Read a Book Today: TikTok made me think of a book that broke my heart

Art of a girl holding a book with music notes behind her.
(Nora Miller | Daily Trojan)

I was talking with my cousin over boba the other day when she proceeded to tell me about a trend taking over TikTok. I avoid the app like the plague so this is a more common occurrence than I would like to admit. I just know that the second the app appears on my home screen, I’d be hooked. (Though, I am tempted everyday by “BookTok,” but more on that later.)

Nevertheless, on this particular day, she told me about the “Berries and Cream” trend. It features a song from a 2007 Starburst commercial that found its way to TikTok and has people dancing and donning bowl cuts similar to the commercial. 

My cousin showed me remixes that included snakes singing the song and I said she ought to be proud! My TikTok knowledge also included Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like.” But, the second she showed me that first video of “Berries and Cream” remixes, I knew I had to write about songs in books. 

I’ve often felt that sharing your Spotify (or Apple Music, who am I to judge?) and your music taste with someone is a sign that you genuinely care about them. It could be a longtime friend you’re sharing it with — I recently made a playlist for a friend and titled it “you’ll probably hate this” — a significant other, or perhaps someone else in your life. So, presumably, it makes sense that an author adding songs to a book is giving their heart along with their words. 

I adore Morgan Matson, and not only because, once upon a time, she went to USC and worked at Vroman’s while at Occidental. (If you’ve never been to the oldest independent bookstore in Southern California, what’s your excuse?) But, it is also because her books are wonderful and have long since held a space in my heart as never-fail comfort books.

One book that I particularly love is “Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.” I have an old copy where I dog-eared the bottom corner on each page that features a playlist, which includes gems such as Sufjan Stevens “Come on! Feel the Illinoise!”, R.E.M’s “Nightswimming,” The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” and so many more. 

The story follows the titular Amy after her father dies in a car accident and her mom wants to start a new life. This means driving the family vehicle across the country to Connecticut from California. This is where family friend Roger enters and a detour across the country begins.

I feel as though there is a particular magic to a road trip story and maybe that’s coming from my own personal bias and my deep familiarity with the northbound 5 freeway. Of course, if nothing else, “Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour” taught me the Kansas state motto “Ad Astra Per Aspera” or “through hardship to the stars.” 

I might be bending my own prompt’s rules here, but this of course, popped into my mind. One of the greatest parts of how the online world adds to a connection beyond state lines and boundaries is that authors can connect with readers.

Alexandra Bracken has taken advantage of this with a menu on her author website displaying “book playlists.” She has one for each of her books, including her wildly successful series “The Darkest Minds.” It’s one of those instances where, yes, I know I loved the book, but perhaps the songs made me fall in love with it the slightest bit more.

“The Darkest Minds” follows a mysterious disease that kills American children and teens. For those who survive, many are sent to “rehabilitation” camps for unexplained abilities that terrify their parents. One kid in particular — Ruby — ends up escaping one of the most notorious camps and ends up with a motley crew of kids with similar abilities. This book has one of the best little monologues that totally tore apart my heart at age 16. Please consider that my official endorsement: It crushed my heart. Read it. 

Of course, all of this music and books isn’t even taking into consideration the fact that I am still obsessed with the “Me Before You” and the “Catching Fire” soundtrack. But, frankly, books are paired with music quite a lot on the aforementioned “clock app.” “BookTok” has changed the landscape of how books are sold today even more so than the now passè “BookTube.”

Books such as E. Lockhart’s 2014 “We Were Liars” ended up on the New York Times’ bestseller list because of TikTok, despite the novel being released more than five years ago. It also means I want to talk to anyone and everyone about how book selling has shifted in the last two years.

Frankly, the changing literary market (and the fact that too many loose acquaintances becausedue to this app is still not enough for me to download it. But it does ensure that through music, books are finding new audiences every day — just as auditory artists are. 

Right now, there is no better time than to take a peek at “BookTok” and perhaps find a new story within the feed. If you need me, I’ll be learning the “Berries and Cream” dance and crafting playlists for my favorite books. 

Rachel Bernstein is a senior writing about books in relation to the arts and entertainment news of the week. Her column “Read a Book Today” runs every other Friday.