By Ioana Harátau

Edited by Mia Tuason

Over the past several months, the booktok community, the part of TikTok that discusses books has grown significantly. With that, they have faced serious backlash over several issues, one of which is promoting books that are just simply not good. In this article, I’m going to break down 3 incredibly famous TikTok short story collections and tell you whether they are worth the read or not.  

Illustration by Brina Gulič

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh 

Moshfegh has been gaining a lot of popularity since her novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Opinions about her work, both online and in literary circles, differ greatly from one reader to the next. She is best known for always writing about the most gruesome and upsetting aspects of the human experience. In her earlier works, though her gruesome depictions of different lives still made an appearance, she managed to keep the focus on the main plotline and did not stray unnecessarily. Critics have remarked that her short story collection, on the other hand, is plagued with excessive dark and grimy depictions of otherwise perfectly normal people. Moshfegh has stated before that what she is trying to do, what she wants to do is to capture the essence of the human experience, even when it is not pretty and when her characters cannot find any happiness in their lives. This would be a fantastic idea since many contemporary writer, especially NA or YA writers, don’t have this aspect in their works. The problem that arose with her latest short story collection was that, instead of gore only being added in realistic measures, it was absolutely excessive. The characters of the book were no longer people as much as they were caricatures of people who underwent unimaginable experiences, not human experiences. The focus shifted and instead of describing people experiencing different troubles, she added in gore, violence and absurdity just simply to shock the reader. It seriously took away from the different characters and stories in the book and moreover, it became an upsetting reading experience. 

Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado 

This short story collection was fantastic. It broached very serious, current issues with the aid of magical realism. Many of her stories have beautiful descriptions and characters even though they revolve around very serious topics. One of the stories is about how the internet and especially the online fashion influencers which have become so popular lately, are seriously affecting how girls view themselves and as a result, disordered eating has also become a trend. Another story describes the loneliness and terror many felt at the beginning of lockdown, especially those who didn’t have stability in their life during that time, as well as people living alone. Overall, her prose is stunning and her stories while being extremely relevant, are also haunting. 

Shoko’s Smile by Choi Eun-young 

This is perhaps one of the best new short story collections that has come out over the past few years. It is absolutely heartbreaking and so beautiful. Unlike the other two collections, which had a more random assortment of stories, this collection focuses especially on women’s relationships with each other through time, watching them evolve and sometimes fall apart. In the titular story, two girls form a very complicated, very intense relationship that spans over decades, and through which we see the failings of both as neither one achieves her dreams. Another story tells the story of a failed relationship between two volunteers at a monastery in France. Another story explores issues of racism and trauma as two families, one Korean and the other Vietnamese, start forming a friendship. This collection is mesmerizing in its ability to completely capture small moments and their significance.  

All of these collections are loved by any different readers so it is important to look for something that will suit you, despite the reviews. Each one of these books brings forth different subjects told through different techniques and they are all worth at least skimming through  if one has the time to. 

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