BookTok is reclaiming YA and NA fiction and I don’t hate it

BookTok is reclaiming YA and NA fiction and I don’t hate it

When did we become ashamed of the things we love and why does romance and fantasy have to be a guilty pleasure? Through discovering the bookish side of TikTok (BookTok), I realised so many people out there are proudly asserting their love for ‘fluffy’ fiction. So if it is so popular and beloved, why isn’t it taken seriously by the literary community? 

All hail TikTok and the wonderfully weird world that it is. As everyone loves to say, if it had not been for the mind-blowing burden of lockdown, I would have most likely never have joined TikTok. However, instead of adopting a ‘boomer’ mentality and trying to resist the wave of Gen Z, we might as well accept this new platform and appreciate it in all its glory.

I studied English Literature for my Bachelor’s degree: three solid years of Beowulf, Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and Byron, among many other greats. And hey, I am no one to diss some of the best writers to bless our generation. And I was lucky to have quite a balanced mix of texts in my degree. But damn it, sometimes a girl just wants to read a fantasy or dystopian love story and feel good about it. 

Kids don’t learn to read by picking up Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. They start with things like Winnie the Pooh, Charlie and Lola. And then once you grow up a little more you turn to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, everything and anything by Enid Blyton, a couple of books by Jacqueline Wilson, and Harry Potter. These were the books of my childhood.

And then as a teenager you fall in love with the idea of falling in love (while battling monsters and fighting for justice amidst an apocalypse of course). Books like The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, Matched – books loved by their readers but considered inferior by highbrow literature experts.

When I started university I felt insecure about my own knowledge of literature. Already at a disadvantage as I had not studied in the UK and so had missed out on many of the classics, I felt like my love for young adult literature would make me a weaker student. But when did we start being so ashamed of the things that made us fall for our passions?

Read more: The best bookshops to check out in London

If I had never read Harry Potter as a child or if I had never picked up The Fault in Our Stars I wouldn’t have become such a passionate reader. I would never have read The Picture of Dorian Gray, or The Lonely Londoners, or The Driver’s Seat. I wouldn’t have studied literature or discovered my own passion for writing. 

“Silly” and “immature” books made me who I am today, so why on earth should I hide it?

BookTok:

Well it turns out I don’t. After searching through TikTok for way too many hours, scrolling endlessly, sorting through the content I do and don’t like, the algorithm finally landed me where I needed to be. BookTok.

The power of TikTok is truly undeniable as even big bookshops such as Waterstones in the UK and Barnes & Noble in the USA have started displaying books under the ‘BookTok’ category.

As with most sub-categories of TikTok, you can find just about any kind of reader on BookTok. Readers with different interests, opinions, preferences. But one thing we’re all decided on: there is no shame in loving Young Adult or New Adult literature. In fact, the “New Adult”

category, one that didn’t exist when I was younger and that many bookshops still refuse to recognise, seems to have risen from a place of shame and rejection of “teen books”.

What is ‘New Adult’ fiction?

@amodelwhosread

NA deserves some love! #booktok #newadult #newadultbooks #fyp #bookrecommendations

♬ original sound – Rachel

As @amodelwhosread so clearly explains, the key difference between the two genres are the kinds of experiences that the protagonists go through and the general themes of the books. This would indicate that there isn’t a blatant distinction between the two, but rather a natural progression. And yet, it seems to me that many of us might prefer to label our books as “New Adult”, which so many of us are, rather than Young Adult. 

Read more: The top 5 books set in New York

Since finishing university I have found that for the first time in three years I can read exactly what I want to. My brain seems to have rejected anything that would have been recommended to me at university, and instead gone for the roots of my passions.

Back to my classics:

I’ve read a trilogy of fantasy books that inspired Netflix’s new Shadow and Bone series. I’ve fallen back in love with the simplicity of escaping to another world and involving myself in fictional rather than real problems. Is this immature, escapist, irresponsible, cowardly? Possibly. Most likely. But with the plethora of problems around the world, from eco-anxiety and climate change to the rise of racism, social injustice, and constant uncertainty, sometimes books are all we have to escape to. 

Another thing reading fantasy fiction has taught me is that the themes and characters are just as deep as you would find in any other novel. Even if some of it is pure cliche, or romantic sap, the characters are beings in their own right, with their own complexities, problems, and coming of age experiences. 

All over TikTok, readers from all ages, backgrounds, and styles are reclaiming the right to enjoy “commercial” fiction, exploring themes such as sexuality, relationships, trauma, and family proudly and without restrictions or prejudice.

@kaylin.reads.romance

If the cover looks like this, I’m reading it, no questions asked. Follow me for more! #booktok #romancebooks #bookclub #enemiestolovers #romcombook

♬ Just for me – PinkPantheress

 

It is said that there is power in numbers, and there definitely is power on TikTok, an app that so many associate with viral dances and not much else. I have found BookTok to be an inspiring community who not only accepts each other but celebrates the most suppressed parts of one another.

I know so many people who do not like reading. And while many will say they just haven’t found the right book, I would say the problem is deeper than that. We have been taught to associate literature with knowledge, with personal exploration and discovery. I agree that the two are undoubtedly linked, but doing so promotes an elitist culture that discourages people from beginning to read in the first place. 

I know so many people who do not like reading. And while many will say they just haven’t found the right book, I would say the problem is deeper than that. We have been taught to associate literature with knowledge, with personal exploration and discovery. I agree that the two are undoubtedly linked, but doing so promotes an elitist culture that discourages people from beginning to read in the first place. 

Reading does not have to be deep. You don’t have to read a book about war if you don’t want to. It is perfectly acceptable to read books like Rainbow Rowell’s masterpiece Carry On – the fanfic we all wanted in which Harry and Draco are gay and Draco is in fact a vampire. It’s cool to read A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, or Sally Rooney’s Normal People, or whatever else you fancy. Don’t let a small group of elitist professors make you believe you can’t be a part of the amazing world of literature. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.