Discussion, Romance, Women's

“Guilty Pleasure” Labels: Is It Just Schoolgirl Mentality You Can’t Let Go Of? Why You Should Read Chick Lit (At Least Sometimes!)

Lately I’ve been giving you all sorts of confessions.

Like, seriously, Evelina – how many more things can you confess? Or do you keep making these up to draw readers? 😂

Well, no. I’m not making them up! I mean, there are probably plenty of dark secrets embarrassing details in your own life you would be willing to confess to your peers for views because you want them to get to know you better.

So this time, let’s talk about expectations – mostly those from your own self.

(Now you’re wondering how I’ll tie this to books. Ohh, I can! Don’t underestimate me 😉)

Anyway, I was always the alternative kid – ever since my early teens. Perhaps too shy and too much of a good student to really dress for it (although I did have my pointy collar days), but I was always the girl who listened to Muse, Rasmus and the like and was always grossly misunderstood for her tastes, and perhaps aiming to be that way. In fact, some people used to call me hipster kitty. That’s a meme you won’t know if you’re in your early twenties now. Here’s a handy example:

A meme with hipster kitty – a cat in a hoodie and glasses, saying “I liked the book before the movie poster became the cover”; via Pinterest

Of course, that’s before hipsters became mainstream. Naturally!!!

Anyway, so you get it. Listens to Muse. Reads Murakami and Stephen. King. Studies Japanese. Watches The Death Note and Stargate. (To be honest, I listened to Eminem at some point even xD) Let me tell you, an image like that has got to be carefully kept up! It gets labels that are attached to you, and in order to be understood among at least those few that do understand you, you need to keep yourself within some sort of limits. Which means…

God forbid anyone sees you listen to pop or house music

(yeah, you don’t know what that is either, maybe. House music was the mainstream dance remix stuff back when I was a teen. An absolute no go, if you’re indie.)

God forbid your friends sniff out that you’d watch a romcom.

 

And god forbid, out of all of this, DO NOT read chick lit.
DO NOT be seen with a girly romance book! You WILL NOT live this down!!

A GIF of a dog, embarrassedly hiding behind his paws (it’s cute!)

I mean, everyone has those experiences in their teens.

Teenage life can be incredibly limiting, because it seems we want so desperately to put everything into boxes, to make it fit and somehow MAKE SENSE when it so clearly doesn’t and it simply drives us to despair. But the sad thing is, that for a lot of us, this sticks. Some don’t understand it. It’s what creates so much prejudice between different groups of humans, I believe.

Although everything is so vastly different after we leave school, we keep so much of the notions.

I could make an entire ‘nother post of this! (Think: girl on girl hate, entitlement, who’s cool and who’s not, and whatnot…) But not this time. This time let’s talk about books. I mean, eventually, I promise this will be about books 😂

But I have one non-bookish confession to make first.

I LOVE “Love you like a love song” by Selena Gomez.

A GIF of a woman wearing a helmet, nervously breathing out, trying to gather her wits

I love it to the point of getting shivers down my spine every single time I hear it.

It’s not logically justifiable!! I don’t like the artist or any other of her songs. I don’t really like that style. And the lyrics aren’t even that deep! But just… something about that song just reaches my heart, I don’t know why – it just does.

A GIF of Marilyn Monroe shrugging

Like I said though, for a girl who listened to Muse, dressed in black and worried over being seen with a “silly” book, this has been somewhat of a personal tragedy since the song came out.

Okay, so I’m hyperbolizing a little bit.

But realizing that you’re deep into your (very late) twenties and you’re still embarrassed about liking a pop song..? I mean… Who’s even going to care??

Chances are they’d be more happy to hear me sing THAT at the karaoke than my typical depressive crap.

But trying to tell myself that took several years.

Actually, I believe this song was one of the first things that started to crack my self-imposed limits and rules. That I have to be this or that, that I have to belong, that I have to stick to what I am or am supposed to be or somehow my integrity will be damaged and I won’t be who I have always claimed to be. I’m not saying I’m done with the journey, but I’m certainly well along the way.

Which point finally gets me to the books!

