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7th December 2023

BookTok’s obsession: Why fantasy novels keep captivating readers

Discover the cultural phenomenon of ‘BookTok’ where a surge of young readers have enthusiastically immersed themselves in the enthralling realms of fantasy novels, heralding a new era in reading habits and literary exploration.
BookTok’s obsession: Why fantasy novels keep captivating readers
Credit: Grace Hilton @ The Mancunion

Fantasy novels have woven their magic, capturing readers worldwide, especially the younger audience. From Harry Potter to A Song of Ice and Fire, millions have immersed themselves in these fantastical realms, finding solace, inspiration, and a sense of wonder within their pages.

The intricate world-building, rich characters, and imaginative plots have entertained and sparked imaginations, teaching valuable lessons about bravery, friendship, and the enduring battle between good and evil. While beloved fantasy novels still hold sway over readers worldwide, younger generations are now exploring different reads, often stumbling upon them through platforms like TikTok.

While facing government scrutiny for potentially sharing sensitive user data with the Chinese government, TikTok has significantly contributed to people’s joy by empowering individuals to create their own platforms and aiding users in discovering new interests, including new books.

The “niche subsection of TikTok”, known as ‘BookTok’, continues to inspire millions of young individuals to embrace reading, with a particular emphasis on fantasy novels being among the most popular choices. The books gaining popularity among young readers include series such as A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, the Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo, and my favourite—the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi.

In 2021, the purchase of physical books soared to over 825 million copies, marking the highest recorded figure since tracking began in 2004. This substantial increase, potentially attributed to the immense popularity of BookTok, stands in stark contrast to 2019 when only 751 million books were sold—a remarkable surge of 74 million copies in just two years. Yet, what makes the book suggestions, especially those centred on fantasy novels, so widely favoured among young people?

The storylines in the fantasy novels mentioned above, typically include elements of mystery, action, and adventure, keeping readers hooked with twists, turns, and unpredictable outcomes. The mix of plot-driven events and character development creates a compelling book. Plus, many of these novels incorporate captivating romances that unfold amidst the larger plot.

Relationships often involve tension, emotional depth, and sometimes even forbidden or star-crossed love, which can be very appealing to young readers. These novels offer a sense of escapism, particularly to young individuals managing the pressures of exams and assignments in school and university. They find solace in these books, seeing them as a welcome distraction from academic responsibilities.

What I love about TikTok is that it has inspired a generation of young people to enjoy reading. Despite the first book in the Shatter Me series debuting in 2011, its recent explosion in popularity is noteworthy. As of November 2023, #shatterme has amassed over 2.2 billion views, indicating a newfound appeal and rising trend among young readers.

As time moves forward, the allure of these novels, combined with TikTok’s capacity to ignite curiosity and exploration, ensures that the enchantment of fantasy literature remains an everlasting treasure for readers. It bridges the gap between generations with its timeless appeal. So get yourselves down to your nearby Waterstones and dive into the captivating worlds of these popular books!

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