Even if you aren’t one of the legions of quaranteens scrolling bleary-eyed through dozens of minute-long videos at 3 a.m. each night, you probably know what TikTok is.
A social media stomping ground made popular by Gen Z kids two years ago, it’s a place where millennials compete in dance challenges and influencers tempt you to buy things you didn’t know you needed on Amazon. (That at-home ice cream-making machine? Yeah, you really don’t need that.)
BookTok, however, is a hard thing to define. It’s a smorgasbord of recs and memes and interactive callouts and comedic re-enactments of scenes and prompts asking fans to imagine Edward Cullen’s search history in Breaking Dawn. It’s bite-sized — most videos last 60 seconds — and because of that time restriction, users find the freedom to get playfully creative. There aren’t longer videos reviewing an entire series like you'll find on BookTube, or superficially pretty book-porn like images you’ll find on Instagram. BookTok gets down to business quick.
Hoping to flag the steamiest chapter in that YA fantasy rec? There’s a BookTok for that. (And it’s chapter 55 if you’re reading the same fae series everyone else is at the moment.)
Wanting to get “emotionally destroyed” by YA fantasy romances because living in 2020 means embracing the pain? Yep, there’s a space for you here.
Hoping to find some “If you like that, read this” lists to fill up your shelves when we all finally accept the reality that we’ll be stuck inside our homes until 2021? Scroll on, my friend.
In a lot of ways, BookTok has become the gateway drug for people who’ve suddenly realized they’re missing a reading routine, for people interested but apprehensive about where to start their YA fantasy journey, or for shameful idiots like me getting back into the game after years of dismissing this genre in its written form.
There’s something refreshingly innocent about BookTok. Maybe it’s because the app seems tailor-made for teens who are just starting their own YA reading journey. Maybe it’s because everyone else there is just desperate for a bit of joy after a bleak year. Whatever the reason, BookTok, more than any other online reading community, feels inventive and accepting and excited about all of the incredible content we have time to devour. There are accounts that recommend only YA fantasy with LGBTQ characters as the heroes and heroines. There are fans who dedicate their space to promoting diversity and inclusion in what has traditionally been a whitewashed genre. But more importantly, every interest, every like, every rec feels valid. Sure, there are over-hyped series and people working to expand FYP mentions, and you’ll find some cutting commentary about fan-favorite series authors that haven’t aged well — looking at you, J.K. Rowling. But the discourse always feels civil and, even better, educational — a rarity on any social media site.
I’m not advocating for you to download TikTok and succumb to your insomnia as I have. That would be irresponsible and, frankly, a bit cruel. But if there’s one thing we all deserve right now, it’s the gift of sleeping through this garbage-fire year — and if reading’s become your escape again as it has for me, there are some extraordinary worlds out there that the good people of BookTok could introduce you to, if you’ll give them just under a minute to do it.
@kellyygillann is responsible for that "books to read if you want to be emotionally destroyed" reference above but she also delivers helpful recs for every kind of fantasy lover —from books to read based on your favorite movies to series that are more inclusive. She peppers those "to-read" lists with funny posts sorting celeb crushes into Hogwarts houses and Harry Styles-themed birthday parties during quarantine.
@emilys_library has some great bookish content that goes past general rec lists, like her "ways to enjoy Harry Potter w/o supporting J.K. Rowling" post and her tips for getting over reading slumps. Hey, they happen to all of us!
@lavender_reads focuses almost exclusively on YA fantasy recs and she does so while making sure to spotlight selections that are more diverse than the rest of BookTok. Come for her authors of color book haul, stay for her suggestions on which YA books deserve more hype.
I'll be honest, I follow @caitlinreadsbooks solely because her recs based on zodiac signs series turned out to be strangely accurate, but she's also introduced me to some bi heroes/heroines I wouldn't have met before BookTok.
Camille Yvonne (@the.ones.about.books) has made her BookTok account an addictive watch by combining her natural comedic talents with her eclectic, interesting reading tastes. She engages with her audience with cool series like her "Questions For Authors" videos but personally, I can't get enough of her book-cover posing clips.
I'll be honest, I haven't really found any new books to read from Char (@nyycharm) but that's not why I love this account. No, I appreciate the content here because it combines comedy with a kind of introspection the book community desperately needs. Her "how authors write minorities" series is both hilarious and eye-opening and she extends that same kind of wit-infused criticism to the lack of diversity in fantasy and beyond.