A GIF of Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, singing next to a bookcase

So you remember how I said I would have been embarrassed in my teens to be seen with a chick lit book? It might be true that a lot of chick lit is actually run of the mill and made for quick consumption, or simply to make some money. The wide demand for it allows for a lot of fluff to enter the market. But it’s definitely not true that ALL chick lit is sub-par. Which, unfortunately, tends to be the sometimes unspoken, silent consensus among some book bloggers. Some of them may stay silent about it out of politeness, but ohhh, they judge. They judge alright. (Sub-par is not the word most of them would use.)

But let’s not get negative – it’s the blogging community that made me start to want to change my views! Yes, I admit, when I started blogging, I was also of the deep belief that chick lit and a lot of romance is cheap and worthless stuff. But then I met all of these wonderful, incredibly smart bloggers who read primarily romance and chicklit!

I was intrigued.

Little by little, I got to know their world, and started trying to get into these books on purpose. Because there’s one thing we “serious literature” readers seriously miss out by not reading chick lit or romance. No, actually, there are two things.

First of all, we miss out on the mood.

A GIF of a girl going aww and making corresponding facial expressions

A lot of literary reads, scifi reads, even fantasy reads are, let’s admit it, REALLY DEPRESSING. It’s actually what I’ve been struggling with lately If you’re going through a stressful patch right now, reading MOST BOOKS will get you down! It’s the sad truth.

But romance and a lot of chick lit is written in an upbeat way, or even if all of it isn’t, there’s a whole category of books written just for the happy ending. (There are possible problems with finding the happy ending solely in romance, or concentrating on it, but not all chick lit is romance based, and you can really take your pick. I also end up triggered by a lot of romance books, but I’m currently trying to work around that by picking and choosing as well.) Basically, if life is tough right now, chick lit is sort of… like self care. Bottom line is, chick lit and romance focus on happiness – and if not happiness, at least a road to it or to finding your own self and understanding your needs. There’s a lot of positivity there, quite often.

Why should you discover #chicklit? Bottom line is, chick lit and #romance books focus on happiness – and if not happiness, at least a road to it or to finding your own self and understanding your needs. Click To Tweet

Then there’s another thing. Chick lit and romance primarily focuses on the woman’s life and its realities.

That’s all there is to it. Barring serious women’s literature (which is usually also pretty depressing, even if I love it and it’s meaningful and really needed), not many books actually center on the life of a woman. So why is chick lit considered cheap and superficial?

Oh, I don’t know… maybe because women have been thought to be mere shadows of a human being for the past several centuries at the least??

I don’t know, do you see a trend here..?

A GIF of Will Smith as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air making a confused face

Anyway. Don’t let your “image” or what the society things about “superficial human lives” deter you from exploring this branch of literature. You might find something that surprises you. You might find unexpected depth. You might find… yourself.

Don't let your “image” deter you from exploring #chicklit and #romance. You might find unexpected depth. You might find… yourself. Click To Tweet

Here are a couple of romance / chick lit books I found truly meaningful and enjoyed!

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen is both realistic and magical – like most of her books. Sometimes I feel like if I only read her books, my moods would be so much lighter, brighter. Because even if bad things do happen in her books, you know it’s not for keeps. There’s an unspoken belief of the world actually being better than it looks, of powers secretly out there to help you or save you. And there’s always that magical thing or two that just colors the story with glittery sprinkles. It’s a world in which books with things you need to read at that moment simply appear out of nowhere and follow you around. It’s a world where water boils in kettles when a man you love walks up to you, even if you’re not together. It’s also a world where well meaning, even if lost souls appear in the weirdest of places to nudge your life in the direction you know you need to get nudged in.

And it was just so with this book. I could call it a clean romance, but it wasn’t all romance. It’s what I’d call a woman’s book though. It encompasses so much more than just romance – it’s about finding forgiveness, sisterhood, your place in life and what you want to make of it. It’s about so many things you’ll be able to relate to, even if you haven’t actually been in one of those situations yourself. The Sugar Queen is built on unreliable narrators and clueless people, or perhaps lost people, and it’s written so that you’re always a step ahead of the characters – even if you’re a gullible reader (like me!) It makes you worry about them all the more. It makes you want to lecture them over the page, cause maybe they’ll hear you if you’re loud enough! Definitely a very recommended book.

