BookTok bias

Popular books on TikTok are often romanticized despite toxic themes, requiring critical reading from audiences.

BookTok is probably one of the most enjoyable sub-platforms of social media I’ve ever experienced. Ranging from “Twilight” memes to girls thirsting over Aaron Warner (guilty), BookTok serves as a platform where readers who are bursting with opinions and thoughts can rant to a greater audience.

BookTok is the young reader’s guide to popular books. Some you may have heard about are “The Cruel Prince, “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” and of course, The Hunger Games trilogy. Most content creators and viewers agree that these books are good reads. From what I’ve observed, BookTok has two factors that contribute to its dark side: the reading standards people set and the serious content of some books.

BookTok exists because people love to read. With that being said, why some Classic Literature readers look down upon others for choosing lower-lexile books is something I can’t answer. If you take a person who’s reading “The Love Hypothesis” and a person who’s “Pride and Prejudice,” the enjoyment each one feels by reading those books should not be detracted from. While BookTok is about sharing love about the books people read, it shouldn’t become a platform where we chastise people that aren’t reading your favorite classics–the 200-year difference in publishing date isn’t an excuse to bully someone behind a screen.

This subculture of TikTok is also infamous for a different kind of online battle: debates over the toxicity of certain books.

If you know me, you probably already know my distaste for Colleen Hoover books. The he root of my  issue with her books is not her fans but the content she includes. Since BookTok has a strong affiliation with her work (good and bad), I’ll use her work as an example for the other issue that plagues the BookTok community.

Hoover’s work is page turning, not because it is good but because she writes for shock value, incorporating elements like domestic abuse and psychological manipulation into the rising action of her storylines. Along with this comes her romanticization of unhealthy relationships that traps her two main love interests into the main conflict. This is what ultimately kept me, and readers all over the internet, binge-reading in disbelief

Others on BookTok argue that Hoover’s books bring them out of their reading slump, which is what happened in my experience. Though her books can be a great transitional piece for people who are looking to become more active readers, it is good to identify the flaws in the themes of her books as you read.

Of course, she is not the only author who does this. There are many novels that include content that is equally dark, if not more so (like “Thirteen Reasons Why” and “Lolita”). With books like these including heavy content like sexual assault, the only thing left for us readers to do is make it an informative experience rather than traumatic one.

This is where we need to hold authors accountable to writing healthy solutions in their storylines to problematic themes–or at least read more critically as an audience–to avoid falling down the rabbit hole of glorified toxic romance.

Be careful of what you consume on BookTok–with several people speaking their mind on books, authors and thematic elements, it’s easy to get lost on the platform. The more people spread awareness about certain toxic tropes in books, the easier it is for readers to read critically and identify red flags of characters and their behavior. That being said, read whatever you feel like reading as long as it makes you happy. At the end of the day, BookTok still remains a tight knit community where you bond over one thing that everyone agrees on: the superiority of fictional men.