I don’t understand the concept of overhyped books and at this point I’m too afraid to ask

After two and a half years of having a book blog and almost as much time on book twitter, I’m finally ready to make a confession.

I don’t understand the concept of overhyped books.

Every now and then in bookish conversations, I’ll hear someone refer to a book as “overhyped,” aiming to dismiss it entirely. So what exactly does that mean? And why am I bothering to write an entire post about it?

(FYI, in this post, I’m going to be making a lot of references to a vague “you” and I want it to be known that this isn’t pointed at anyone in particular! This is just something I’ve seen a lot on the bookish internet and wanted to talk about.)

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Okay, obviously I know what people mean when they call a book overhyped, and I’m exaggerating for dramatic effect. Calling a book overhyped essentially means: “A lot of people like this book but I don’t, and I think it gets more love than it deserves.”

What I hear in the word “overhyped,” though, is: “I didn’t like this popular book and I’m mad that other people did.” To me, that just seems like such a weird hill to die on.

We know that opinions about books are subjective, right? Like, that’s a thing we can agree on at this point. I hope. (Though based on some of the conversations I see online, I’m not sure I should take that for granted.) You can dislike a book for any variety of reasons, but in the end it comes down to a matter of opinion, and opinions can differ from person to person.

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Personally, that’s something I love about bookish communities. We never lack for conversation topics, because we all have very strong opinions about books. Sometimes those opinions can clash, but that’s okay! I always love reading people’s strong opinions about books, even when they differ from my own, because they inform how I go on to interact with those books.

However, claiming that a book is overhyped tells me absolutely nothing about it. It feels like the laziest form of critiqueβ€”you’re not actually trying to talk about what you didn’t like about this book, you’re just saying that you don’t think other people should like it.

It’s fine not to like popular books! I do it all the time! But it seems strange to me that your first reaction wasn’t, “wow that really wasn’t for me but there are other people who love it and that’s cool,” but rather, “this sucks and everyone who likes it is wrong.”

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I’ve been in fandom for a long time, and there’s this thing that always, always happens when something becomes popular or “mainstream,” which is the backlash. It becomes the trend to claim that it’s not good, actually, and if you like it, you’re probably too dumb to even realize how bad it is.

Mean Girls lacey chabert Gretchen Weiners legifs carrie mean girls.  drunkwerewolves reginageorges β€’

Since the book community is so small, a book becoming hyped usually doesn’t actually mean it’s mainstream in general pop culture (very, very few books get this distinction), but rather it’s briefly being talked about a lot in bookish circles and most likely getting a fair amount of promotion and good reviews from popular influencers. (That usually has more to do with which books publishers are pushing than anything else, but that’s a different conversation.) So for books, “hyped” just means “getting more attention than other books in this particular moment.”

(Also, there’s an entirely different conversation to be had about what even qualifies as a “hyped” book, because I’ve seen people claim that books I’ve never even heard of are overhyped! It all depends upon which bookish circles you’re moving within, whose voices you’re paying attention to, and probably how much time you spend on the bookish internet. But anyway.)

Inevitably, though, when lots of people are reading and talking about a book, there are going to be people who don’t like it. After all, there is no such thing as a book that everyone will like! And when those people see so many others talking about how great the book is, they might be understandably confused or frustrated. They might claim that the book does not, in fact, deserve all the adulation it’s currently receiving.

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And I get it. Reading a popular book and just not understanding how anyone could like it is a frustrating feeling, and it can be annoying when the thing you dislike seems to get nothing but praise. But to me, claiming that something is overhyped is the most uninteresting way of critiquing and interacting with media. It’s indicative of the lack of nuance that exists in conversations online, and it helps absolutely no one.

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It’s amazingly easy to dislike things. I dislike a lot of things. What’s harder, in my opinion, is loving something openly and unapologetically, and spreading that love to the world. It requires vulnerability and a willingness to say, “here is something that meant a lot to me; here is a piece of my heart.” (This especially difficult for anyone who was picked on for the things they loved as kids, just saying.)