Speaking of Sarah Addison Allen… The Girl Who Chased the Moon is also one of my five-star rated books. It was one of my most magical reads of the year! I was absolutely in love with this sweet, adorable story. For anyone who loved Practical Magic, this is the softer and more sepia tale that will not give you even a drop of sadness. Well, maybe a little bit of wistfulness! The author just charms you with the innocent and lost main character, the sleepy town, the unusual family members, and of course, the baking. There were love interests, yes – but for me, the love interests in this book were the cakes! And guess what. There are recipes at the end. If that got you curious, read my full review here.

I can’t exactly give you a good rundown of For Every Solution, A Problem because I read it yeaaaaars before I was a book blogger and don’t actually have a review! It was one of those bossy buddy reads, or otherwise I would have never read it! And I instantly loved it. It was incredibly funny and also sweet, wasn’t overdone in any way and the romance didn’t make me roll my eyes too much! It was just what I needed at the time. Did I mention it was absolutely hilarious??

Oh, The Sunday Lunch Club. How I absolutely adored this read. And how badly it made me stay up and miss sleep at nights. I worried about every single character, and there were so many, and so different! Foreigners, queers (all sorts of queers too!), family members, non-family members.. Babies. Grannies. And EVERYONE grows on you! It’s the kind of book where you absolutely can’t let go of the characters, it stays with you for month. I’ve actually got a long review here, so go ahead and read it if you haven’t!

I squeal about The Lantern Series every Halloween. Because it’s a Halloween book series! It’s incredibly, INCREDIBLY sweet, magical and it’s also absolutely squeaky clean! It’s about teens, magic, other worlds and just the goodness that exists in the world, without you actually knowing about it. About how impossible things become possible if only you really, REALLY want them to. Agh, that sounds like any old blurb though. Go and read my review for more info!

Have you not read Attachments yet? Well you should! I can’t outright call it chick lit, because it steers somewhat into the territory of The Rosie Project and so on, making it accessible to guys as well (in my opinion), but I guess it will primarily remain a ‘woman’s’ book anyway. It’s an incredibly witty and sweet story! It’s about people who may have been different but still want to be loved, and it’s also about seeing yourself differently than others do – as well as about stereotypes. But I think, first and foremost, it’s about the friendship between women, and you know the kind of friendship I mean – the kind that you learned to form before you were even in school and the kind you continued well into your adulthood – or at least wish you did. Come read an interview-based review here.

I won Zaremba, Or Love and the Rule of Law back in the day in a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway. It was perhaps one of the first English books, delivered to me by the author. It was exciting beyond belief! And I instantly loved it. After which I proceeded to email with the author for a while, and actually this cover here only exists because of our discussions! But don’t think that this affects my opinion of it – I loved the book before all that. It’s just so genuine and smart, and not an open romance at all. It’s kind of an intellectual romance. The main character is also disabled, and the love interest is just SUCH. A. GENTLEMAN. I really have to reread this sometime! So just in case you want to see a super old review of mine from 2014 (two years before I became a book blogger), here you go!

And how can I miss mentioning Eligible? I know there are many opinions about this one, and not all of them good – in particular, you might feel very strongly about it, if you love Pride and Prejudice (and can possibly quote it) – because this is a modern retelling of it. Of course, I’ve read the Austen classic, but it has been a while, so I guess that let me enjoy Eligible in the way it was meant to be enjoyed. And I found it absolutely hilarious! Hilarious and sweet, and I think the way Mr Darcy was ‘modernized’ was great. I can definitely recommend this one, although a heavy big book, you will basically breeze through it and have a great time.

That’s it! Thank you for sticking with me on such a long post. And for the ending… let me soothe you with a good song.

Do you also have prejudices against certain genres? Do you read romance and chick lit in general, or do you try to steer clear of them? Have you ever wondered about the beliefs that might make you want to do that?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

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With Love, Savannah
Guest

I have a confession: I loved Love you like a love song as well (and naturally tho i regret that now). I think I’m sometimes a ‘hipster’ without realizing it? Just cause I don’t give in to the mainstream stuff (music-wise). But also, chicklit doesn’t necessarily mean ‘trash romance’ or whatever, it’s a wide genre that is oftentimes misunderstood.

Emma
Guest

I read quite a bit of chick-lit but most of the books I pick up seem to fall into the ‘historical fiction’ category too as they often have split timelines. However, I have picked up a few contemporary ones over the years and have liked them all. They satisfy my reading in the summer months when everyone is longing for YA Contemporaries because I know I’m not going to find most of the characters un-relatable or annoying.

