Kaileigh Klein, a 19-year-old college student in Ontario, Canada said she loves Hoover's books for just this reason—for the big emotions she writes about.
"People [my age] gravitate towards her novels because they're really emotional. I feel like even if you can't express emotion in real life, reading it on paper, it's really easy to connect to it and relate to it," she said.
Sahar Kariem, a 22-year-old stylist from Maryland, said Emily Henry's "balance of romance and life lessons," as well as themes of coming of age, have cemented Henry as one of her favorite authors.
Meanwhile, marketing trends, like covering contemporary romance novel jackets with cartoon figures and bright colors, has also helped pull in a younger audience, according to Leah Koch, who co-owns The Ripped Bodice, a romance bookstore in Los Angeles.
"I don't know that I'll ever have a grasp on it, but I'd like to think they're responding to the entertainment factor," Hoover said. "The last few years have been wild in the best way, and I'm very grateful to readers who continue to share my books and the books of other authors on their social platforms."
Social media pushing romance to younger readers
Much of the success of the romance genre with Gen Z readers is driven by BookTok, a subcommunity on TikTok for recommending, reviewing, and discussing books. Sales for authors whose books have gone viral on TikTok had reached 12.5 million in 2022, as of July, according to NPD BookScan, a data service that tracks U.S. book sales. And as of April, nearly 41 percent of TikTok's global users were between the ages of 18 and 24—with more than half of those being women, according to Statista.
Colleen Hoover is especially savvy at knowing how to connect with her fans. She's a frequent TikTok user, regularly engaging with her almost 950,000 followers. Emily Henry has chosen another approach, leaving the space to readers—giving her an almost a mythical presence on the platform.
Bookstore owner Koch said she's noticed a large increase in younger customers coming into the store since early 2021—something she "100 percent" attributes to TikTok.
"We'll get a rush of customers asking for something random and we're like, 'Why does everyone want this specific book?'" Koch said. The answer is always TikTok.