BookTok — for those of you who aren't quite Gen-Z enough to know, is a subset of TikTok where people rant and rave about their favorite books — is a weird and incredible place that is able to make or break a book. A ton of the titles that are recommended are great, and just as many suck. And since I should probably put my English degree to use for something, here's a list of a few BookTok reads that are actually worth the hype.
1. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (2021), ★★★★★
For 23-year-old August Landry, crushing on — and eventually falling in love with — a time-traveling subway girl was the last thing she expected when she moved from her small Southern town to New York City. And yet that's exactly where she finds herself, alongside a few amazing roommates and a heaping stack of Billy's magical pancakes.
One Last Stop is a touching story about finding love and family where you'd least expect. August is a sympathetic and engaging protagonist, and her relationship with Jane is beautifully written. With Jane being from the 1970s, this novel touches on some really important parts of queer history in America, which was a really touching part of the book. If you're looking for a funny, uplifting read that features a whole host of LGBTQIA+ characters and found families, One Last Stop is the book for you.
2. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (2018), ★★★★★
Jude, a mortal, is taken to Faerie — a land of faeries, obvi — by Madoc, Jude's half-sister's biological father, after he murders Jude's parents right in front of her. Although she has been tormented by the fae because of her mortality and lack of magic, Jude is desperate to belong and gain the status of knighthood. Jude's abilities and loyalties are tested when there's bloodshed in the kingdom, and she must decide once and for all who she can really trust.
I don’t like fantasy, and I liked this book. Jude is angry and very afraid, understandably so. She's a classic underdog and an inspiring protagonist. As a reader, you can't help but root for her. The supporting characters, such as Jude's sister Taryn and Cardan, the "cruel prince" himself, are all equally as interesting. Holly Black deftly crafts an incredibly complex and intriguing world of dark magic and fantastical creatures. The twists and turns this plot took left me surprised and breathless. If you're looking for a captivating, morally complex story, The Cruel Prince will be right up your alley.
3. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011), ★★★★★
Achilles is destined to be a hero. He meets Patroclus when they are young boys and the two quickly form a close relationship. After the boys are trained by a centaur named Chiron and wartime is declared between Sparta and Troy, they are called into battle. Though Achilles' fate is to give himself to battle, he is so in love with Patroclus that he's willing to sacrifice absolutely anything for him. A retelling of Homer's famous The Illiad, The Song of Achilles is a heartwrenching, memorable tale.
I read this novel for the first time way before its hype on BookTok, and it's the one book I'm overjoyed to see gain so much popularity. Madeline Miller is a beautiful writer and tells Achilles and Patroclus' story with such warmth and love that it leaves the reader aching with emotion long after they've closed this book for the final time. With its bittersweet ending, romantic characters and engaging plot, The Song of Achilles is a book I'd recommend to anyone, anytime.
4. The Selection by Kiera Cass (2012), ★★★
The last thing America Singer wants is to be chosen for the Selection — a competition where 35 girls try to win Prince Maxon's hand in marriage — and yet that is exactly where she finds herself. Despite having a secret romance back home with a boy named Aspen, America slowly begins to rethink her stance on the prince finding that maybe this life isn't so bad, after all.
This one is a bit different from the other titles on my list because I have some issues with it. When I first read The Selection at around the age of 13, I devoured it and its following titles in a matter of days. Since I was 13 — with no real concept of feminism or the history of dystopian fiction as a genre of protest, I was obsessed with this book. Now that I've read a bit more and been through a few years of college, however, I definitely understand why a lot of readers take issue with it — the whole premise of girls competing for Maxon's hand in marriage is kind of sexist and the book offers very little (if any) commentary on current issues of patriarchy and classism.
Honestly, it felt like Kiera Cass missed a great opportunity to create a Handmaid's Tale-esque novel. All of that being said, Cass's writing is genuinely good and the book is a very fun read. The Selection is a great example of pleasurable but otherwise meaningless art, and so long as readers pick up this book with that in mind, I think a lot of people — myself included — can enjoy the admittedly interesting world Cass has created.
5. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (2021), ★★★★
Despite Poppy and Alex's outward differences — she's a "wild child" who wears neon pants, whereas he lives in neutrals and goes for a run at 5 a.m. every day — they've been best friends since freshman orientation week a decade ago. Well, they were best friends, until something changed two years ago causing them to lose all contact with one another. Now nearing 30 and feeling incredibly unsatisfied with her life, Poppy invites Alex along on a nostalgic low-budget mini-vacation to try and salvage what's left of their relationship — whatever it may be.
Although the structure of the story is a bit off-putting — for the majority of the book, the chapters alternate between this summer and various past summers, which took me out of the story quite a bit — I really enjoyed this book. Poppy is an extremely relatable main character, if a tad immature, and her love interest, Alex, is so lovable I can't imagine anyone disliking him. The book is a little predictable, but Poppy and Alex's relationship is so wonderful that it honestly doesn't matter. Their relationship is an unconditional, feel-good love story with something that everyone can enjoy.