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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Tok prize

In case you find yourself worried that Kids These Days just aren’t what they used to be—in other words, what we used to be—here’s some heartening news: Pride and Prejudice recently won TikTok’s inaugural “Best BookTok Revival” award, given to a beloved but not-recently-published work.

In the past few years, TikTok’s legions of mostly young users–apparently undeterred by claims that the short-video platform is a cellphone Trojan horse engineered by the Chinese--have turned the app into a vehicle for reviewing and recommending books. And thus it is that we now have the newly minted TikTok Book Awards, created by the company’s UK/Ireland arm.

Whether Austen’s latest accolade represents quite as spontaneous a grassroots upwelling as TikTok would like us to believe remains an open question: Read the fine print, and you learn that the unspecified “thousands” of BookTok-ers who voted for the winners in each category were choosing from a list of three or four finalists “carefully curated” by a panel of experts, some of them with roots in the publishing industry.

The whole contest sounds suspiciously like a publicity stunt designed to anoint safe, wholesome choices--and, indeed, all the winning books are well-established, noncontroversial-except-in-Florida bestsellers, several of them already adapted for the screen. Don’t look here for edgy, surprising, or little-known gems.

Still, I hate to be churlish about anything that encourages reading, and hey: Pride and Prejudice may be a safe choice, but it’s also a great one.* The kids are probably all right.

* The books it beat out for the Best Revival title aren’t exactly slouches, either: two stone-cold masterpieces (Orwell’s 1984 and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go), and one hilarious and beautiful love story (David Nicholls’ One Day).


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