Nandini Bharadwaj
Guest
You make a great point, Avalinah! The reason I stay away from chick lit and romance is because I find romance tedious in books, even when they’re sub-plots in a high action sci-fi or fantasy, so I don’t think I can take a full plot about it. But I would never judge a person for reading it. I’d read a similar post on how women’s fiction is considered trash and why it needs to be called “women’s fiction” in the first place. Putting gender labels on anything is harmful and undoes so much of the progress that has happened over… Read more »
Eline
Guest
This perfectly fits in with the post I wrote last week about why I think we can be proud of reading Romance. Because it is women writing for women. Because stories do not lose value when they’re hopeful instead of depressing. But my post was also my answer to this vague feeling that yeah, I’m getting judged. Not just by men. By women as much. And by book bloggers. And by Nicholas Sparks. And it’s a shame women don’t take things serious because they’re “only for women”. We can just as well be proud of our own stuff! Maybe you… Read more »
Bookish Creation
Guest
Fantastic post. I love that you focused on romance and chick lit here. It is a huge part of the book selling industry, and sadly very looked down on. I really like that you pointed out that women in general are looked at as less or as being weak. In all honesty, anything girly is considered weak and it is just plane wrong. I never considered this as being part of why it’s look at in such a way though. Once I got into romance it became my main jam with reading. Even if its a sci-fi or paranormal you… Read more »
Clo @ Book Dragons
Guest
Ok so I don’t know if I read chick lit per say, I know I don’t read a lot of romance as I tend to hover round the YA contemporary area sometimes the NA area too. I do know I wouldn’t NOT read them. As far as any prejudices against genres…I can’t think of any. I mean there are certain genres i steer clear off like historical fiction but mainly cause it doesn’t appeal to me right now. Maybe later on it will, as i grow and evolve. My love remains with the paranormal genre though haha, vampires, werewolves, demons,… Read more »
Nicoline
Guest
Thank you so much for the recommendations! I also tend to be a bit embarrassed about reading chick lit or other books that are considered cheap/bad literature. When I read on the metro I actually try to hide the covers sometimes hahaha! So stupid really. I really like what you say about chick lit and happiness. A great point I will keep in mind from now on together with this one: “So why is chick lit considered cheap and superficial? Oh, I don’t know… maybe because women have been thought to be mere shadows of a human being for the… Read more »
Dhawal
Guest

I’m so horribly bored by the stereotypes even romance is full of those things. Also if you want to try out in chicklit humor ‘my clingy girlfriend’ is really good read.

Rasya
Guest

I love chick lit but my favourite is Sarah Dessens’s books! And I especially love books with a happy ending.

Love You Like A Love Song Baby is catchy af. Great song to exercise to lol.

Dani @ Perspective of a Writer
Guest

As a writer I learned early on the read across genres. So its not a struggle for me even though there are certainly genres that aren’t generally to my taste. I do know a slew of readers who are prejudice… some dislike fiction, some can’t tolerate fantasy! Some exclusively read books based on real life and I can’t help but feel they are missing out. Thanks for sharing Evelina! <3

CG @ Paper Fury
Guest
I used to not read a lot of lighter/fluffier books too Mostly, as a teen, it was because of the heavy focus on romance usually and I was all ‘ewww romance’ for a …very very long time. Lmao. But I SO agree about how good chicklist and romcoms can be for self-care too! It’s OK to read fluffy books. Not every book has to change the world?! It can just change your day by making you smile! And I don’t like the term “guilty pleasure reads” because I think we should just read what we want. (Speaking of which, I… Read more »
Ruby @ Ruby's Books
Guest
Awesome post!! It’s the first time I’ve heard that song but it’s actually really good. I’m also not a Selena Gomez fan, but this one is good. You know me, you know I read chick lit and romance, I actually love erotic romance and it’s this particular subgenre that has kept me reading for so long. If you ask me, both romance and chick lit get really bad rep for one reason and one reason only: at their core, they show women being successful and strong and feminine at the same time, enjoying life with everything in it: career, money,… Read more »
Ivyclad Ideas
Guest

As a teenager, I didn’t care. When I got a little older, I became shy and embarrassed about a lot of things that I like…but not enough to give them up. As far as I’m concerned, this is my life and I’ll live it how I want to. 😉 I don’t read a lot of romance, because I’d rather it be a subplot. I’m not sure what’s classed as chick-lit. Is contemporary the same thing or different?

