I have decided that there is a difference between chick lit and romance novels. Romance novels are always chick lit, but chick lit books are not always romance novels.
Chick lit is a subsection of books that are aimed specifically at women; they generally feature women in their thirties who are endearing, and only sometimes in a good way. They go on a voyage of self-discovery, which will usually involve finding love, but generally you can expect loads of clothes shopping and that the word ‘reinvention’ will be bandied about at an alarming rate. The main characters are somewhat good at their jobs, and really try to be good at it, but it’s something that doesn’t work out so well most of the time. A great example – and a textbook case – would be Bridget Jones’ Diary. (Which, like much of chick lit, is set in England.)
The unfortunate part is that, unlike the rest of the genre, Bridget Jones’ Diary is actually really good. Most chick lit is like a dumpster fire with a lot of old cosmetics and uncomfortable shoes in it. Showy, but terrible – and not a little sad.
This is the rough part of reviewing every book I read: some of them show that my taste is slightly appalling. If it helps, I was given this book by a friend in a Park and Ride, as though it were a shady drug deal; the book (with a few others) stayed in the hot trunk of my car for several days before I remembered its existence and bit into it. But these books do serve their purpose: I have been going through a rough patch lately, and having something that is amusingly dreadful was a welcome distraction.
There’s nothing else for it. I’m going to have to divulge the title. I may lose your respect, but [insert motivational multi-cam speech here].
It’s called Elegance. I know. You know. It’s bad. And then there’s the cover:
I wouldn’t be surprised if even my cat ditched me.
This book is remarkably flawed: no part of the story could ever happen, not a bit of it. In reality, the main character, Hot Mess, would be a single, vain, hot mess. And nobody would touch her, particularly with her shaky credentials, though she’s not even close to being the most out-of-touch character in the story. There’s the guy she married who pretends he’s not gay. The guy she goes out with who stinks of desperation more than she does. There’s the piano player who is so exuberant that if he was real, he would be under supervision of the state for the use of illicit substances. And there are the drips she works with, one of which happens to have the traditional English eccentric mother (she’s eccentric because she’s got about fifty dogs). And of course, the main character goes through multiple clothes transformations, gets divorced, dates around, gets a new job, takes an inexplicable number of days off, and decides that she is not-fat enough to find someone to love.
Have I mentioned the token Gay Best Friend? (We like this idea as women because we would like to befriend men, but don’t always feel that we can trust them not to try to get in our pants. I think it’s dumb.)
The problem with doing these blogs is that I realize in a real quantifiable sense how bad some of these books are. This one? It fell off the bottom of the chart long ago. It’s rushed, and every character feels like a paper doll moved around by the author. Nobody has depth, partially because the story is rushed and partially because if the plot was slowed down, the whole thing would fall apart.
This is the reason why Bridget Jones’ Dairy did so well. It’s not that it is drastically different plot-wise, but it does have characters who ring true. You can look at who they are and what they want, and it’s complicated, as it should be. They’re rounded out by their feelings, impressions, wants, needs, goals, funny habits, and all those little things that go into what makes someone a person. That’s the whole secret, really, and it’s simple: characters move the plot. If the characters move the plot, you go places that make sense. If you don’t, you call your book Elegance. And I want to slap around your publisher with a big dead fish.