The UN-Appeal of Hyped Books – A Discussion

Today, I wanted to chat with you briefly about hyped books and why hype will almost guarantee that I will never pick up that book. After reading Nandini’s post, about the current titles circulating around Bookstagram and Tumblr, I was inspired to write this post. My brain sort of had an “AHA” moment and I came to realise that this is a topic I have never discussed openly and seriously here on BiblioNyan. Well, the time has arrived, particularly as the culture of hyped books seems to be growing evermore.

Now, if you’re wondering, “What the hell is a hyped book,” or “what makes a book hyped,” allow me to momentarily explain. These are novels that are super popular, usually on Instagram where hundreds of folks photograph them, or on blogs and BookTube channels, where reviewers have nothing but excellent things to say about the book in question with very little to no short-comings at all; a seemingly perfect book. It becomes quite difficult (albeit, not impossible) to find people who aren’t raving or praising the book.

Some of the current spotlight hits consist of: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Circe by Madeline Miller, From Twinkle with Love by Sandhya Menon, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, and pretty much anything written by Sarah J. Maas.

Books that have been glorified as an “absolute must-read” always make me feel very wary of them for two reasons: 1) most of them tend to have problematic content in one way or another, and 2) they never live up to the hype surrounding them, and oft times turn out to be average or less than average overall. It does not matter how many things that I may inevitably end up adoring about the narrative in question, I will never find them to be as mind-blowingly brilliant as it’s made out to be.

The Wrath and the Dawn and A Flame in the Mist by Renèe Ahdieh are perfect examples of the first reason I mentioned above. The Wrath and the Dawn romanticises abusive relationships and non-consensual sexual acts. As a victim of both, I found it to be wholeheartedly disgusting and anti-feminist. A common trope in the young adult genre is one where the female will “sacrifice” all of the qualities that may make her a strong and independent individual for the sake of a boy and his affections. This book is no exception to that rule. This social concept of how women have to be inferior to men to gain their romantic interest or respect is preposterous and so devaluing to anyone who identifies as a woman or is already threatened by this ideal (that men should be bowed before, essentially). I was appalled that such a thing was so damn popular.

A Flame in the Mist terribly appropriates East Asian cultures, specifically Japanese culture and history, by perpetuating offensive and harsh stereotypes about the Japanese people, and it also incorrectly uses cultural elements from Chinese culture and passes them off as Japanese, which is then just as offensive to Chinese people as well. When I read the ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of this book, I had an in-depth conversation with a friend of mine—who is Japanese and lives in Japan where he is a specialist in Japanese culture and history—about this novel. He read it also so he could give lectures on what appropriation means and how it dehumanises a cultural diverse group of people within Western countries. Most of the liberties taken in A Flame in the Mist seemed like they were ripped straight out a handbook of common Asian tropes in Western media, they were that horrid and clichéd and clearly lacking proper research. There were other issues I had with the book in terms of just bad writing, but as a lover and aficionado of Japanese literature and culture/history, this was the main thing that I detested.

Not all of my experiences with hyped books have been as shoot-me-in-the-brain craptastic as the ones mentioned above. Another one that is a sensationally recognised super-hit is An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. You can read my full review for it here. I inevitably decided to pick this up because as a brown South Asian person, I was very excited to read a South Asian inspired fantasy series with a strong female protagonist. Except there was one very important aspect of the book that was inherently left out: fantasy. I will openly admit that I did get swept away with the hype surrounding An Ember in the Ashes because for very personal reasons I’ve already mentioned, and I felt like I had been waiting my whole life for this book. Yet after reading it, I can safely say that this was the turning point for me in regard to overenthusiastically beloved novels; where I decided that they really aren’t worth my time, at least not until the hype has completely disappeared.

I’m not sure if it’s because my first fantasy experience, and almost all of them until this book, were adult fantasy novels, or if there is another reason behind it, but I felt like I was the only person in the world who believed An Ember in the Ashes was very predictably clichéd and didn’t have an ounce of world-building to it. There were small titbits of references to magical creatures and the different races of people, but nothing was ever explained or differentiated in a conceivably comprehensive manner, not even in the smallest sense. All of the “fantasy” aspects were there for decoration, nothing more. Even in the sequel, A Torch Against the Night, we didn’t get much more than what was given in book one. The strong female also ended up being one who fell into the insta-love trap and love-triangle-nope-this-is-a-love-square-instead-trap. Regardless, I liked the writing style and the action, as well as the political intrigue in book two. This was a case of average reading, not great or terrible, simply average.

