Ask your friends why are they sneering at book that involves a man, a woman, and love. Would they rather read about murder, mayhem, and revenge? Disappointment, dismay, and depression? If so, great.But their choice of reading material isn’t inherently superior to yours. It’s just different.
And if the word “formula” comes up:
Do point out that mysteries/thrillers are formulas–the mystery is always solved and the good guys win. Same for science fiction. Almost all popular fiction is descended from the heroic tradition of good vs. evil, gods vs. mortals, etc. In this fiction, people rise above their limitations and grab the brass ring against the odds.
Literary fiction? By definition (formula?) literary fiction CAN’T have a tidy, upbeat resolution. Does that make it superior because it is more “real”?
No. It just makes literary fiction part of the modernist rather than the heroic tradition. Since the modernist philosophy has only been around for a century or so, and the heroic has been around for thousands…you do the math. Have fun discussing reading with your friends.