Why should it matter if that thing is popular or “hyped”? Does that make it any less meaningful? Why does it become okay to claim that that love isn’t valid just because you didn’t like the thing?

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Getting mad at a book that becomes popular and acting superior to anyone who does like it is not something to be proud of. It’s not something that makes you special or different. It’s a colossal waste of energy and it makes it harder for people to talk about the things that they love.

I don’t want us to stop being critical of books, especially books that may in some way be harmful. But if you’re going to talk about your dislike of a book, maybe say why instead of simply claiming it’s overhyped and shaming the people who like it. There is no value in that. Someone who’s never heard of the book will learn nothing about it, and the person who likes it might be a little more hesitant to share their love for it next time.

The book community is all about loving books, right? So why would you ever discourage someone from doing just that?

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What do you think of the term “overhyped books”? Do you interpret it the same way as me? Do you think it’s a useful term?Β 

x Margaret

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31 thoughts on “I don’t understand the concept of overhyped books and at this point I’m too afraid to ask

  1. Ooh this is a really interesting post!

    To me an ‘overhyped’ book would be if the ‘hype’ or swathes of glowing reviews etc. made me have really high expectations that sadly ended up not being fulfilled. That’s more to do with my personal connection with the book, than if other people liked the book. I definitely would prefer to be in the camp that liked the book, I hate feeling like I wasted my time on something I didn’t end up enjoying! E.g. ‘They Both Die At The End’ by Adam Silvera has so many good reviews and I ended up not liking it, but I know that I read it in a very cynical mood so I’m still going to try his other books. It seems (as you said) a waste of energy to go dumping on other people who liked the book, rather than spending that time on more reading πŸ™‚

    And I absolutely agree that we should explain why we dislike a book! It’s a lot more helpful. Thanks for writing this post, I’d not really thought deeply about the ‘overhyped’ concept before!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So glad you found this interesting! Ahh yeah it’s definitely sad when there’s a book with lots of good reviews that you end up not liking. I’d also much rather be one of those gushing reviewers in that situation πŸ˜•

      Yes definitely, I think explaining what you did or didn’t like about a book is always more helpful. Thanks so much! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post!
    I totally agree that it’s a really lazy way to critique a book, and I think a lot of people just like the superior feeling of disliking something they consider ‘mainstream’.
    I really hate that though when people subtly (or not so subtly!) try to put people down for liking certain books and imply they have poor taste. I think discussing different opinions of books is great, and I always find it interesting to hear what other people disliked about books I’ve enjoyed, but it should just be stating an opinion and not passing judgement on people who have a different opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much!
      Yep, I think it is a thing people say to feel superior, which is just so frustrating. And yes, I completely agree! Differing opinions about books is great, but when you’re shaming someone for what they like, that’s not cool.

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  3. I think for me, I think of a book as ‘overhyped’ if it’s super problematic or harmful, or if the hype ruined the book for me personally. But I definitely think you’re right and it can be a really lazy complaint. I do totally get that weird feeling when you have no idea why the book community is going crazy over a book, though πŸ˜…
    The main thing I hate in reviews is when it’s obvious that the problem is with the reader’s unchecked sexism rather than with the book. As in, ‘umm, I thought this heroine was unrealistic because REAL girls don’t have personalities. Clearly the author was trying too hard to make the character #quirky’ or ‘This heroine was so weak because she cried once and she was indecisive in an extremely stressful situation!!1!’ Those reviews are so annoying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh interesting! I don’t usually think of a book being harmful if it’s called overhyped, but that’s definitely something to consider.
      Argh yes, that’s extremely frustrating to read in reviews. It definitely says WAY more about the reviewer than the book itself! πŸ™„

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such an interesting topic to discuss and one that’s not often brought up. I agree with you that the concept of an overhyped book doesn’t make anyl logical sense in the grand shceme of things. If anything I feel like it relates to the burden of expectation with the hype being an incentive to actively search for the negative.

