Chick Lit follows a pretty consistent formula: The stories are about women who find themselves at a crossroads, or whose lives are in a slump, and how they take action and decide to deal with it. There are breakups, makeovers, different jobs, new friends, love, and funny situations. They are all about the journey to become a different and better person, and they are usually told from the heroine’s POV.
But what happens when all the ingredients for a great Chick-Lit story are there, but the main character is a guy? Lately I’ve read books whose main character is a man who goes through a self-discovering journey that make me feel like I’m reading a “Chickless” Chick-Lit story, or, as I’ve come to think of it: Dude Lit.
In Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments, Lincoln, the main character, realizes that he’s over 30, living with his mom, hung up on a girl who broke his heart ten years ago, stuck doing a job he hates, and that his only entertainment is playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends. Worse of all, he’s falling in love with a woman he’s never met, but whose personal emails he reads regularly as part of his job monitoring employees’ possible inappropriate behavior. He figures that things must change because he’s unhappy, so he finds an apartment, joins a gym, and tries to figure out how to get the girl he’s been spying on for the past year.
I know what you’re thinking: “is this a book about a serial killer in training?” Believe me when I tell you that it’s not. Instead, what we have here is a sweet and caring man who let himself go, was a bit lazy and settled for mediocre, and has finally decided that it’s time to make some effort. In the process, he discovers who he truly is, gets the girl, and finds happiness. This book is romantic and sweet; after all, the hero falls for a woman without knowing how she looks. But that’s not the book’s soul, Lincoln’s journey is, and to a lesser extent Beth’s, since we also get her part of the story told in the form of emails.
Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Bro-Magnet is another great example. It’s about Johnny, a guy who has an almost magical ability to make men fall for him, but who can’t get women to like him. He doesn’t mind that much, but when he meets a woman he really likes, he worries that she will hate him. So he decides to change who he is in order to fit what he thinks is the type of man women want. But it’s all a huge lie, which makes him wonder if she’s falling in love with the wrong person and how will she react once the truth comes out.
The Bro-Magnet is, first and foremost, a comedy. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t address some deeper issues as well—for example, the idea of being yourself and not faking something you’re not in order to be liked is present throughout the book. Johnny believes that the only way to get the girl is changing who he is, because there’s no way she will fall for the real person. But in the end he must decide if getting the girl is worth living a lie.
The last book is The Wedding Beat by Devan Sipher. Gavin Green writes a wedding column for an important New York paper. Usually heroes tend to be cynics before they meet the love of their lives, but that’s not the case here. Gavin is a hopeless romantic, and he even admits of dreaming of the perfect wedding and marriage since he was a kid. But here he is, 38 years old, and his potential bride just dumped him on New Year’s Eve. But he’s not as
heartbroken about losing the girl as he is about losing his plans for the future. Soon after, he meets a woman who perfectly fits his ideal, but he gets tongue-tied and ends up losing her as well. That’s when he decides to stop being passive and do something about it. While trying to find her, Gavin takes a close look at his relationships, his job, and his life goals.
One thing these books have in common is that their main characters tend to read like women. I know that the fact that the authors are women isn’t the problem because Devan Sipher is a man. And I wonder if maybe I’m so used to reading similar stories told from a woman’s perspective that it takes some time getting used to having a guy replacing them. I know that makeovers and perfect weddings aren’t typically associated with men, but that doesn’t make it unrealistic, just unusual. Happiness, stability and a reliable future are common goals for both men and women, so the idea of a hero actively pursuing those things shouldn’t be surprising.
I really like this dude-lit trend. After reading tons of romances where the heroine’s POV is the norm, reading a book where the main focus is on the male protagonist and whose POV is the only one we get feels like a refreshing and nice change.
I also think that guys like the ones in the stories I mention are more likely to be found in real life. Yes, some of their antics are over the top, but there’s no one single alpha male in sight. These are regular guys trying to improve their lives and looking for love and companionship.
Hopefully we’ll be seeing more Dude-Lit. It’s a genre with a lot of potential, originality and humor.