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Micro-Genre Spotlight: Cool Girl Literature

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I cannot stop talking about Cool Girls and the Cool Girl aesthetic. They have infiltrated every part of my life; music, shows, movies, fashion–EVERYTHING. The effortless style of doing anything so nonchalantly is absolutely mesmerizing. But before we get into Cool Girl Lit., we have to get into the history of the Cool Girl aesthetic. Cool Girls have been around for seemingly forever, dating back to the 2014 Tumblr grunge girls and tracing back to modern-day Cool Girls. This aesthetic is based on minimalist French beauty and fashion that has gotten a bit of a chic New York girl influence over the past few months. Similar to everything trendy nowadays, the Cool Girl aesthetic is most popular on Tiktok, where we get to see the lives of those seemingly embodying the aesthetic in real-time. This aesthetic is perfect for romanticizing the most mundane of human activities, including my favorite of them all, reading.

Now you might be thinking: “Lu, literally everyone reads, this is not an aesthetic…” exactly. Just reading is not an aesthetic. You’re right, but the culture and the genre behind this specific brand of reading is an aesthetic. There is a certain je ne sais quoi that is required when diving into the world of Cool Girl Literature. First things first: tropes. Popular book tropes/plotlines in this genre require one or all of these things: an unhinged female lead, disorienting scenes, controversial characters, and real-life stories from real-life Cool Girls. These oddly specific requirements are all part of the formula to crafting the perfect book within this genre. The most popular within this genre are those who mix and match requirements. Take the poster child for Cool Girl Lit, in My Year of Rest and Relaxation, for example. Author Ottessa Moshfegh mixes an unhinged female lead with disorienting scenes and controversial topics all in one (if you know, you know).

The next requirement for Cool Girl Literature is the cover of the book. Now I know, I know, “don’t judge a book by its cover” and all, but that rule goes completely out the window when it comes to this genre. The cover is everything and will make or break the decision of whether or not the book is considered a certified Cool Girl Book or not. Usually, the covers are minimalist, with a trendy font, and almost always have pink somewhere (although it’s not a requirement). My Year of Rest and Relaxation is truly a pioneer for the genre, perfectly encapsulating the ideal cover, featuring a Renaissance-like painting with a cool trendy font in pink! The other side of Cool Girl Literature is the memoirs of Cool Girls themselves. The real-life stories of these girls are such a vital part of the genre that it is almost impossible to talk about it without mentioning Emily Ratajkowski’s My Body or Patti Smith’s Just Kids.
As you can tell, I’m pretty obsessed when it comes to this micro-genre. The yearning for the simple aesthetic and the pretty book covers makes me want to read everything just based on it being considered Cool Girl Lit. If you are interested in being a certified Cool Girl Reader, you can click here to see a whole curated list of Cool Girl books, and on Instagram, you can find so many aesthetically pleasing pages that satisfy your need for this genre. Some of my recommendations are My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh (and everything else written by her), Bunny by Mona Awad, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (for the original female manipulator trope).

Luisa Colón is an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus. They are currently studying English Literature. Besides the usual long walks on the beach, she enjoys reading romance novels, updating their bookstagram, and starting (but never finishing) crochet projects. We know you'll love her, xoxo HC.
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