I am not entirely sure I believe in the concept "chick lit." It seems to me that novels written by and about females can be enjoyed by anyone. In fact isn't the greatest achievement of literature that it takes fictional characters and places them in realistic (sometimes) situations that then help us each to understand something about ourselves and humanity in general. This is, I believe, the whole concept behind the YA Saves movement. The idea being, teens can read about fictional characters who are experiencing the tribulations of being young adults they themselves are experiencing and thereby feel less alone. Because even though the characters are fictional, the author, who obviously understands and empathizes, is not.
So, the two books I have read recently that started this rant are I Think I Love You, by Allison Pearson and A Grown-up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson (whose reading and book signing I was fortune to attend last weekend). Both books are by female authors and address particularly female experiences: teen idol worship and motherhood respectively. However, I still would not necessarily classify them as chick lit. if such a thing does exist.
Pearson's book spends a great deal of time in 1974 just before the "retirement" of teen idol David Cassidy. While I know who he is, and have watched a fair few episodes of The Partidge Family, I was too young to have experienced the hype. Petra, the main character is 13 in 1974 and fully a disciple of Cassidy. The early part of the book spends a great deal of time describing Cassidy's appeal and Petra's obsessions in particular along with some of the other teen issues with which she was dealing (ie first boyfriends, false friends, and a strict mother). Though Cassidy was not my crush of choice (Ricky Schroeder and Michael Jackson ca. Thriller) I understand Petra and her longings. For me though, the second half of the book when Petra is an adult and mother was much more interesting. The childhood memories are necessary to understanding some of Petra's insecurities as an adult, but the adult experiences are what make the book. (Do not miss the transcript of Pearson's 2004 interview with Cassidy at the end of the book.)
Jackson's story is as fine as her previous novels (Gods in Alabama; Between, Georgia; Backseat Saints; and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming). Three generations of Slocumb women Ginny, Liza, and Mosey fight, love, and heal with each other. It sounds a bit hokey I guess, but as the three generations are only 15 years apart there are interesting intersections in their lives. While Mosey is trying to avoid the fate of her grandmother and mother, Liza is recovering from a stroke brought on in part by her previous drug use, and Ginny (or Big) tries to hold everyone together while neglecting her own needs. All wrapped up in these issues is the problem of the tiny corpse found in the backyard when the willow tree is cut down. A "must read" for fans of Jackson, and a good place to start if you have not read her work.