September 28 2022 1:45 PM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

The hidden dangers of TikTok book recommendations

At B&N in Scottsdale, Arizona, Taken by Tali Arbel
As always, with great power comes great responsibility, yet some TikTok creators are shirking their responsibility and putting their audience’s lives in danger with unsuitable and maybe even life-threatening recommendations. (Photo: Tali Arbel)
TikTok, the social media platform with bite-sized videos, has proved quite effective at providing a platform for people to recommend their favorite books to others and help them find their next read. This community of readers goes by the hashtag “BookTok’’ and has well over 65 billion views. Libraries and bookstores have even started putting out displays of books labeled “As Seen on BookTok” or “#BookTok”, capitalizing on the popularity of the hashtag. اضافة اعلان

As always, with great power comes great responsibility, yet some TikTok creators are shirking their responsibility and putting their audience’s lives in danger with unsuitable and maybe even life-threatening recommendations.

The award-winning book “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara is one of the most noteworthy awful recommendations that BookTok has been making to users as young as 12 on the platform. The premise may sound intriguing: four friends relocate from a small college in Massachusetts to New York while attempting to live their lives with a glimmer of ambition and greatness. And given that it has been rated by over 360,000 people, this book has a high rating of 4.33 stars out of 5 on Goodreads, the premier website for reviewing books. What these young readers may not know is the deeply unsettling truth that will be uncovered when they crack open this massive, 750-page book.



Child abuse, racism, grooming, domestic violence, rape, suicide, self-harm, and the list, which you can check out at https://bit.ly/3JApqjj, goes on and on.

A Little Life extensively glorifies the violent and horrific events that characterize these friends’ everyday lives while covering the above themes in painstaking detail and depth, rarely leaving anything to the reader’s imagination. Even though A Little Life is advertised as “a heart-wrenching beautiful story” or “stories to cry to”, it merely contains distressing and upsetting material that should have been handled with greater professionalism.

The problem does not even necessarily lie within the book, as much as it does with the audience to which it is being recommended. Without parental supervision, children and teenagers should not be exposed to material that may have a negative impact on their mental health, something that some TikTok creators regrettably disregard.
While parents should not completely shield their children from the internet and everything it has to offer, they should still keep an eye out for any content they might be consuming that could affect their mental health.
As for the target audience for this book, many BookTokers have already expressed concern. At least 30 percent of the 113.7 million views on the hashtag #ALittleLife seem to be children or teenagers who are at risk of being exposed to this book’s heavy content.

Sîvan, a Kurdish BookToker, said in her TikTok: “I don’t think I’d recommend this to my worst enemy,” and “as a BookToker you have a responsibility to your audience,” and reflected on the many other BookTokers that have been irresponsibly telling their young audiences to read A Little Life.

A Little Life is not the only book that gets recommended to young readers despite featuring potentially triggering content. Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a book about two friends who are suffering from eating disorders (ED) and compete to see who can be the thinnest. When one passes away due to  anorexia, the other is left to find her path to recovery while exploring her struggles and the threads of hope she is trying to hold on to.


Author of “A Little Life” Hanya Yanagihara. (Photos: Sophia Evans)

“The book’s content, combined with the demographic it was marketed to, created a complete recipe for disaster and may have done more harm than good,” says Leftie, a BookToker, in her two-minute review of the book.

While many people praise this book as a great insight into the minds of those who struggle with EDs, readers who have suffered from EDs remark on the terrible representation it holds. Wintergirls is also heavily marketed to girls and women between the ages of 12 and 25, which have been statistically proven to be the demographic most susceptible to EDs.

Leftie also mentions how she got this book from her middle-school library, further proving the point.

The dangers of this book do not end there. Wintergirls has extensive descriptions of grotesque and unnecessarily detailed scenes of self-harm, the protagonist compiling supposed “tips and tricks” from pro-ED websites to lose even more weight, and the unhealthy habits the protagonist hides from her parents.

The book is written in a way that feels like it is encouraging people to follow in the protagonist’s footsteps, rather than learn from her mistakes.

While parents should not completely shield their children from the internet and everything it has to offer, they should still keep an eye out for any content they might be consuming that could affect their mental health.


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