In March of 2020, when the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I (like many others) planned to use my extra time to do something productive. I thought it would be a time to self-reflect, try new things, and explore new hobbies that I had otherwise never found the time to enjoy.

More than a year later, the guitar I bought and planned to learn how to play is still leaning against my bookshelf untouched. I quickly abandoned my ambitious daily quarantine workout routine and never learned how to make banana bread, or any other new dishes for that matter. I did, however, download TikTok, and in the past year, the side of TikTok termed “BookTok” has inspired my newfound interest in YA fiction.

TikTok uses an algorithm to connect users with content that they will enjoy. This has created different “sides” of TikTok, like a video game with different worlds that are uniquely catered to a player’s niche interests. When videos catered to a specific topic routinely pop up on a user’s feed, that user is said to be on that side of TikTok. “BookTok” is the name of a specific side of TikTok where TikTokers recommend books. Typically, a user uses their short video to talk about books they’ve enjoyed, often piling one book on top of another as the camera zooms in on the cover with music playing in the background. While TikTok has been utilized by publishers, authors, and bookstores, I have found that most of my BookTok book recommendations have come from laypeople or avid readers who love books but do not have any vested interest in book sales.

Because TikTok is most popular among young people, BookTok is dominated by YA fiction recommendations. Here are my top three YA recommendations based on BookTok recommendations:

  • The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn BarnesI heard someone on TikTok say that The Inheritance Games was Cinderella meets Knives Out, and I was immediately interested. The Inheritance Games kept popping up on my TikTok feed, and it was well worth the hype. I found each character to be vivid and colorful, and it felt like I was in Hawthorne House with them, navigating its puzzles and secret passageways. The sequel, The Hawthorne Legacy, was released on September 7, 2021, and I’ve been impatiently waiting for my copy.
  • Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia LevensellerIn this YA fantasy series, Levenseller weaves an intricate and fast-paced tale of female pirates on a search for an island of siren treasure. Captain Alosa Kalligan is the powerful female character at the center of both Daughter of the Pirate King and its sequel, Daughter of the Siren Queen, and it was invigorating to read a fantasy book so focused on women and female relationships.
  • The Cheerleaders by Kara ThomasThis was the first BookTok book I read, and it heralded a new era of YA reading for me. I read it in one night, staying up past midnight to finish the teenage thriller, and then re-read it again a year later. Whenever someone asks for book recommendations, this is the first book I tell them about.

All three of these books are well worth the read and were great recommendations. I have found that the short length of TikTok videos makes them very engaging and helps me remember a few book recommendations, rather than overwhelming me with an entire list. Prior to BookTok, I had been in a reading slump, but a year later, I have a robust list of books on my “to read” list, most of which are YA fiction books and many of which I have already crossed off.

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