There is only ever one book that was hyped that pleasantly surprised me when I read it and that was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I know… the shock! You can read my full review for that here, but essentially it was rich with authentic and well-researched world-building and history, and it wasn’t a sex-infested mediocre pornographic novel, like I was expecting it to be. Even the sex was written with a classy and respectable air to it, making it human and genuine. Blew my mind. Was it the most perfect thing ever? No way. Was it pretty close? Yeah, pretty close.

While I have not listed all of the hyped books that I have reluctantly tested out, these were the ones that made the most significant impact on me and my overall opinion of them. An honorary mention should go to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han as the first one was a decent young adult contemporary (not great), and the other two worked to fetishize unhealthy relationships, were anti-feminist as well, and had inconsistent representation of a biracial character. I read these soon before or after An Ember in the Ashes, so they went hand-in-hand with my decision to avoid books of the sort.

Now, an argument can be made that I’m being pretentious or childish or unfair in one way or another. I respect that as your opinion, which you are entirely entitled to (yay word fun), however. I believe that my reasonings behind why I feel the way that I do is completely justified and not at all any of those traits mentioned above..

So far, all hyped books have done is this: leaving me miserably disappointed and frustrated when my expectations fall short; expectations that would more than likely not have existed it if were not for the craze surrounding them. I don’t like having a preconceived notion or hope from a novel when I initially go into it. Within the walls of my squishy and cat-hair-infested brain, I end up developing very specific ideas of what I want the book to be. My brain will hear (or read) snippets of information on the book, catalogue it away while I’m not looking, and then very stealthily bring them out when I finally get around to the novel in question. I never really get an opportunity to muster up an opinion that is 100% authentically my own and untainted by the wants, hopes, and desires of the masses. I hate that. My opinion makes me unique and individual, and when that is taken away from me—no matter how tiny the stolen chunk—it makes me feel dishonourable to my work as well as unfaithful to my passion of reading with an open-mind. It’s difficult to be open-minded when one side of that boat is loaded with luggage I never asked for.

Nevertheless, being a book blogger and being vastly invested in the bookish and publishing communities means that I cannot avoid the culture of hyped books, no matter how much I try. Instead…I choose to opt out of reading almost all of them. I keep saying almost in that funky italicised manner because every once in a while, my damned curiosity will get the better of me, and I can’t help but try out a glorified morsel or two. Remember my mentioning of the title To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo way up at the beginning of this damn thing? Yeah… I checked it out from the library because the premise was too intriguing to pass up. Although, I have been taking excruciatingly disciplined measures to avoid ALL reviews of it. Even if I see it on Bookstagram, I double-tap the photo and move the fuck on so my eyes don’t get a chance to read the blurb/information/thoughts given. Yet, just knowing that it’s being circulated in such a fashion, I can feel that brain boat starting to tilt already.

boat titlt.gif

So… yeah, that basically sums up in a not-so-succinct manner why hyped books are so UN-appealing to me. I promise that it’s not a random decision I made in a manner of five seconds, like my desire to get French fried instead of a baked potato (thanks Wendy’s), but rather one that I have made through many negative and frustrating experiences and with a lot of contemplation. The only thing about avoiding these sorts of novels that makes me sad is the backlash of hindered growth that goes with it. When you read things that are unpopular, your personal space to talk about said thing also becomes unpopular or grows ridiculously slowly. That is why you will see blogs who post regularly about popular titles getting all the love because they take advantage of the hype and the passion of the moment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. It’s just not my style and that’s perfectly okay. I like my small nook and crook corner of the Blogpshere, where we chat about eccentric never-heard-of-its.

How do you feel about hyped books? Have they let you down? Do you tend to agree with the hype? Are you indifferent with not fucks to give? Please let me know in the comments down below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this discussion.

