“I’m not going to download TikTok,” they said at some point in 2020, moments before downloading TikTok.
Most of us have been there. TikTok was an app most twenty-somethings were not interested in downloading, such as myself. That is, until we found ourselves having to spend copious amounts of time inside and needing some form of distraction. I remember thinking TikTok was such a cringey thing only teens and tweens downloaded in replacement of the app Musical.ly, where they all posted embarrassing videos of their lip-singing and jerky hand movements.
Boy, was I wrong.
I caved and downloaded TikTok out of curiosity only to find myself spending an ungodly amount of time scrolling through that app. Like any social media platform, it has its downfalls, but it also has a few perks. It has connected people across the world during a time when we needed it the most. It has made us laugh when nothing else was a laughing matter. And, it has popularized reading at a time when reading was seen as lame and boring.
The last point is great news for the literary community. Plenty of veteran writers are getting the recognition they deserve, while new writers are gaining popularity thanks to the power of the #BookTok algorithm. Readers are bonding over the Internet’s beloved books and spending time in bookstores with entire shelves dedicated to #BookTok. TikTok readers have single-handedly saved local bookstores by giving them the business they so needed. This, for the most part, is incredibly beneficial for readers and writers alike. As a reader and a writer, I have noticed a rather disappointing trend in some of the books that have taken the Internet by a storm: lack of substance.
This isn’t true for all the books I have read based on TikTok’s recommendations, such as The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune, Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. Those books are among my all-time favorites. However, I am stunned that some books--and I won’t name names--have readers in a chokehold these days. I won’t name any names because I don’t want to offend anyone who loves any of these books I have in mind. These books, in my opinion, were written cheaply, have convenient plots, and desperately need an editor. There’s nothing inherently wrong with loving one of these books. It’s hard to complain about the growing population of them because, in the end, I’m glad people are reading more often these days.
Here’s the problem: the rabid consumption of poorly written books is a disservice to those that actually deserve the hype.
The reason these books are so popular is because they are easier for new readers to digest. Again, there is nothing wrong with reading what you are comfortable reading. The problem lies in how certain books may have made readers a little too comfortable. I fear these books have outshined books with better plots, better writing, and minimal editorial hiccups. It’s like watching a boat float over a coral reef: the water is just the surface, and the passengers are totally unaware of the beautiful, complex ecosystem that lives just beneath them. These #BookTok books are just the beginning of a world of literature that has not received as much recognition. They should be stepping stools to guide readers to higher levels of literature instead of the standard for what makes a book good. So, if you’re a new reader, consider branching out from the #BookTok shelf. Find a book that BookTok hasn’t gotten a hold of (yet). Then, share it with the rest of us.