    At the end of the day, reading is as subjective as it gets and I think instead of invalidating someone’s opinion just accept that everyone’s preferences are different.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much! Ahh yes I think that’s so true β€” when something is popular, I think there is an impulse to find the negatives so you can “prove” that it’s not as good as other people think it is. I’ve definitely caught myself doing that!

      Yes, definitely, reading is subjective and I think that’s a great way to sum it up. Respecting others’ opinions is great!

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  5. Oooohhh Margaret, yessssssss!! I agree with you on this 100%. The book community is small and we should be building each other up instead of tearing each other down. Reading IS subjective. One person’s cup of tea will not always be someone else’s, but that doesn’t mean you have to destroy a book just because it’s topic doesn’t appeal specifically to you. Being overhyped just means that a lot of people took an interest in it and it’s predicted to be a killer book but there are those who just don’t see the appeal. Which is fine!! BUT if you don’t like the premise of the book you should definitely give a reason why it just isn’t for you. Writing is a hard profession to break into and that book that is being overhyped is that author’s blood, sweat and tears in paper and ink. I’m all for expressing your own individual opinion but in a classy way.

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    1. So glad you agree! 😊 Yes, I think that’s something we all need to remind ourselves now and then β€” reading is subjective and it’s okay that people have different opinions. And yep, I always think about the authors themselves, and how awful it would feel to have your book dismissed by someone as “overhyped.” Ahaha I think “expressing your own individual opinion but in a classy way” is a great way to sum it up πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. To me, an overhyped book is something I was disappointed with because I expected it, from the hype, to be the BEST THING EVER but I just thought it was fine. It’s a good point that some people do seem to mean something dismissive by “overhyped,” like the book is actually bad. I’d say I usually think it’s good but not THAT good.

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  7. This was a super interesting discussion! I feel like sometimes I’ll read a super popular book and dislike it and I’ll be like I don’t understand why this is so hyped or popular, but I wouldn’t call it overhyped really. I feel like a lot of people hate on the “popular” books like ACOTAR, folk of the air, etc they’re like ugh this book is so overhyped stop talking about it pls talk about something else. and I’m just like… okay but if it made me happy why is that so bad?? just because everyone else likes it am I not allowed to talk about how much I like it? like yes it is 100% important to talk about lots of books, under appreciated books, especially diverse books that might not get all the support and love they deserve, and I read them and love them, but I also like faeries okay they make me happy and just because you didn’t like them too doesn’t mean you have to rain on everyone else’s parade.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve definitely been in that position of disliking a really popular book! πŸ˜‚ But yep, I can understand the frustration that comes with seeing people talk about the same books over and over again. (tbh I think that just means you need to find new bookish creators to follow!) But YES if it makes you happy, then go ahead and love it with all your heart! I think “just because you didn’t like them too doesn’t mean you have to rain on everyone else’s parade” is a great way to sum it up πŸ˜„

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  8. THIS POST. YES! I get the idea of thinking a book is getting too much praise at a certain point and not understanding why, but I really hate when people try to say others are wrong for liking something. Like, “we all have different opinions” is the most basic concept but people seem to forget it.

    I’m such a soft and sensitive baby when it comes to things I really love. I try to avoid negative reviews for books I’ve loved, but when I do accidentally come across one, it hurts! I have actually unfollowed people before for slamming my favourite books, because it upsets me and I’m just here to have a good time.

    It’s definitely harmful when people say you shouldn’t like something. You’re so right about it affecting you when you’ve been picked on for things you liked in the past. When I was younger I spent years hiding things I liked and pretending not to because I was friends with people who hated them. Now I stay away from toxic people like that! I stay away from Book Twitter because it seems there’s *always* something toxic like that going on.

    Let people like things! Share your own opinion, and definitely speak out about books that are harmful, but don’t try to invalidate others. Just be happy those people found so much joy in something, and go find something that will bring you joy instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh thank you, Abi! “We all have different opinions” is like the most basic concept, yet so many people struggle with it. Whenever I see any variation on “your opinion is wrong,” I’m like??? it’s an opinion???

      Argh yes, reading negative reviews of my favorite books always feels like a personal attack 😭 I fully endorse making your bookish space happy for you in whatever way you can!

