It is 2023, and you are the prodigal son returning home to your favorite hobby, reading, after you’d abandoned it. So much time has passed that you barely know where to start, but like a stroke of fate, you stumble upon a shelf labeled ‘Booktok’ at your local bookstore.
If the entire internet liked the book so much it made it onto real store shelves, it must be good, you think. You purchase It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover with this thought in mind, believing with all your heart that you will join the thousands raving about this novel online. Except the more you read, the harder it is to deny the truth staring you in the face.
The book, you realize, is terrible.
On paper, Booktok seems like a paradise. It provides a community for people to easily find book recommendations and hold discussions about their favorites. However, rather than proving useful, it only demonstrates how much people’s perception of literature has deteriorated over the pandemic.
Literature refers to a written work that has lasting artistic merit. In the past, the greatness of a novel has been measured by the author’s writing style, the characterization, the setting, or the plot - all of which contribute to its timelessness.
Now, the greatness of a novel is measured by the sexiness of the male lead.
No matter how horrible the rest of the book may be, if the romance is steamy enough, it will earn the book an automatic five stars. The overused tropes that were typically confined to trashy Y/A novels and Wattpad fanfictions have spilled over into novels that are supposed to shy away from such predictable cliches.
Essentially, the problem is that reading is now treated as just another form of consumption. Novels are not appreciated for the plot or the prose, but rather for how much satisfaction they can bring to the reader. Don’t get me wrong - reading has always been about pleasure, but the things that were so central in past literary works seem to have all but disappeared.
If the world were to blame anyone for this strange phenomenon, it would be Colleen Hoover. She began her rise to fame in 2020, where her books, notorious for its emotional, rollercoaster romances, circulated all around Booktok.
In reality, her books often portray unhealthy relationships as the pinnacle of romance. Since her books are aimed at younger girls, Hoover’s reflection of abusive behaviors prove harmful to their perception of love.
In the end, we should recenter the definition of literature, not as a word-form regurgitation of a bad TV drama, but as a splendid work that will be well-loved even decades into the future.