Reviewing 5 BookTok Books; Are They Truly Worth the Hype?

Op-ed

We've all been there: scrolling through all those TikToks and Reels about the most popular books right now, also known as BookToks. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, BookTok is a subcommunity on TikTok that focuses on literature with users reviewing and discussing books they’ve read. From Colleen Hoover's "It Ends With Us", to Jenny Han's "The Summer I Turned Pretty" (some are now official movies and series on Netflix and Prime Video too), there is a range of books with many genres available. But of course, with a wide variety of options and publicity, it brings many opinions, including... questionable opinions.

A similar community exists on Instagram too, but the only difference is it is in the form of reels. Fundamentally, BookTok and BookStragram are the same, just on a different platform.

The BookTok community really does know how to hype up a book (been there, and will never do that again). From the 'Books I would sell my soul to read for the first time again', to 'Books that had me crying at 3 AM', you have a wide assortment of genres to pick from! Fun!

Here's an example:

We all tend to buy the most trending books because, well, they're trending. This might be reasonable for avid readers, but for those looking out to dive into reading or are just beginners, they might formulate an opinion of their own because of just getting carried away. One must first figure out their favorite genre and, while doing so, not hold any expectations.

Though there may be hate around how the community overhypes the smallest of things, there are some really good qualities. This is one such community that shines a light on everything in the most positive way. Books on LGBTQ+ is one category picking up big time.

While some books might definitely be overhyped or underhyped for various reasons, there are some books that truly deserve the hype and are my personal favourites. Some are even underrated! Here I have reviewed 5 books with varying genres. These 5 books can give you an understanding of why these books are at the top in the BookTok community. Feel free to discover and dive into your own research! Happy reading!

1.'It Ends With Us' by Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction.

Personal Rating: 4/5

'It Ends With Us' is the #1 trending book on BookTok and BookStagram and a well-written book in my opinion. Colleen Hoover has always done an amazing job with the books she has written, each with a very unique storyline and interesting characters. The character developments and the connections throughout the book are highly commendable. Almost every book I've read of hers (Trust me, it's a lot) keeps the reader glued to the book. Many people read it just because it is romance, but her books are so much more than that.

This book specifically shines light on gaslighting, childhood trauma, and mainly how complex the life of an individual suffering from abuse and witness to the abuse can be. It is a very intense book with some occasional smut (sexual material), and definitely a must-read. With the line

"Cycles exist because they are excruciating to break. It takes an astronomical amount of pain and courage to disrupt a familiar pattern. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep running in the same familiar circles, rather than facing the fear of jumping and possibly not landing on your feet." - Colleen Hoover, It Ends With Us.

Hoover really talks about how being a part of an environment that has abuse can really turn up in one's own life, knowingly or unknowingly.

I personally really like the emotions, thoughts, and situations portrayed in this book (especially the quotes) but as for the actual 'romance' part, I found it pretty cringey. Some irritating factors were her trying to over-portray the main character's emotions, when it is made quite clear. Fair enough, it is following a 23-year-old named Lily who is obsessed with a walking red flag/Neurosurgeon but also misses her golden retriever boyfriend back when she was 15, so...you kinda get it. Also, for some reason, Lily really likes Ryle wearing scrubs, especially when he gets home wearing them and they jump into bed to do the act of pleasure?? Seems very... unhygienic?

2. "One Of Us Is Lying" by Karen M. McManus

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Young Adult Thriller

Personal Rating: 4/5

'One Of Us Is Lying' is yet another critically acclaimed series based in a high school. Detention turns dark in Bayview with the death of a student, Simon Kelleher, having a peanut allergy. What makes things complicated is the fact that many people wanted him gone for their own reasons. The main suspects are the 4 other students present during detention; Bronwyn Rojas, Nate Macaulay, Addy Prentiss, and Cooper Clay. Each of the high school students has secrets that they would do anything to protect, so how far would they go to keep them in the dark? (This is now a Netflix series too)

If you enjoy the thriller and investigative genre, this is a must-read. Oh, and if you're also into major time plot twists? Yep, just the book for you.

“I guess we're almost friends now, or as friendly as you can get when you're not one hundred percent sure the other person isn't framing you for murder.” - Karen M Mcmanus, One Of Us Is Lying.

