BookTok: the trilogy


Photo Credit: Trinity Delacruz '22

Mary and Irene hold up the books that everyone on TikTok is raving about.

Mary Nassar and Irene Fernandez

Happy 2022! To kick off the year right, your favorite self-proclaimed professional readers are back and ready to review some more popular books on TikTok and give you some book recommendations for the new year!

Our Review

Mary: The first book we will be reviewing is “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

I first read “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” in August of 2020. On the tail end of summer and in the midst of the pandemic, it was so easy to get lost in the chaos of the day-to-day crises our world was experiencing, but “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” was the quiet in the eye of the hurricane.

“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” is a heart-wrenching, profound coming-of-age story about two Mexican-American teenage boys in the 1980’s who come from vastly different upbringings. Aristotle, Ari for short, is a shy, angry teen with a brother in prison, and Dante is a know-it-all with an unusual outlook on life. When these unlikely friends meet at a swimming pool in El Paso, they don’t seem to have anything in common. However, the friendship that forms from that fateful meeting would change their lives forever.

“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” is an amazing book. (Photo Provided by Apple Books)

Irene: I just read “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” this past week, and I finished it in three days. The book is truly one of the best. It definitely changed my life. I had no prior expectations for this book other than Mary insisting it was an amazing read, and I am so happy I read it.

I was completely absorbed in reading about Aristotle and Dante’s lives. Aristotle’s mind is interesting, and I felt myself relating to many of his thoughts. Their journey in discovering themselves and the universe was one of my favorite parts of the book. I cried, I laughed, and I memorized so many lines from the book because they were so meaningful and beautifully written.

Because I am also Mexican-American like Aristotle and Dante, I found myself relating to many of their experiences with family ways and upbringing. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” does a great job at telling a wonderful coming-of-age tale for teenagers, especially Mexican-American kids, who are trying to discover their place in the world. I cried so many times throughout the book, and when I finished reading the novel, I found myself deeply connected with the characters and overjoyed with its ending.

If you loved “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” the sequel “Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World” came out on October 12, 2021, so go give it a read and embark on new adventures with these beloved characters!

Irene’s Review

The second book we are reviewing is “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart.

“We Were Liars” is a mystery/drama novel centering around teenager Cadence Sinclair Eastman. Her and her old-money family vacation on Beechwood Island, a private island near Martha’s Vineyard, every summer. Cadence deals with a mysterious past and, throughout the novel, details her struggle with migraines, memory loss, and using prescription drugs as a result of trauma.

Cadence recounts spending summer with the “Liars,” which consist of four characters—Cadence, Mirren, Johnny, and Gat. She describes her summer memories with these people, shared experiences on the island, and a romance between her and Gat. She struggles to remember past a certain point in time and only has vague memories of a fire. Over time, she regains her memory, and her hidden story unravels. Cadence learns the truth of the “Liars” and what happened on that island.

I went into reading this book believing I would either love it completely or dislike it. People on BookTok definitely have mixed opinions, from some defending this mystery story to others completely hating it. However, I simply thought the book was okay.

The most interesting character to me was Gat, and I found myself wanting to learn more about him. Personally, I felt like not enough time was spent on the other “Liars” to feel a connection to them.

I found the first 80 pages dull, but I was captivated by wanting to know the truth of the Sinclair family. When Cadence’s memory came back and she revealed the truth of what happened during her summer vacation, I was completely shocked. However, my soul did not shatter and I was not sobbing the way I had expected to.

Because this book is so loved by many on TikTok, I really wanted to love this book, but I just did not connect to the characters.

However, other Royals thoroughly enjoyed “We Were Liars.” Sophomore Cicleri Lopez shared: “I read the book a while ago and it has stuck with me since. I didn’t really like the character of Gat though because I was hoping for more romance. While I was hoping for more romance, I did enjoy reading the book and learning the truth about the Sinclair family.” She also said: “I feel like Cadence was misunderstood but I really like her because she tried helping other people and cared about them even if others did not give her the same effort.”

“Find Me” and “Unite Me” are part of the “Shatter Me” series. “We Were Liars” is also a popular BookTok read. (Photo Credit: Irene Fernandez ’22)

Mary’s Review

The last book we’ll be reviewing is “Shatter Me” by Tahereh Mafi.

Now, I’m incredibly biased, but the “Shatter Me” series is one of my all time favorite YA series. And “Shatter Me” is such a perfect first book to kick off this whirlwind storm of a series. I first read “Shatter Me” my freshman year and was immediately obsessed—so obsessed that for one of my art projects in Fundamentals of Art, I did an art piece portraying the two main characters, Juliette and Adam. I was captivated by the story and enraptured with the author’s writing style—so lyrical and poetic in its prose. The ability of Tahereh Mafi to perfectly encapsulate whole thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences in a few lines of writing astounded me beyond belief. Her God-sent writing combined with the incredibly complex story she weaved cooked up a powerful story that readers are sure to never forget.

In the dystopian setting of “Shatter Me,” the world is quickly dying, and the new tyrannical government “The Reestablishment” thinks it can grasp onto the world’s last resources and hoard it all to themselves. And they think they can use Juliette as a weapon to help them. Because Juliette’s touch is fatal. No one knows how she came to have this extraordinary, destructive power, but “The Reestablishment” is ready to weaponize it to their advantage. However, as the events of the book unfold, no one is ready for what Juliette is truly capable of.

It’s a story of immense sorrow and loneliness. Of insecurities and sacrifice and excruciating pain and suffering. But it’s also a story of immense hope. Of picking up the broken, ugly pieces of your life and putting yourself back together one shard at a time, until you’re stronger because of it. It’s a story about the healing process after unbearable trauma and loss. And more than even that, it’s a reminder that young people have the power to completely change the world around them.

For better or for worse.

Let us know your thoughts on these books (and other popular books on TikTok) in the comments!