Thank you for taking the time to sit with me through this chat. Until next time, happy reading and happy otakuing. 💜

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28 thoughts on “The UN-Appeal of Hyped Books – A Discussion

  1. I’m the same way tbh! When everyone is talking about something, my expectations just get way too high and I have to let the hype die down a bit before I can really get into it. Also, the pressure to like a book just because it’s hyped is always there and I never want to stir the pot when a book is in its prime, if that makes sense

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it makes complete sense! I also feel the pressure to provide a specific opinion or rating when the book is hyped. I’ve been attacked before by loyal fans of a book just for having a different opinion than them, so that also makes hyped books rather discouraging to read.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What I find most annoying about books that are hyped up is that sometimes the quality of the writing just isn’t there even if the story ends up being quite interesting. I don’t have a lot of experience with this as I usually don’t grab new releases and I seldom use best seller lists to choose a book to read, but one that really stands out is The Da Vinci Code. That had so much hype around it and so many people saying how amazing and mind-blowing it was and yet it just wasn’t well written (then again I didn’t find the story so much mind-blowing as ‘existing’ so maybe I’m just too jaded to appreciate it).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I remember the hype with the The Da Vinci Code. I read it shortly after it was released, and while some parts of the book interested me quite a bit as someone who loves history, the rest of it was so boring. I agree, the writing could’ve been much better. I think there was even a point where I was falling asleep while reading it! I felt this way with the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before books. Only the first one was decent, but even the writing was rather subpar overall.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well..honestly I always become a little bit cautious when something is hyped. If it’s a movie, or a book or whatever, it always seems to me that when something gets way to much hype there usually is something wrong with it. There are of course exceptions and cases where the hype is real so to speak. As I don’t read as much books as you do (I just watch way too many movies lol) I can’t say that I have so far had any experiences with an overhyped book. With movies though I can name various examples. Whatever the case: anything that gets hype usually sents of warning signals in my head lol 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yeah, for sure! A lot of times, especially with books, their inherent negative or offensive content is what gets the buzz going, and then from there they garner hype as a must-read. I never understood that, but it is vastly comment, especially within the young adult genre.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting perspective and your reasons make sense to me. Would you say the same for anime? Would you watched hyped up anime like My Hero Academia, Yuri on Ice and other shows? I can’t say much about books but I kind of have a similar view towards hyped anime. Some are great like Attack on Titan but I felt disappointed with Yuri on Ice and Steins;Gate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup, I feel this way with films/TV serials and anime as well. It’s a bit different with video games, but I have been noticing that even hype surrounding video games has been unwarranted lately. The new God of War is the perfect example. There literally was very little to no originality to the game in terms of its mechanical and technical aspects, so it blew my mind that people were raving about how “original” the gameplay and everything was. I used to look forward to hyped games, but not for the past few years or so, unfortunately.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have mixed feelings about hyped books. For one its fun to interact and fangirl over books with everyone else. Its also a great way to find new books. But all your points against it are valid too. Some of these books have big issues. And if they are totally hyped before they are even released it can be even worse, because they are popular solely because they are hyped and not necessarily because they are good.

    I didn’t think I would like the Cruel Prince or Hazel Wood but read them anyway because of the hype. I loved The Cruel Prince and I thought the Hazel Wood was just ok.

    You mentioned a lot about books that are anti-feminist, and books that mix up Asian cultures. Have you read Heroine Complex? Its about an American/Asian super-heroine and its one of my favorite books! I *think* that it would meet your standards for culture and gender stuff! (I say *think* because I am whiter than paper and know very little about Asain culture so I am the worst person to judge if it is a good representation, but the author is Asian/American so I’d assume she knows what she is talking about! Also its not traditional culture so that probably makes it a lot easier to get right? Does that make sense?)

    Great post! It was interesting to read!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read the post! I appreciate it.