I was absolutely taken aback by how the book played out, definitely worth reading. One thing that did bug me while reading was how dragged it was in the beginning. I started to lose interest halfway through but kept at it, and there it was; the first plot twist. Then came back-to-back shockers, and from then it was absolutely undroppable. The character development, plot development, everything was absolutely crazy. This book is definitely at the top for its character development and plot twists, because of how well it is timed in the book. Yes, the beginning is a little monotonous, but soon it's literally impossible to stop reading.

I suggest you read the book and then watch the series(that's only if you're curious about it). Trust me, because by doing so, you will realize why I say the following statement: They absolutely butchered the book. Destroyed it. Complete disappointment.

The thing is, the book has a lot of underlying issues it tackles that teenagers face in real-time. How the LGBTQ+ community face hate on a normal basis, how your typical and seemingly innocent 'popularity contest' is actually a monster, immense peer pressure ruining a life, stereotyping,...I could go on with a list! Each of these characters has a background and important role of their own, addressing one kind of issue or the other. The Netflix series, on the other hand, really messed up with Season 1(There are 2 seasons at the moment). There were vital moments, important actions and reactions by characters, but many were cut out. The ending has a difference too!

Everyone has their own take on the book, and when you read it, you will too.

3. "Verity" by Colleen Hoover

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Romantic Thriller

Personal Rating: 4.5/5

'Verity', by Colleen Hoover, is yet another absolute banger and a must-read. This is a diversion from her usual romantic setting and dreamy characters. This book has some very...interesting characters. This is easily one of my top 3 books of all time. Though Hoover has not come out with many psychological horrors, she did an amazing job with this book.

The story follows Lowen Ashleigh, a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin. When things seemed to be at the lowest possible, she was offered the job of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, the husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, hires Lowen to complete the remaining books his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started, but what Lowen doesn't expect to find in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. No one. Ever. Page after page revealed bone-chilling admissions by Verity, including her recollection of the night their family was forever altered. Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy because its contents would devastate the already-grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify(here's when the romance starts), she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue loving her.

“The world was her manuscript. No surface was safe.” - Colleen Hoover, Verity

This book is absolutely legendary on many levels. This book is literally what it's meant to be - chaotic, rushed, anxiety-inducing, and traumatizing (strong words, but it's best explained this way). I pictured the book in the most childish way possible, but the book seemed to laugh at my imagination. When it presented its true horrors before me, I was scared. Genuinely scared.

The best and worst part, in my opinion, is the ending. It has very conflicting thoughts for the reader. It adds to the feelings that the book wants to show, but it is also immensely flat and rushed, like falling off a cliff (no, not anything like a cliffhanger). Also, the romance is just weird. It's understandable-Hoover's a romance author, so there's got to be some romance involved, but the smut was just...no. It is ignorable though, so I don't really hate anything about this book.

Remember this question at the end of this book; 'Team Manuscript, or Team Letter?'

To be frank, Verity does not really have an ending, because when the bonus chapter was released, and what readers felt would be the 'conclusion', put the readers into a bigger confusion. Many people are against this book for this sole reason, but what they forget is that the book is meant to be like that. It is such a book that really leaves the reader traumatized and horrified. On toes all the time. This scared me to my bones, and I loved the emotions I felt while reading the book.

One suggestion; after reading my take on this book, you might develop a preset. Try not to go into the book with any expectations. That's when the book is best enjoyed :)

4. "The Silent Patient" by Alex Michaelides

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Investigative Horror (I know, very similar genre to Verity but this truly deserves a review)

Personal Rating: 5/5

'The Silent Patient', by Alex Michaelides, is one of the most popular psychological thrillers with the most insane plot twist of all time. This book is, simply put, about a woman's (Alicia Berenson) act of violence against her husband (Gabriel) and her refusal to speak after that. Her psychotherapist (Theo Faber) is obsessed with uncovering her motive. Here's the synopsis:

Alicia Berenson is a famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer and lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening, her husband returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and the spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.

“Choosing a lover is a lot like choosing a therapist. We need to ask ourselves, is this someone who will be honest with me, listen to criticism, admit making mistakes, and not promise the impossible?” ― Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient.

