series again (I just re-read the whole 10 books last year,) I started Rennison’s new young adult series: Misadventures of Tallulah Casey, who is Georgia’s younger cousin that attends drama school. Despite the character being much, much younger than me, Rennison’s fantastic writing and character development (just the right mix of sassy and insecure) has gotten me hooked.
My personal favorites: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging; Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?; and Withering Tights
Yes, there is in fact an author on this list that does not specialize in young adult chick lit: Sophie Kinsella. Most people know Kinsella as the author of the Shopaholic series–you know, the books on which that horrible 2009 movie starring Isla Fisher was based, Confessions of a Shopaholic. Now, I’ve actually never read the Shopaholic series, mostly because that movie was so horrendous–no offense to anyone involved, except whoever turned Kinsella’s fabulous writing style into an awkward, stunted, off-putting romcom. Someday, I’ll read Confessions of a Shopaholic, but until that day, I’ve sped through every other novel by Kinsella and I’ve loved every single one. The first book by Kinsella I read was Can You Keep A Secret? It was equal parts romance story, familial drama, and professional advancement, which is the perfect mix for a chick lit novel.
What I love about Kinsella’s writing is that her stories don’t center on a single romance within the novel. Her characters often start out unhappy–in love, in work, in their families–then they go through a period of self discovery spurred by something–a person or an event–and finally they figure out how to be happy in their lives. Sure there is romance in all of Kinsella’s novels, but there are also fully developed friendships and familial relationships, which is what I love about these stories. Kinsella’s main characters are also wonderfully developed with strengths, flaws, and quirks that make them lovable to anyone.
My personal favorites: Can You Keep A Secret?, I’ve Got Your Number, and Remember Me?