Sam@WLABB
Guest

I mostly read books that make me happy, and adult contemporary romances almost always have an HEA. Sometimes it’s good to remind myself that those things still exist. I have no shame. I openly read MG, YA, and romance, because I like those books. I was never really a highbrow reader anyhow. You be you.

Alexa
Guest

I actually love Love You Like a Love Song as well! 😀

Sim @ Flipping Through the Pages
Guest
Okay, I too love that Selina Gomez song. It is really good. There is no shame in accepting that. Well, I do enjoy romance and chick lits every now and then. I love happy endings and books with happy moments. I have never stopped myself from reading a book just because it’s a romance or chick lit. And I think people should stop judging others based on what they read. One thing that I don’t like about the romance books though is their covers 😛 You know half-naked man and woman on the cover? I really don’t like those kind… Read more »
Laura Thomas
Guest

I used to avoid chick lit, cozies and YA books like the plague. Now that I’m older and don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks, I read anything. And so glad for it as I would have missed so many great stories! Now my shelves and Kindle are packed with all age groups and genres and I’ll never look back:)

Gayathri
Guest

Unsurprisingly I came up to the same conclusion a few weeks ago and I removed my goodreads shelf named Guilty pleasure. Mainly because I realized I am a grown ass woman (finally!!) and I don’t have to feel guilty about anything that gives me pleasure, especially when it comes to reading.

And also because I have accepted the fact that I will definitely need some cheer me up reads which will not require me to focus much and keep my mind out of the real life things, once in a while. And that is okay too.

Jovita
Guest

I do enjoy romance and chick lits, they have to have a happy ending. I usually find that when I’m in a reading slump, I pick up a romance and I’m happy to pick another book right after. I have a confession, I purchase romance books for my brother, he likes reading them. Although he made me promise not to tell my other brothers that he reads them.

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[…] So this week, I’ve posted a post I was really happy with, and it’s a discussion – “Guilty Pleasure” Labels: Is It Just Schoolgirl Mentality You Can’t Let Go Of? Read it […]

Sophie
Guest

Well Evelina I had precisely this same discussion with my father this morning! And with my bog boss when I told her I had a blog reviewing mainly romance. I explained that the news and the world was depressing enough and I needed something lighter, somthing giving me hope. And many chick-lit also broach very interesting topice (PTSD, mental abuse etc.) and teach us things or make us see things under a new light. So yes I am the proud reader of romance, chick lit and rom com 😉

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[…] Evelina @ Avalinahs Books discusses the label of guilty pleasures, focusing around romance and chick lit […]

Andreea
Guest
I did have my own set of rules when it comes to the high school me (I was the misunderstood artist, naturally), but I was a huge advocate of chick-lit, mainly because I was annoyed that chick-lit was considered bad literature only because it was aimed at women mostly (I mean, there are a lot of bad spy action books since 007 and nobody seems to shame those!). But I admit that not all romance books are for me – contemporary romance is not my cup of tea (unless it comes with a tons of humour), but regency romance can… Read more »
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
Guest

I don’t like the label ‘women’s fiction’ although I do use it on Literary Flits for ease of identification. But there’s no corresponding ‘men’s fiction’ label is there? Segregation seems unnecessarily dismissive! I think we should all confidently read whatever we want, regardless of how we think others might perceive us. They’re probably too busy worrying about their own appearance to notice whether we’re packing a Margaret Atwood or a Carole Matthews anyway!

Northwoman
Guest

I don’t read much horror or historical romance. I have trouble sometimes with YA. And there are phases I can’t read some contemporary romance. I think I read mostly fantasy, UF, PNR, Romantic suspense, and mystery and thrillers because they have plot and action. If there is romance or humor that’s a plus. Anne – Books of My Heart

Cee Arr
Guest
I don’t do the guilt part of guilty pleasures. If I like something, then I like it. A lot of the time I don’t like certain types of books, etc., but it’s more of a personal thing than a view that these books don’t have value. There were times when I was ace for weeks at a time as a teenager, and so I wasn’t into romance at all, but then when I talked about rom-coms I *did* like, the people I went to school with would be… kinda mean about it. As if, not liking most rom-coms meant I… Read more »