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BookTok is Keeping Secrets

Allow this guide to introduce you to your next read and give credit to a few of the undervalued stories that are buried under the vastness of the TikTok “For You” page.  
(Design by Mary Allen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


TikTok has become the Gen Z version of a diary, in which the people of the world collectively share their lives. It has become the concert hall for self-expression, where people come to find community with others that share their interests. 

Books have slowly made their way into the limelight and readers have taken a corner of TikTok, otherwise known as #BookTok, hostage. This corner creates a space where thousands of people can present and discuss their love of reading and share book recommendations and reviews.

However, the internet is also known for tunnel vision, meaning that the books that are highlighted begin to take over and others that deserve just as much of the spotlight are swept under the rug. There are hundreds of books that shine so much brighter than the regularly allotted five-star review. These stay in the shadows of BookTok, never quite reaching virality. 

Allow this guide to introduce you to your next read and give credit to a few of the undervalued stories that are buried under the vastness of TikTok’s “For You” page.

“A Dowry of Blood”

If you are a “Twilight” lover at heart, or simply just a fiend for a good vampire story, but your interests lie more with prose than with plot lines, “A Dowry of Blood” by S.T. Gibson is right up your alley.

Gibson reinvents the classic story of Dracula, originally told by Bram Stoker in his 1897 publication, through the tortured lens of his first wife Constanta. The novel is written in the form of a diary as Constanta prophetically writes letters to her beloved, reliving the trauma that their relationship brought her. She explores her feelings while living in a polyamorous and abusively controlling relationship with an undying king, all while coping with its untimely end. 

If you are looking for an easy read, you might consider turning the other cheek. This novel delves into the darkest parts of an abusive relationship without the grace of a sugarcoat. However, Gibson’s writing does well to balance the darkness and gore with her beautifully written professions of love. She is a magician with words, so if you are the kind of reader that does not run from heartbreak and enjoys beautiful quotes, then Gibson has written this novel just for you. 

“One Dark Window”

If you grew up believing in magic, knowing that the air around you is filled with wondrous things. Or, if you consider the weight that tarot cards have on the balance of fate, you might want to pick up “One Dark Window” by Rachel Gillig. This novel is the first book in the “Shepherd King Series” and is a riveting dark fantasy novel with gothic connotations that practically turns the pages for you.

The story follows Elspeth Spindle, a young girl plagued with a monstrous curse. She lives within the shadows of the fantastical kingdom of Blunder, under the rule of a corrupt monarchical government. One fateful day, she is forcefully brought into the light and must attempt to keep the monster within her at bay. 

In order to free herself from the curse that has been cast upon her, Elspeth embarks on a journey with the help of an unexpected spark, Ravyn Hawke. The goal is to unite a powerful deck of “Providence Cards” which will rid Blunder of the sinister magic that envelops it, and in doing so, she hopes to cure her own curse before the magic swallows her whole.

This novel explores the genres of fantasy and romance in a never-before-seen way as Gillig builds a world run by a unique magic system. She explores the elements of bravery in the face of great opposition in Elspeth’s character as she faces an unimaginable evil. Elspeth’s journey continues in book two of the “Shepherd King Series” titled “Two Twisted Crowns.

“If We Were Villains”

Do you remember what it was like to read “Romeo and Juliet” for the first time in ninth grade? That feeling of sorrow when tragedy struck and the characters that had fallen in love right before your eyes were ripped from your grasp? If you miss reading Shakespeare, but are not ready to commit to a novel’s worth of iambic pentameter, than “If We Were Villains” might be your next read.

This captivating novel filed under the genre of dark academia, by author M. L. Rio, explores the thematic elements of friendship and betrayal. It follows a group of students at the fictional Dellecher Classical Conservatory as they grapple with new on stage roles. Trouble starts to arise when those roles bleed into their real lives, causing irreparable mistakes to be made. The novel begins at its end, as former Dellecher student Oliver Marks recounts his time at the academy and the horrific events that occurred during his fourth year. The reader is then catapulted back in time as the novel revisits the year in which a murder was committed at the school, but no one knows how or by whom. 

The novel explores the adolescent mind and how it is influenced by the formation of adult relationships beyond the bounds of university. It depicts the maturation of young adults as they attempt to navigate the dichotomy between their personalities on and off the stage, and that the cost may be deadly when the two collide. 

“Masters of Death”

If you are a 20-something walking billboard for an existential crisis, as college students tend to be, “Masters of Death” is the perfect book for you. The contemporary fantasy novel by Olivie Blaketoys with the idea of cheating death, a concept far beyond the mortal minds’ comprehension. It does so through fantastical characters which makes it slightly less daunting.

The book follows Viola Marek, a budding real estate agent who has an infatuation with blood and two abnormally large canines, as she aims to rid the house she is attempting to sell of its resident ghoul. She enlists the help of the town medium, Fox D’Mora, who just so happens to be the adopted godson of death, and his mystical bundle of friends, to find out who killed her ghostly intruder so that he can pass on to the other side. In the midst of this mission, relationships spark amongst the group and they begin to form unexpected connections. They find themselves in a high stakes round of poker, with death as their opponent and there is only one rule — don’t lose. 

“Magnolia Parks Universe”

Our honorable mention is a contemporary adult romance series that is too impeccable not to include. 

Magnolia Parks Universe,” a series by author Jessa Hastings, encompasses all of the most popular BookTok romance tropes. The series does so while exploring a dark side of relationships that is generally more difficult to convey. It follows two couples in a set of five interconnected stand-alone novels with an additional two expected in the coming years. The best way to pique your interest might be to describe it as the hit television show “Gossip Girl,” meets high society London. 

Books one, three and five all follow BJ Ballentine and Magnolia Parks, otherwise known as London’s “it couple” as they attempt to navigate their tumultuous relationship. They see soulmates in each other, but the fear of commitment boils up inside of them each time they come too close to re-igniting their spark. Instead, they smother the fire by doing anything and everything they can to emotionally torture each other. 

Books two and four follow Christian Hemmes, the London socialite, and Daisy Haites, the sister of Julian Haites, who is the most notorious crime lord in London. Daisy yearns to have a normal life which is not as easy as it seems as she is being groomed to inherit Julian’s empire. The complications only continue to appear as she begins to fall for Christian, who just so happens to be in love with his best friend’s girlfriend (not awkward at all).

The two couples intertwine at every moment throughout the novel and readers get to see the years from both perspectives. This turns, what might be considered a young adult romance thematically, into a modern literary work of art. 

There you have it. The #BookTok diamonds in the rough. My advice: grab a shovel and dig, because you never know what treasures you might find buried beneath what’s popular.


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About the Contributor
Jordan Thornblad
Jordan Thornblad, Arts Writer
(she/her) Jordan Nicole Thornblad is a junior at the University of Utah and is majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism. She enjoys reading anything and everything that she can get her hands on from classic literature to the most recently viral young adult novels. She spends her free time watching Criminal Minds, wandering the aisles of thrift stores and vintage markets and reminiscing on her years as a competitive figure skater by spending nights at local ice rinks. She finds joy in building outfits and expressing herself through personal style which is why she hopes to take her love of writing and the experience she gains while working on the Chrony and turn them into a career in fashion journalism.

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  • M

    Mary Kay WilliamsApr 29, 2024 at 4:54 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed If We Were Villains and Thornblad’s critique is spot on!

  • M

    Matayah MorganApr 27, 2024 at 2:06 pm

    Thank you for adding at least 5 more books to my incredibly long TBR 🤭 those descriptions make them pretty high contenders!