Are these BookTok recommendations worth the hype?

What comes to mind when you think of a popular book? You might envision the young adult romance “The Summer I Turned Pretty” by Jenny Han, or perhaps “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover. Even if you didn’t picture either of those novels, it’s certain that you may have heard of them somewhere, likely on TikTok.

One of the driving forces of book sales, the TikTok subculture known as #BookTok started as a small online community focused on book recommendations and reviews. BookTok began spreading to other social media sites such as Instagram (Bookstagram), Twitter (booktwt), and Reddit (r/books), garnering over 75.1 billion views on TikTok as of 2022.

Book recommendations are still a main focus of book social media. Many teens are beginning to read just because of BookTok, and  if you’re looking for a book to read, the best place to start is often on BookTok or Bookstagram. 

As I swiped through BookTok, I found a common pattern. Though many users populate the subculture, people recommend specific novels repetitively, sometimes promoting books so frequently that they are household names among the book community. Users repeatedly praise authors and their books, and get very excited over their favorite novel. 

But often, readers are highly disappointed by the trending recommendations. They take to Goodreads, writing reviews such as: 

If I had expected less, I probably would have enjoyed it more”

I was so excited for this book because people on tiktok were saying it is better than ACOTAR (A Court of Thorns and Roses)… I was wary, but still hopeful. And I was let down.”

 the bones of a powerful story but reads like a low budget Hallmark movie pushed forward by ridiculous plot revelations.”

If you’re looking for a book to read and are worried that what you’ll choose won’t be as satisfying as you had hoped, don’t worry at all. I will explain why a book isn’t worth the hype and recommend another book to read instead.

  1. “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart

This book did not live up to its BookTok hype. The writing is often choppy and the plot is clever, but not well-rendered. It focuses on a girl and her cousins who don’t contribute anything to the storyline. Read I Killed Zoe Spanos” by Kit Frick instead. It takes place during the summer in the Hamptons, and is about a girl who admits to killing another girl, but something doesn’t entirely add up. This book has many twists and turns that any mystery lover would enjoy. 

  1. “They Both Die At The End” by Adam Silvera

I felt like this novel dragged on forever. BookTok users filmed themselves crying after reading the book, but I honestly didn’t cry at all. Yes, it was sad, but I didn’t feel much connection to the characters. All they did was walk around New York for a few hundred pages. An alternative book would be “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller, an adaptation of Homer’s Iliad from the perspective of a young Patroclus that follows his relationship with demigod Achilles. This book shares similar themes with “They Both Die At The End,” and delivers a much more gut-wrenching ending.

  1. “City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare

“City of Bones” promises hidden magic similar to Harry Potter, fast pacing, a strong female lead, and a memorable cast of characters. The book did not give me even half of those. All of the main characters were one-dimensional, and Clare’s attempts to add depth weren’t consistent throughout the story. “City of Bones” reads like a fanfiction (down to the bad-boy crush), and is not worth the hype. If you’re looking for a similar book, read “Legendborn” by Tracy Deonn. Marketed as a “modern-day twist on Arthurian legend,” it’s about an intelligent high school girl attending a residential program on a college campus who discovers a secret society of Legendborn mage students who hunt down demons. She discovers her own secret powers as she infiltrates the Legendborn to unlock memories of the night her mother died. Compared to “City of Bones,” Legendborn has characters and a story actually worth reading about. 

  1. Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard

Although this novel’s storyline was likable, the most riveting part of reading this was that I guessed each and every plot twist in the story. It was very predictable, and the supposedly strong female protagonist’s rival had more depth to her personality arc than anyone else in the book. I really wanted to enjoy this novel, but alas, I was utterly disappointed. A book I found more enjoyable with a similar premise to was “Iron Widow” by Xiran Jay Zhao. In a Chinese-inspired sci-fi setting, a girl offers herself up to be paired with a pilot of a giant transforming robot that protects their city against mecha-aliens. Only, she’s signing up to avenge the death of her sister who was killed by a pilot. She’s morally gray, strong, and her character develops throughout the whole story. Everything about this book was unexpected, chaotic, and much more promising than “Red Queen.” 

  1. “Anna and The French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins

Anna from Atlanta can’t wait for her senior year. But when Anna from Atlanta gets sent to a boarding school in Paris for wealthy American teens, she can’t help but think, “Why me?” After moping around, she learns to love the city and her crush, a French boy who sadly has a girlfriend who prevents Anna from ever dating him. Anna is what many people call a Mary Sue, which is a character portrayed with no weaknesses whatsoever. I was bored from the beginning, as Anna was largely focused on her first-world problem of being sent to France. She was quite ignorant and everything seemed to be handed to her. For a boarding school storyline, I recommend “XOXO” by Axie Oh instead. Jenny, a cello prodigy, goes to Korea with her mom to help her sick grandmother. She gets to attend an elite art conservatory with the same boy she met on the streets of Los Angeles three months ago, and discovers that he’s a K-pop star. With much higher stakes than “Anna and the French Kiss,” this romance did not disappoint.