In the dynamic landscape of social media, TikTok has emerged as a transformative force, reshaping the daily routines of millions of Americans. As a versatile source of information, it provides a convenient and enjoyable means of learning. However, the platform's influence extends beyond mere convenience, contributing to a fundamental shift in entertainment consumption that has global ramifications for young adults' attention spans and focus. The allure of bite-sized entertainment has, to some extent, redefined how individuals engage with content, leading to a growing dependency on succinct visuals over sustained narratives.
As an avid reader, I've traversed the digital landscape of BookTok, the side of TikTok dedicated to recommending literature, in search of captivating book recommendations. However, I found my deep dive on BookTok to be a mostly lackluster and disenchanted source for literary recommendations. Almost all the popularized texts I have read on BookTok often fall into the realm of the basic and predictable, lacking the depth and originality I seek in my reading. In a world dominated by fleeting TikTok videos, the constant flow of content has created a phenomenon where authors and their works are excessively exposed and overproduced. The essence of authorship, once rooted in a genuine passion for literature and the ability to stir readers with evocative prose, now seems to pivot towards a quest for virality on BookTok and the pursuit of media stardom—veering away from the profound impact of the written word.
With this disillusionment in mind forged by Gen Z readers, I feel compelled to share alternatives to BookTok. These novels offer a more enriching experience for passionate readers. These three hidden gems deserve far more attention than they currently receive in the shadow of BookTok's spotlight.
Colleen Hoover's It Ends With Us is first on the list of de-influencing overhyped books. It Ends With Us most likely stands as one of the most widely loved books on BookTok, although the precise reasons for its popularity remain elusive to me. Upon my initial encounter with this book at the age of 14, I found myself captivated by its romance and the subtly electrifying, suspenseful plot. However, revisiting the story roughly four years later brought about a significant shift in my perspective on the text. Notably, the protagonist's apparent indifference towards marrying her potentially abusive boyfriend and the recurring domestic violence undertones that appear throughout the story.
It Ends With Us' exceptional alternative is Rebecca Serle’s In Five Years. In Five Years is a beautiful and evocative romance. It tells the story of friendship, love, and grief in the most engaging and easy-to-read prose. The characters are relatable, and feel as if they are friends of your own. Warning: prepare a brand-new box of Kleenex with you; you will need it.
Next on the list is the over-hyped thriller The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Getting through the first half of this novel was like sitting through an hour of listening to nails against a chalkboard—it dragged on and on and was torturously monotonous. While The Silent Patient was DNFed (did not finish) in my 2019 TBR list (to be read), I am glad that I did not finish it based on the novel’s predictable ending (which I will not reveal in case of spoiling anyone’s current read.)
My highly recommended alternative to The Silent Patient is Kanae Minato’s Penance. I first read Penace in an English translation course at my university, and I was entirely shocked at how impressive the translation is. The novel was originally written in Japanese and was translated into English in 2017, where it gained popularity in the United States after Minato’s bestselling debut novel, Confessions. I can say infinitely good things about Penance, but I think it is best to go into this book completely blind. I promise you will be hooked by the first 35 pages of this masterful psychological thriller.
The time has arrived for me to de-influence one of Booktok’s favorite romcoms, Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Red, White, and Royal Blue. I thought the comedic atmosphere of the novel was well done, especially with Alex’s character. Nevertheless, I felt that Prince Henry’s character was undeveloped and fell flat to the audience, which is problematic as he is the second lead character and the main character’s love interest. I also noted several plot holes in the story and felt the ending was rushed and automated.
A much better alternative to Red, White, and Royal Blue is André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name. Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet’s 2017 film Call Me By Your Name shook every female (and perhaps some male) teenager’s life for the entire year. Hammer and Chamalet’s acting was superb, and their chemistry was even better. However, I can confidently say that the novel is at least ten times better than the film. If you loved the movie and haven’t read the book, you are missing out on the inner workings of Elio’s mind and heart, making the story more genuine and comprehensible to a viewer/reader.