      Yep, I never talked about the things I loved when I was younger either! It sucks when you’ve learned to be quiet about your passions for fear of being made fun of, which is why I have so many feelings about this topic now. (book twitter certainly is…. *deep sigh*)

      I think so much about this world would be better if we all just found the things that brought us joy and let other people have their own things.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The only time an opinion can be called “wrong” is if it’s harmful to others, and someone liking a book is not harmful in any way. It’s just pure and innocent and I hate seeing anyone try to say people shouldn’t like something. (Like those people who think they’re somehow elite because they didn’t like SJM so make fun of the fans πŸ™„)

        Honestly my favourite thing about being an adult is being able to curate who I spend time with. Now I get to surround myself with people who will actually care about the things I like. And I really love the book blogging community because it just feels like a safe space where I can be myself, whether I’m talking about books or literally anything else! πŸ₯°

        I’m sure book twitter can be good, but every time I dip my toe in I seem to land in the middle of some drama and it feels like the opposite of a safe space πŸ˜‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yesss I love being able to surround myself with people who actually make me feel good about myself! And even though the book community can be frustrating at times, I think it’s so much nicer than a lot of online communities I’ve seen/been a part of.

        Hah, yep, there is often a lot of unnecessary drama on book twitter that I tend to steer clear of… πŸ˜…

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Oi, the gatekeeping around “overhyped” books just makes me insane. Because even calling something “overhyped” is completely subjective because, like you’ve said, there are some “overhyped” books that I haven’t even heard about before, so there’s no actual way for a book to be “overhyped”, and it’s just?? Why do so many people care about what other people like? It’s gotten to the point where I rarely read reviews anymore because I’m just so sick of the constant rhetoric of being “allowed” to like certain things. UGH. Yes to all of this! We need to stop gatekeeping books and telling people what they should or should not like. They’re just books, y’all! Do we really gotta be that psycho about the supposed “parameters” of enjoying them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is SO frustrating. Yes absolutely, it’s so dependent on perspective! I’ll never understand why people care so much about what others enjoy. I think gatekeeping is a great way to describe it, since it does feel like putting boundaries on what you’re “allowed” to enjoy, which is just so annoying.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Y e s this is such a great post, I love the points you make here. A book being overhyped, or just hyped, really is such a subjective thing! It depends on so many points, it depends on the bookish circles you’re part of, some people might feel a book is overhyped while I haven’t heard of it, at all, just because I wasn’t at the same places, or something. It’s such a subjective term and it drives me s o damn mad whenever people are getting so angry about these kind of things.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Definitely agree! For example, had a conversation with a friend the other day who went on about how Harry Potter is crap and overhyped. And I love Harry Potter so obviously that hurt my feelings. I’m happy for people to not like Harry Potter but to dismiss it and by doing so dismiss the people who love it is not ok. Also, millions of people love Harry Potter so it’s such a weird thing to say! (JK Rowling on the other hand I do have a huge issue with).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love this post!!!!!

    I feel like an absolute martian for having enjoyed the highly contested book The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I feel like admitting you like the book to any degree automatically slaps you with a label and puts you into a box. I didn’t love everything about it, of course, but there were so many good points worth discussing within it. All the reviews and discussions I’ve seen have either been “Ayn Rand is a genius” or “Ayn Rand is an evil capitalist” and there’s hardly any in-between.

    I don’t understand what happened to the concept of “agreeing to disagree” or learning and gaining valuable insight from an experience (or book) regardless if it turned out to be good or bad. In fact, you can learn so much about yourself just by actively understanding those who you most oppose. Everyone else doesn’t have to be made wrong for an individual’s opinion to be ‘right.’ If it’s right for them then that is enough!

    Thank you so much for sharing and opening this wonderful discussion. Super interesting. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you enjoyed this! Yep, I think we’re much too quick to judge people based on the books they enjoy. And the whole idea of “agree to disagree” (when it comes to opinions about media) definitely needs to make a comeback. Thanks so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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