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My Favorite And Least Favorite Booktok Romances of 2021

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I read a wide range of books in 2021 – all the way from The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Both are great books and genres, but one genre stole the show for me in 2021: romances.

I’ve never been much of a romance kind of girl (only in entertainment… I swoon over the sweetest gesture IRL.) Everything that is the definition of a romance novel gives me secondhand embarrassment: the cliche lines, predictable endings, quirky characters that try too hard to be quirky. But Booktok made up a quarter of my FYP in 2021; and if you know anything about Booktok, you know it mostly consists of romance books. I couldn’t get away from it. All I saw were romances, and to my surprise – some of them looked good. So, I decided to pick up a romance book one day to see what the hype was about and that’s how my new found obsession started.

My Favorite

Book: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Stars: 5 out of 5

Tropes: Rivals to lovers, next door neighbor, second-chance love

This novel is everything to me. Absolutely everything. Is it perfect? No. But it’s my favorite book of 2021 and I could talk about it forever.

We meet two authors, January and Gus, who attended college together but are rivals. January ends up moving next door to Gus and, well, I’m sure you know how it goes from there. These two polar opposites are damaged from past love but have an undeniable chemistry. There’s flirty banter, drama, and real pain that so many of us can relate to: childhood trauma, heartbreak, and grief. It’s mixed together seamlessly (in my humble opinion) so if you like either or, you should give Beach Read a try. Seeing the characters open up their hearts to love was my most favorite thing.

I might have shed a few tears while reading this one… Okay, I definitely bawled my eyes out. So make sure to have a box of tissues near you while you read this one.

My least favorite

Book: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Stars: 3 out of 5

Tropes: Friends to lovers, opposites attract, second-chance love, one bed

My least favorite Booktok romance is actually by the same author. As soon as I finished Beach Read I went straight to Target and book this book. I’m sad to say I was slightly disappointed. I don’t hate this one, but I don’t see myself rereading it.

I’m a straight to the point person. Of course, I love the slow burn between the hero and heroine. But not to the point where I’m looking at how much of the book I have left and wondering if the author is gonna get to it on the last page. And I felt like that’s what this book is. We see the two best friends, Poppy and Alex, go through 12 years of pining for each another before we get to the point. At the beginning of the book it’s revealed that the two had a fallout and hadn’t spoken in years. While I had a few guesses of what happened (and I was right!) it took way too long till what happened was revealed.

There were cute moments and a fun plot, but the whole time I was screaming “JUST TELL EACH OTHER HOW YOU FEEL!” “KISS ALREADY!” All I wanted was more Poppy and Alex love. And more banter. Emily Henry is the queen of banter.

However, I will say that Alex is my dream man. My standards are now unrealistically high.

I’m not sure what it exactly is that made me fall in love with romance books. Maybe I’ve gotten lucky with my choices, maybe I needed to be immersed in happily ever afters while going through a rough break up, or maybe I’ve always just been in denial. Whatever it was, romance books have flooded my TBR because of it. And I’m not complaining.

Makayla Holbrook is a Campus Correspondent here at HC Hawai'i and majoring in Secondary Education with a focus on English. Outside of writing, you can find her watching cooking competition shows, getting lost in romance novels, playing with her dogs, and trying new coffee shops.
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