I Read Three of Bookstagram’s Most Popular Books – Are they Worth the Hype?

By: Julia Gordon

I confess to making a mistake I daresay many have already made; I listened to social media. After being on hold at the public library for literally months, I finally got the chance to read some of the acclaimed series prominently featured on my Instagram feed. I’m not too proud to admit that some were amazing. However, others were, to put it nicely, very much not.

To ensure you don’t fall prey to the same quotes and general hype as I did, here’s a breakdown on what to immediately buy, and what to stay far away from.

I’ll give a spoiler-free summary of the first book in the series, a bit of information on the rest of the series, then my opinion on it and why I did or didn’t like it. I’ll try my best to be unbiased, but if you’re unsure if you’ll like it, just read it! The important part is the reading, because if nobody reads, Indigo is going to keep selling more mugs and pillows and whatnot, and we can’t have that. Without further ado!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Available at the school library? – Bits and pieces of the series (working on getting more)

Shatter Me follows the story of Juliette Ferrars, a teenage girl whose bare skin causes people immense pain, then kills them when touched. When we meet Juliette, she’s being locked alone in an insane asylum for the better part of a year after a horrific accident concerning her power by the political group who took over her dystopian world, The Reestablishment. Eventually, Juliette is released, but only after she gains a mysterious cellmate whom she has a connection to. Once Juliette is released, she learns that her cellmate, Adam, is not what he seems, then they are sent to a government compound to work for the strange and perplexingly violent Warner, who is in charge of the area she lives in.

I’m sure anyone with sense can see this love triangle from a mile away.

Juliette and Adam try to escape from Warner, Warner comes for them, and that pretty much sums up the dynamic of the next few books, until they realize (of course) that Warner too is not what he seems. Finally, after lots of running, hiding, making friends, and realizing that Warner is truly insane, everybody gangs together in their ultimate goal of taking down The Reestablishment. 

To be fair, I liked Shatter Me a lot more than I thought I would. It’s very fast paced and action-packed, which is good for people who may not love reading (weird) or have short attention spans. Despite the fast pacing, the characters are very fleshed out, and believe it or not, there are teenage characters who actually sound like teenagers, which is both rare and impressive.

 I also like how mental health is discussed quite frequently, although that point is twofold, because for all that they emphasize it, there are a bunch of times where mental wellness seems totally ignored or swept under the rug.

All things considered, I thought Shatter Me was good. There was nothing about it that made it amazing, but it’s still a solid series that I would recommend to people. My final advice about it? There are so many books and novellas in the series that I would tell people to stop reading after Unravel Me, the third book. The series comes to a close at the end of it, and the books that come after are unnecessary, and mostly delve into the aftermath of everything that occurred. Go Google the book order (with novellas you animal) and start reading Shatter Me, if not for its popularity then for all the scenes with dogs in them.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Available at the school library? – No

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, albeit not a good one, as the beast is handsome, which kind of defeats the point. But I digress. In A Court of Thorns and Roses, a human girl named Feyre is taken to the land of faeries after she kills a faerie, breaking an ancient treaty between faeries and humans. As she acclimatizes to living with the faerie who took her, Tamlin, at his estate in the land of eternal spring, she learns more about the land of faeries and the mysterious evil that has been plaguing it.

When Tamlin has to suddenly send Feyre back to her father and two nasty sisters, she becomes concerned and ventures back to the land of faerie to investigate.

She learns that Tamlin was taken by the mysterious evil, so she goes to fight the villain, save Tamlin, and profess her untold love for him. To do so, she must survive three impossible trials, along with the fun bonus of being locked in a dungeon with improper food and medical aid for months, which leads her to make a bargain with the villain’s right-hand man. Regardless, she does it all in the name of love, so it’s bound to work out in the end.

I have a few major problems with this book. The first is with Feyre. As the main character, she’s super bland and feels like the perfect example of a boring, self-sacrificing hero. Even the villain, who seemed to have no other motivation save that she works for an even bigger bad guy, was more interesting than Feyre (in the villain’s defense, she cursed the seven most powerful men in the land and ruled over them – she’s an absolute boss). Whatever ounces of personality Feyre has also constantly get changed over the course of the series, which brings me to my second problem; the book just isn’t well written.

There are just so many things in A Court of Thorns and Roses that don’t make any sense, but they were added because they fit the mediocre plot better.

And don’t get me started on how this entire series is really romance parading as fantasy. There were some plot decisions I found interesting, but all in all, if you want a novel about a strong female human protagonist and her struggles in the land of faeries, don’t bother with this and read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Available at the school library? – Yes, but not the sequel, Crooked Kingdom

Six of Crows opens to a short, mostly unrelated chapter that sets the book’s major conflict. A drug was recently created that magnifies people with magical abilities (called Grisha) so that their powers are taken to a god-like extent. However, the scientist that created it was kidnapped by a rival nation who wants to harm Grisha.

Enter Kaz Brekker, thief and criminal mastermind, who is hired to break into the rival nation’s stronghold and bring the scientist to safety.

Kaz, along with his crew of five others who have joined for a multitude of reasons -money, freedom, revenge- sail across the ocean and prepare for their biggest heist yet. Despite all the planning, the heist goes wrong, and the relationships that were formed are put to the test to see if six teenagers can save the scientist, escape the stronghold, save the world, and most importantly, get paid.

Part of what makes Six of Crows so fantastic is that it’s nothing like your average fantasy novel.

There is no noble cause or hero protecting the greater good; it’s about six teenagers breaking into a fortress to kidnap someone for a ton of money. Another great part is the way the heist is written. The reader knows the original plan, but when things naturally go wrong you don’t know how the new plan is going to come together, which leads to lots of mini cliffhangers.

Six of Crows is also super diverse, including characters who are BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, neurodiverse, and of different body types, all in its main cast of characters.

The only bad thing I can say about it is that the start is rather slow, and it’s quite confusing if you haven’t read Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy, which explains a lot about the world and the Grisha. However, if you don’t want another dozen books to read, I didn’t read Shadow and Bone beforehand and I still fell in love with the duology. If you want a fantastic fantasy series with super immersive worldbuilding, characters who feel real (and actually act like teenagers!), and a hilarious and unconventional plot, read Six of Crows!

In conclusion, I have now read the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hopefully these recommendations can be of use to anyone currently getting baited by their phone, and can maybe even get someone interested in reading (I’m an optimist, I know). This adventure has taught me a lot, and by that, I mean that I have learned that Bookstagram visibly brings out the worst in me. Happy reading!

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