Booktok should not glorify authors


Aarya Pardeshi

In the age of social media, platforms such as TikTok provide people all over the world with an outlet to share their opinions and interests. The Sidekick staff writer Nimat Randhawa believes some of the trending books on the app shouldn’t have gained the popularity they received.

Nimat Randhawa, Staff Writer

There have been mentions of book clubs throughout history, with Anne Hutchinson’s weekly sermon discussion group on the Mayflower, Hannah Adams joining a reading circle in her hometown and even online book clubs starting in the late 1990s. In 2022, many book clubs still exist where members still meet up weekly face to face, however online book clubs seem to be a more popular choice for many readers. The most well known out of all them is: Booktok. 

A community that emerged in late 2020 where many TikTok users share book recommendations, reviews and their love for reading. More recently it has gone from a community that simply shared their interest for certain books to a community that can make or break the success of an author and their works. 

Xiran Jay Zhao has more than 200,000 followers on TikTok which lead to their debut book Iron Widow, a retelling of the story of Wu Zetian set in a dystopian universe, having more than 30 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. On the other hand author of the Atlas Six, Olivie Blake, had been self-publishing her books but thanks to Booktok she signed a publishing contract with Tor and had studios bid over television rights for her book.

However, not all press by Booktok is good press.

You may have heard of the name Colleen Hoover and the several books associated with her name: November 9, Ugly Love, Verity or It Ends With Us. These books deal with heavy topics such as abuse, sexual assault, miscarriage and infidelity. Yet Booktok presents these books as romance, which is technically true, except most of them aren’t love stories at all. 

When users make videos saying how great the romance in It Ends With Us is, it erases the message of the book and misleads new readers into thinking it’s a sweet romantic story, when it is not. The book is about ending a cycle of domestic abuse that has been in Lily, the heroine’s life. So when the summary on TikTok completely focuses on the romance in the book, it defeats the purpose of what the book was about: raising awareness to domestic abuse. 

This is nothing new for Booktok as they have a track record for romanticizing toxic characters and relationships. Many readers excuse the toxicity because the character has dark hair, colored eyes and a traumatic past that seems to justify all their actions. 

With that being said, Hoover is also at fault for also romanticizing toxicity within her books. November 9, a “love” story that follows Fallon O’Neill and Ben Kessler. Through which it’s revealed that Kessler is responsible for her burn scars as he thought that her father was the reason that his mother had died, the logical thing to do: set fire to the father’s car that leads to the house with Fallon in it catching on fire as well. 

If you ask, do they still end up together? The answer is yes, because it’s discovered the entire thing was caused by a misunderstanding, so there’s a happy ending to O’Neill and Kessler’s story.

Despite this, many of her works still have very real life issues incorporated into them, some of which many readers may have faced. However, she does use them as shock value in her books to interest her readers, without any trigger warnings in the books. This can trigger many readers who have faced these issues and don’t know what’s to come in the novel.

Not to mention that this is an online community, there are readers of many ages within it. Many that can be younger readers who haven’t had any exposure or experience with romantic relationships. When users present these books as a sweet romance or when authors glorify toxicity in their books, it can end up with that reader having the wrong idea about what love is supposed to look like.

Nonetheless, Hoover will still be the “Queen of Booktok.” 

Anyone can speak out about the author’s actions, but it won’t truly do anything to affect them. Due to their fan bases that will continue to feed into these actions generating more and more popularity for the writers’ books, until they’re placed on this untoppable pedestal, oblivious to harm that they have caused. 

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