When a heroine doesn’t find love, is it still chick lit? asks Jennifer Gilby Roberts.

Someone posted an interesting question on Twitter: can a book be considered chick lit if the heroine doesn’t find love at the end?  My gut feeling was yes, but it got me thinking.

Jennifer Gilby

Lots of people have tried to define chick lit.  I believe the key things that make a book chick lit are:

  • The main character in the book is a woman.
  • The point of view in most of the book is a woman’s (although you can write as a male character in parts).
  • The book is about the whole life of the main character, not only one aspect.
  • A light-hearted, humourous approach.  It doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud funny, but it should make you smile and leave you feeling good.
  • A happy ending.

I don’t think this definition requires a romantic relationship.  The happy ending could be the main character achieving a major goal, repairing or building relationships with friends or family, ending a poor relationship, or just learning to be happy in herself.  The trouble was, I couldn’t think of any chick lit books that actually took this approach.

There are definitely chick lit books out there where the “getting the guy” part of the ending is massively overshadowed by the other changes in the heroine’s life.  A great example of this, which I read recently, is Rachel’s Holliday by Marian Keyes.  The main character, Rachel (strangely enough), is dealing with her drug addiction.  I’ve heard some bad things about finding a man in New York, but I’m pretty sure it’s not as tough as that.

But what about books where there is no romantic relationship at all, or where the heroine dates but ends up single?  I asked for examples on Goodreads and got a few suggestions:

  • The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond
  • Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
  • Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

However, I don’t believe these are chick lit.  I haven’t read the full novels, but from the descriptions these stories are too dark to fall under the chick lit genre.  Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner was also suggested and came the closest, although I still don’t think it fits.  The best suggestion I had was actually a film: My Best Friend’s Wedding.  Now that is definitely a chick flick.

So I turned to Google, and I may have come up with one possibility.  Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple is about a mother who goes missing and her daughter’s search for her.  Not obvious chick lit fare, but the reviews are quite definite that this is a comedy.  Then again, it was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and how often does that happen to chick lit novels?

So I’m drawing a blank.  Can anyone suggest a novel that meets the criteria above, but doesn’t include a love story?  Because, if there aren’t any, I may have to write one.  Or do you think I’m wrong, and a chick lit novel must include finding love?


Early-Daze-CoverLife has always gone smoothly for Jess but then she got pregnant and it wasn’t just her breakfast that started going down the pan.  And now her baby has “fallen out” before she’s even started antenatal classes. Suddenly she’s sucked into the bubble of the Neonatal Unit, where tensions run high and the real world feels very far away.  She’s got a new home, new routines, new friends and even a new crush – and sleep deprivation, stress and separation are threatening to tear her neat little world apart. When it’s time for Jess to go home, what will she be going home to?  And who will she be going home with?

Jennifer Gilby Roberts has a degree in physics and a postgraduate certificate in computing, so a career writing fiction was inevitable really. She was born and grew up in Surrey/Greater London, but now lives in Richmond, North Yorkshire with her husband, small daughter, two middle-aged cats and a lot of dust bunnies. Taking care of her daughter is now her main job, but previously she worked many thrilling jobs in administration.  In these she learned the real truth of business: that every successful executive would be lost without their PA. She can also be found getting red-faced at Zumba class, reading historical porn (as her husband calls it – Regency romance to the rest of us) and humming nursery rhymes while going round Tesco.  Her first novel The Dr Pepper Prophecies is a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy, best described as Jane Austen’s Emma with Bridget Jones in the lead. After Wimbledon, her second novel – about making big changes, falling in love and tennis – is due out late 2013.


2 comments on “Does Love Matter in Chick Lit?”

  1. The Devil Wears Prada comes to mind, but struggling for other examples! Although I feel when I first got into chicklit, the fact the girl didn’t have to get the guy to be fulfilled was the reason I was drawn to the genre. Just can’t think of examples right now! Chicklit definitely seems mostly interchangeable with ‘rom com’ these days.

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