Even before the rise of BookTok, there are so many books that get talked up that I just don't understand! BookTok has definitely exasperated this, and I take most of BookTok with a grain of salt. Sometimes I do find some good stuff, but it takes some sleuthing. That being said, I do be trying to avoid the BookTok table when someone comes into Barnes & Noble asking for recommendations.... or at least avoid the Colleen Hoover table.
Here are some big books that I can't back.
I've heard about this one for YEARS, but just read it in March. It's one that I read the synopsis of multiple times, but always decided against. After seeing it on two Instagram reel recommendations, I caved and got the e-book. I even paid for it since it's not on Kindle Unlimited. I definitely returned it though. I'm not paying $10 for trash.
Archer's Voice is about a man who uses sign language to communicate after an accident in childhood severed his ability to speak. Despite the fact that he grew up in the town where he still lives, he's been outcasted for being a weird, "next unibomber" type (according to his own cousin). All because he doesn't speak and keeps to himself (who wouldn't with a community like that).
When a woman comes to town, she takes a strange interest in him from the beginning. People just don't understand what she sees in the man, with his overgrown hair and beard that obscure his face and his years-old dingy clothes.
More than the community completely treating him like a leper despite knowing him since he was a child, the bigger problem is the relationship between Archer and Bree. She infantilizes him the whole time, and the author does the same. Both Bree and Archer have trauma, so I'm not referring to any trauma responses or vulnerability that Archer shows; I'm talking about the way Archer is treated like a literal child who doesn't understand anything, only for Bree to get annoyed with other people treating him that way too.
(Spoiler) For example, his cousin takes him into town for a night out and convinces him that "everyone" cheats on their girlfriends because women like men with "a little experience." Despite being aware of and impacted by his father cheating on his mother, Archer believes his cousin and nervously goes along with it. They treat him like he's a child or incapable of understanding common sense.
This book is bad.
Ice Planet Barbarians
DON'T EVEN get me started. I hate these books so much. HATE THEM. The writing sucks, the plotting sucks, the women being kidnapped and sexually assaulted in the first chapter sucks, and the magic technology that makes everyone able to understand every language DESPITE being on a frozen wasteland with a literally alien barbarian "society" definitely sucks. Makes no sense. It's all about wanting to sleep with the big, caveman alien. No substance at all.
People come in to buy this book and it makes me want to scream. If you want an alien romance, check out my favorite, Dark Planet Warriors. It's about 100x better than this trash and it's also available on Kindle Unlimited.
Mkay. So. We've all read some Colleen Hoover. I read it in high school and undergrad and liked it. But as I got older, I started to realize that it's not good, and her version of romance is chalked full of issues and bad writing. I understand the CoHo renaissance in the fact that I think it's where a lot of people start when they're just getting into reading, but also so many people seem to think she's the pinnacle of romance writing. To the point where people would rather cycle through every crappy CoHo book and form big opinions without ever reading anything else.
It particularly annoys me when people come in asking for It Ends With Us as though it's a romance. And the people who recommended it as a romance. They obviously missed the point, and they'll hear nothing different.
It makes me irrationally irritated. I'm not a literature gatekeeper; think of this the opposite way, I want to throw the gate wide open and herd all the people who are newer to romance toward the REST of the romance aisle.
For any Colleen Hoover readers out there, please check out Mariana Zapata. She's one of my favorite romance writers, if not my favorite. I've reread so many of her books, pretty much every year. Last year, I read Kulti twice. I always recommending starting with Kulti, then From Lukov With Love. They're sports romances, but they are top-tier slow-burn.
*screams into the void* Honestly, I'd rather throw myself into the River Styx than listen to another group of people talk up Neon Gods. This one is particularly annoying because it was a big "nope" from the first time I heard about it. I just wasn't interested (which is odd, because I've been a Hades romance fan for a long time). But then I saw one of those quote thirst trap videos and the quote really pulled me in. I should've just started the sample on Kindle rather than buying the book. I didn't get very far in before I got very mad at myself for betraying my own instincts.
Neon Gods tries to do what Lore Olympus does, but fails. Fails hard. I swear this is one, like Ice Planet Barbarians, where people just jump onto the train because it's a neat/weird concept. But they ignore the plot, they ignore the writing. Some popular things just don't deserve to be popular. Like this. And the rest of the books on this list, I guess.
Note: Rhapsodie is bad. A Touch of Darkness and The Shadows Between Us are not great Hades/Persephone adaptations either, they're better. They'd mid. Go with Lore Olympus. I've been a fan since it's early Webtoon days.
To be fair, I didn't get very far into Zodiac Academy, but in my defense, I couldn't past the writing. It's just so childish and ridiculous. I'm all for dark academia books, honestly I'll be front of the line, but I got this on KU a long time ago and just couldn't do it. When it started getting popular, I went back to it again after a customer hyped it up, and I still couldn't do it. Sometimes I really just stop and wonder how in the world someone can think books like this should represent the genre.
The characters are at odds immediately after a clunky meeting where he info-dumps over dialogue, telling them all about a magical realm where they belong in a magical academy full of creatures. Oh, and he's an asshole who doesn't understand wit, while the main characters are twin sisters who are pissed off at the world but go along with everything any way.