      I have not read it, but I have heard many great things about Heroine Complex, as well as Not Your Sidekick (or something similar to that), which I think is authored by another Asian individual. I’ve actually been interested in reading those, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My experience is that the really good stuff doesn’t need all the hype. Some marketing is good to get it established but if it is really good, the reviews and word of mouth will carry it from there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, marketing from the author and/or publisher doesn’t bug me too much because that’s part of the business. But when legit every reviewer or reader is raving about it, my warning bells go off lol. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that hype does take away from tons of other fantastically high-quality reads. But because they are much lesser known than the popular picks, they rarely get the same level of respect, which makes me feel so sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I can understand your feelings about the books most hyped. I don’t really pay too much attention one way or the other about the hype. If a book looks good to me, I’ll try to read it. Sometimes those are hyped, sometimes not. I rarely read reviews before I decide to pick up a book. I pay most attention to who the author is, like where they are from, esp with regards to their topic or characters (in part to avoid appropriation) and what the genre is. Even the description is of secondary or even tertiary concern to me. As a librarian I come across so much hype, it’d be hard to avoid. On the other hand, in my day job and on my site, I prefer to find and read indie and niche books, the hidden gems, as much as possible. We all need to make the choices we feel comfortable with, so good for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m working on being able to do this more, as I think it’s an excellent way to view things. Sir Betrothed is very much the same as you. It’s one of those things that I need to be more self-aware of and getting better at catching and feeling until it becomes natural. 🙂 I always admire people who don’t let stuff like this affect them. I used to be that way until I became a blogger, ironically enough, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Honestly, I mainly don’t read reviews before I read the book bc I really want everything to be a total surprise and to not have my opinion be swayed in any way. I do recall though years ago (I am really dating myself here) when Pulp Fiction came out, it was ALL the rage and I was so sick of the hype that by the time I saw it, I didn’t like it at all. So I can totally see how this could happen and it’s why I avoid it all as much as possible! I should really watch that movie again and see how I feel about it now… haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • I tend to skim some reviews, and even then it’s usually after I’ve started the book and am close to finishing it, or after I’ve finished the book. Yet even with avoiding reviews, when I start seeing the book with hearts and “THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER” shout-outs, my red flags go up, lol.

        I never saw the appeal of Pulp Fiction either. I remember it came out, I was like “What is so great about this? It’s not even great film-making.” Lol. I did go back and watch it recently (last year, I think), and I still didn’t care for it, but I do appreciate it more for what it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. O man the HYPE! Hype can be a serious killer, as it does set up all these false expectations and even if the book is super good it can never live up to these lofty heights. What sucks even more is when the hype train pulls out of the station, every one wants to jump on board and are to afraid to make their own path and carve out thoughtful opinions on books or other forms of media themselves. (one of the reasons why you are an excellent voice in the bookland) Because then 1. everyone is just spewing out the same comments about the same works, and nothing challenging is said for fear of backlash. 2. It removes a light from other authors who most likely deserve said hype and great works are left collecting dust in your local library until someone chances upon them and gets engrossed in the wonderful little letters and words of a compelling story. So kudos to you for making your own voice heard in the midst of the chattering of monkeys that is most reviewers, keep doing things your way and never change for the worse!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah! It really bothers me that other authors who tend to be much more talented or have written absolutely brilliant things get drowned out into the darkest shadows due to the hype that is being garnered by others. Like, these people have genuine talent that should be recognised and respected, but they never seem to get their opportunity. A lot of that also has to do with marketing opportunities and how much a publisher is willing to push a book into the hands of reviewers before its released. Unfortunately for people who self-publish, it becomes overwhelmingly more difficult as the burden falls entirely on the author themselves.


  9. I feel like a few years ago, if a book was hyped, it was actually pretty good, but that’s no longer the case. My brain is hurting since I was staring too hard at your words since I agreed with a lot of them. After a while, you just get tired of saying the same thing, pointing out the same issues. But yeah, preach it girl. Also, hyped books are also well marketed books. Sometimes it’s a good businessman, not a good story, behind the hype. Anyways this is what I meant on twitter about wasting royal amounts of time I don’t have.

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. I agree that a hyped book will never live up to the hype! (And in this rare instance I will actually allow myself to say ‘never’, haha.) (Although I think Spinning Silver pretty much lived up to the hype…….) Sometimes, when it comes to a hyped book, I try to think of whether I would have been interested in the book before I started book blogging. This is the case with To Kill a Kingdom, so I’m glad you mentioned that title specifically. Even though I know I might not like it because I don’t usually like popular YA (which the hype tells me it is), I’m still curious about the story and want to give it a shot.


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