Lightlark: The Overnight Sensation Turned Into a Mere Booktok Trend

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March 13, 2021. On this date, Alex Aster’s life changed. She posted a TikTok video about her new book and what it would be about. It went completely viral with over 1.9 million views, and 367k likes. 

The excitement for the release spread to the bookshelves of big stores like Barnes and Noble, and Target. But where it really amassed attention was on Booktok, a self proclaimed side of the social media app that loves everything literature. Fans really appreciated how open and honest Aster was, especially in sharing how some of her previous books had been rejected, and how her video going viral was truly a dream come true for her. Aster even let the social media app pick her book cover to truly show her dedication to her fans  that were so dedicated to her book and success.

Her following were not the only ones intrigued by her book.  The creators of Twilight wanted to release her book as a movie, even before it was published. This movie deal meant even more to Aster because of the fact that while reading “Twilight” she had the realization that she too could write a book of her own. Many were wondering how she was able to get a movie deal before her book even came out, but some movie producers came forward to say that it is actually very common for movie companies to buy the rights to a book before it is ever released to reduce its cost of buying the rights.

Advanced copies or arcs are books given out ahead of time to either influencers or fans to generate more buzz about the book before it is released. But with the release of this arc many people were not only confused but they were also angry.

Through the author’s platform on TikTok she was able to make content about the book and release things like certain scenes or quotes that happened in her book. These videos reached so many people and they were all excited to read about the scenes they had imagined themselves. However, after the release of the arcs, many people were appalled that many of the scenes the author promised were never actually in the book. As people started expressing their anger, she finally replied to a comment asking about where the quotes she promised were in the arc, and she replied by saying, “All those moments are in there. Either not word for word, but there, or only in the final copy not the arc.”

Some people went to the TikTok to express how they felt about the book. On September 15th, 2022, TikTok account @bookish.puertorican wrote, “Here is my controversial Lightlark ARC review for those interested. Part 1 of my review! No spoilers. My besties, we were lied to, scammed, taken for fools. Most quotes and scenes in her videos are NOT in the book!…” The Goodreads, a reading website and app, rating plummeted  from 4 stars to 2 stars in only a day.

I think this is the way most people feel as it has been projected in various reviews of the book, but Lightlark truly serves as a reminder of how quickly the internet can change somebody’s life for better or for worse. TikTok has provided so many amazing opportunities for people, but how does a diehard fan base switch up so quickly on something they supported so strongly? That’s a question for the next Booktok sensation!  

Glenbard East librarian, Mrs. Roberts, read the arc copy of the book through website and app Netgalley, which allows people to request arcs and read them in return of a review. She stated, “Lightlark is a dark, twisty novel, and a quick read. The plot is wild, but students who love dystopian fantasy may enjoy it.”

With all of the controversy surrounding the book I was incredibly curious, with not only if the scenes would be in the book, but also whether the overall plot of the book was good. So I decided to read it myself.


The Blurb:

Lightlark. An island that appears once every 100 years and battles rulers to break the curses they’ve had to deal with for hundreds of years. There are 6 realms and they all have different powers. There is Wilding, whose ruler is Isla Crown. There is Sunling, whose ruler and king of the realms is Oro. There is Nightshade, whose ruler is Grimshaw. There is Skyling, whose ruler is Azul. There is Starling, whose ruler is Celeste. And finally, there is Moonling whose ruler is Cleo. They all have different curses, and all of the rulers want to get rid of them urgently. There’s only one thing, a part of fulfilling the prophecy, which had originally given them their curses, they must kill out a realm entirely. 

As I started reading the book, I found it to feel really long and it took me around 2 minutes to read one page, whereas normally I read a page in about a minute. I truly think it only took me longer because of how immersed you have to be in a fantasy novel to understand everything that is happening in the world. Not only did you have to learn about a new world, you also had to figure out everything about the competition and all of the rules that came along with it in Lightlark. I think Aster did an incredible job in creating the setting for the story, it felt like a real place for the reader. I think that also helped when later on in the book they travel from realm to realm when knowing the distinguishing features of them helps immensely.

Even towards the start of the book I could tell that the plot of the book was going to be incredible. The competition had so much complexity to it and the characters that the author created helped to make that plot even more interesting for all of the chapters to come. With all of the different rules, realms, and characters, Aster could really do a lot with the plot of the book, and with the genre she chose to write in she could really make anything possible.

Some of the love triangles that the author was pushing for me felt a little bit forced. It felt as if she were trying to fit a bunch of romance tropes into too little time. One of the relationships had purpose, but the other relationship was too flirty from the beginning which made it harder to believe fully.

Islas relationship with Celeste was something I also felt was extremely forced. From the beginning I always had this gut feeling that Celeste was going to turn out to be a horrible person, and when an author is trying to get a relationship across to the reader, I should have felt strongly about their relationship all the way. It ironic how the relationships it felt that the author was trying to push the most, were the ones I believed the least.

I really enjoyed the ending of this book! Aster really did an amazing job at connecting the ideas she presented at the beginning of the novel to the bigger picture at the end of the book. Some of the major plot twists she talked about really shocked me. For example, even though I didn’t have a good feeling about Celeste, I wasn’t expecting her to be the person who had spun the curses. While everything connected to an idea that was previously built, so much happened at the same time that I had to read the final chapter multiple times to even understand the multitude of what was happening. Overall though, I thought it was a really enjoyable ending while still leaving questions unanswered for the rest of the series to come.

Many of the scenes Aster promised were in the book, more than the amount of quotes or scenes that weren’t. For example, the villain professing his love in the rain, which was then followed by a direct quote from the book. This scene was copied exactly into the actual book with nothing about the quote or scene changed, which can’t be said for some other scenes that the author promised.

When I think of things that were promised but never actually appeared in the book, I think about the scene when Isla was speaking poorly of a king to somebody who had just saved her life, and the man she was speaking poorly of to actually be the king himself. This scene just never appeared in the story. 

I can think of other examples of scenes that weren’t exactly correct in comparison to what happened in the book, but generally they were there. For example, when they talk about how the villain is holding Isla after she has been injured and him professing his love to her while she is still awake. This didn’t happen directly, but I can understand where the author may have been coming from with a scene similar in nature which happened on page 21, when the villian does end up saving her but she was asleep the whole time and forgot everything about who saved her until after she woke up again.

With Aster falsely advertising for scenes that would be in the book it brings up the question, how do misleading scenes in a book help it to become successful? Some of the scenes she promoted could have very well just been edited out with everything a book must go through before it is published, but I feel that maybe the author should have come forward about that. If she had been fully honest with everybody I don’t think the book would have been as controversial as it was. Whether or not it was intended, people are talking about the book no matter if the scenes are in it or not.

Overall, I really enjoyed my reading experience and would highly recommend this to anybody, especially those that like young adult fantasy and romance. If I had gone into this book without any prior knowledge of everything going on in Booktok surrounding this book, I’m sure I would have had a different perspective to the book in general. 

The main theme of this book was how much people are willing to do for what they desire, which the author proves by posting misleading information to reach her own desires of a successful book.