BookTok Takes YA Literature by Storm

Photo courtesy of Amelia Tsering.

In Spring of 2020, the initial quarantine of COVID-19, there was a huge surge of book sales. During this time, creators on TikTok began reviewing and sharing their favorite books. This became a whole community, dubbed “BookTok”, of readers who shared recommendations on novels, genres and authors. These creators are mostly members of Gen Z and the subject matter of these books certainly reflects the demographic. Diversity in the characters and story lines vary much more than past bestsellers. 

BookTok seems to be influencing many of the bestseller lists around the country and bringing attention to more young new authors and diverse voices. Chloe Gong published her Romeo and Juliet-esque novel “These Violent Delights” during her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania. The novel takes place in 1920’s Shanghai and instead of feuding Italian families, it features warring gangs. The book blew up on TikTok almost immediately and the sequel, coming out in November, is already favored to be a bestseller. 

Booksellers began to catch on to the trend as certain books sold out quickly. Barnes and Noble capitalized on it by creating a “BookTok Table” in stores and a #BookTok page on their website that features all the popular TikTok books. The novels range from young adult (YA) fiction like Leigh Bardugo’s adventure fantasy trilogy, “Shadow and Bone”, to more mature material like Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life”, which chronicles mental health and the age of anxiety. Some of the books have been released for a while, like Alfred A. Knopf’s “The Secret History” (1992) and Nancy H. Kleinbaum’s “Dead Poets Society” (2006), but gained more traction recently due to their TikTok popularity. 

Photo courtesy of Amelia Tsering.

TikTok users also take a particular interest in certain genres and aesthetics. A lot of creators have been sharing their love of morally gray protagonists/love interests and the “enemies to lovers” trope. Books like Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince and Mary E. Pearson’s “Dance of Thieves” gained popularity partly due to these trends. One of the most critically acclaimed TikTok series is Leigh Bardugo’s “Shadow and Bone” trilogy and the “Six of Crows” duology. Netflix produced (and is currently creating season 2 of) a series based on Bardugo’s books. 

Many TikTok users have expressed that the BookTok community inspired them to begin reading in their spare time for the first time since elementary school. I believe that the Spring 2020 quarantine contributed to teens and young adults getting back in touch with their love of reading. College students happen to be some of the biggest book reviewers (and readers) on TikTok, so I decided to get some Point Loma students to share their favorite “BookTok” book with me and give you all a review.  

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Review by Daeny Piequet

The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller is a compelling and beautifully written story of the demigod-warrior, Achilles and his lover Patroclus. Based on Homer’s “The Iliad, the theme of Greek gods and warriors is intertwined all throughout the story. We get to follow these characters along in their story starting when they were young boys and following through into their adulthood. They eventually build an amazing friendship that continues as they grow older, which blossoms into a consuming love that draws you in from the moment these characters begin talking. Throughout the book there’s so much detail that brings the story to life and has you feeling every emotion from love to heartbreak to pure joy. 

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Review by Claire Plath

In the book, “They Both Die At The End” the book takes you through the lives of two teenage boys as they live out their last day to the fullest in the ways they can. The book makes you realize how valuable each day is, and how we can make our lives our own by doing those things that will make every day we live meaningful and memorable. I first heard about the book because it was so popular on Tik Tok! Many different users were recommending it and reviewing what they thought about the book so when I saw it was on sale at Target, I immediately bought it and started reading. The book intrigued me and grabbed my attention rapidly. The story of two young teenagers, Marcus and Rufus, who both come from completely different walks of life, find each other when they are told they have one day left to live. They spend their last day together, getting to know one another, and the deep parts of what makes them who they are. 

The title does not sugarcoat the ending one bit. There is no possible way out of it, no back path, because they do in fact, both die at the end. Yet the book’s ending still makes me shed a tear even though I already knew what was going to happen before I read the first page. The love that Marcus and Rufus developed for each other in a short period of time being just a day was expressed so beautifully in the book. The book itself is relatable and genuinely fun to read! I would definitely recommend this book as a must read!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Review by Amelia Tsering

“Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo stars the morally gray genius Kaz Brekker. He and five other criminals take on a nearly impossible heist together. The story takes place in a fictional universe in which a minority of people, called Grisha, possess unexplainable gifts. “Six of Crows” is written from six perspectives, but is intelligently woven together with plot twists you won’t expect. This book has both a gripping plot and well developed characters and relationships. If you want a page turner with an intricate storyline, “Six of Crows” is a wonderful read. 

By: Amelia Tsering