I shall guarantee you that this book will not disappoint as long as you read it with an open mind. Many people dive enthusiastically into books but with certain expectations, and I cannot stress more how important it is to dive into a book with absolutely no thoughts and opinions in mind. This book also has that requirement.

The ending is a literal masterpiece. It opens up a dimension that the reader was sure would never get involved in. Heck, they never knew it could get involved. The book also gives insight into the subject of psychology very clearly and ensures that the reader interprets the knowledge while keeping the main focus on the actual plot.

One thing that does not generally sit well with people is that this book has a bad portrayal of psychotherapy, psychiatrists, therapy, and more. Yes, it strongly influences characters and plots, but there are other important things that are highlighted and to be noticed. Many books are flawed and should not be believed as always 'factual'. This book has a similar problem, and frankly, can be ignored. Yes, there are other minor things that irritated me, like the lack of emphasis in the ending, important emotions not perfectly portrayed at crucial times, etc, etc, but anyone can find issues. Moreover, the plot makes up for all of that.

5. "The Summer I turned pretty" by Jenny Han

Genre: Romance, Drama, Coming-of-age

Personal Rating: 5/5

'The Summer I Turned Pretty' by Jenny Han has captivated the hearts of many, many readers with its absolutely stunning and beautiful storyline, characters, and plot. It is also, I must say, now an amazing Prime Video series. Of course, as the name suggests, it is set during summer, following 15-year-old Isabell (Belly) Cocklin on her first post-pubescent summer at Cousins Beach. For Belly (played by Lola Tung), her older brother (played by Sean Kaufman), and her mother, Laurel played by Jackie Chung), it’s a family tradition to spend the season crashing with Laurel’s college bestie Susannah (played by Rachel Blanchard), who owns a huge, hydrangea-bedecked house—and, critically, has two handsome sons blue-eyed hookup magnet Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno), pretty smile and ever-brooding enigma Conrad (Christopher Briney) who’ve always seen Belly as a little sister, until now. She has also matured into a beautiful woman and has now caught the attention of the brothers and changed their opinions. What they didn't know was that this vacation at the summerhouse was going to be their last.

Amongst long shots of them dancing against the high tides of the ocean, feeling up fellow teenagers at parties, Belly turns into a Bella right in front of our eyes.

“They've always seen me as a little kid, but this summer, it’s different.” - Jenny Han, The Summer I Turned Pretty.

The book is extremely well written. It is a sweet, easy-going novel that makes you not want to leave it alone, but keep reading on and on. The characters are a little cliche but also lovable, making you attached to them easily. The book touches sensitive topics with ease and expertise. But, the ending kind of sucked. During the last few chapters, readers get ready for a poetic, beautiful, wholesome ending, but that isn’t delivered. Again, something like falling off a cliff. On the other hand, we are left with a little sneak peek of what happens a little after the summer.

This book had me really hooked and let my imaginations run wild. I personally love the feeling of 'the wind against me on a beach, facing the ocean, partying away into the night' kinda-vibes, and this book was gold for me. I still remember the thoughts and feelings I felt reading this. It was everything I dreamed summer being with my friends would be like. I was sobbing at the end of the book.

I recommend reading the book and watching the series right after. There is a scene in the book that is not there in the series. Moreover, the series is not yet complete. Most importantly, it can restrict your imagination if you do it in reverse order. To be able to imagine your own characters and own setting is what gives the reader his/her high, i.e the reader's high. Delve into the book, and then watch the series.

Conclusion

Well, this is my take on all of the books. All of them are absolutely fantastic in their own way, for their own reasons. If you have read any of these books and have a different opinion, just remember that we all have different opinions and that's okay! What you take out the book and choose to agree or disagree with is completely your wish, and precisely what BookTok and BookStagram exist for; sharing your thoughts and opinions about a book, starting a discussion, etc.

I recommend reading these books and with these finding your genre. They are the top books of their genre and can give you an insight into many things to understand about reading. Hope this sparks the reader within you!

Happy reading!

Sunaina Vallishayee

Sunaina is a 16 year old high school student, active member of the school newsletter community and is the head girl of her school. She enjoys participating in activities, reading books- most of them being manga, romance novels, suspense novels or autobiographies- which lead to her interest in writing. She also enjoys playing a sport or watching her favourite shows. She has a keen interest towards topics pertaining to mental health and overall 'teen well being'.