Chat Between Chapters: Trigger Warnings: Good Idea or Give away too much?

August 17, 2014 Chat Between Chapters, Featured Posts 45


 Some people really support the idea of book containing content warning. What do you think? Are content warnings, especially for material containing possible triggers, a good idea or do they give away too much vital information? Are trigger warnings just another form of spoilers?

Julie Review Avatar Julie:

This is a topic I could go either way on. Sometimes I want to know if a book deals with rape or abuse or something awful because if that isn’t something I can deal with at the time, I won’t want to read that book. However, certain books use that as the bombshell news, so stating that in the content warning does soften the surprise. I suppose general content warnings could be vague enough and just say language, sexual situations, etc, and then you won’t really know what specifically is happening in the book. Typically based on the genre you could figure out some of the possible triggers though (I mean, most NA romances contain language and sexual situations) so part of that is a given and isn’t a spoiler in the least.

Rose review avatar Rose:

 I really do not want trigger warnings in books because I think that takes away the poignancy of a book. I mean, I read mostly contemporary lit so it is like real life, and in real life, we do not get warnings on the bad stuff that is about to take place in our lives. If I know what all a book contains going into it, then I am looking for it, and I think that takes away from the book. However, I CAN understand why some people might want trigger warnings. I am fortunate enough not to really have any triggers that I wish to avoid reading. I do have triggers in movies… for instance I like scary movies and I love suspense. However, I HATE suspenseful gore. War gore I can tolerate. Accident gore, I can do. Suspense gore, especially if it is as a form of torture, I CANNOT handle at ALL! I could NEVER watch any of the Saw movies for this reason. In books, I do not have this problem for some reason. I am not sure why. I am curious about what everyone else thinks on this. Should books contain trigger warnings??? I think a possible solution would be placing something scan-able on the book’s cover so that people who wish to know possible triggers or want to know the rating of a book (much like a movie’s rating of PG-13 or R) then the information is available while those who do not care to know are not forcefully informed. What do you all think?

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45 Responses to “Chat Between Chapters: Trigger Warnings: Good Idea or Give away too much?”

  1. Cassidie Jhones

    Although I agree that it can spoil the book if it’s too specific, however, for me, and probably for the girl next door and above and across, trigger warnings can be a huge help. I have had ‘issues’ in the past and I’ve put down not one book because I couldn’t bear the topic. I know, the synopsis can suggest that kind of thing, but in some cases, if it’s not the main thread, it doesn’t. So in my view, trigger warnings are needed though I’ve seen good ideas for a better solution.
    Cassidie Jhones recently posted…Sunday Suspense (24) – The Elementalists (Tipping Point Prophecy) by C. Sharp

    • Julie

      I agree that information would be useful. And it doesn’t need to be front and center, but be available for people in case they feel the need to find out about these triggers in advance.

    • Julie

      Definitely. QRF codes are everywhere these days, no reason why they can’t be on books too.

      • Rose

        Is that what they are called? awesome. Yes QRF codes on all books… problem solved.

        • Julie

          I have an app on my phone called Qr barcode scanner. I can scan the ketchup bottle in a restaurant and play a game. Come on books catch up lol

  2. Brenda @DailyMayo

    I agree with April. I think in school situations, trigger warnings are helpful. For adult books sold at a bookstore, they are probably not necessary. But as a parent, I would like to know what my child is reading for school, mainly so we could have a discussion about it. I think it would be helpful to rate children’s and YA books, even in regular book stores, because not every parent wants their child to read about divorce, drugs, cutting, etc.

    And thanks for linking this post to Quote Me Thursday!
    Brenda @DailyMayo recently posted…Review: 4 Heart-Pounding Thrillers Written by Women

    • Julie

      They might not be necessary in general for adult books, but I wouldn’t mind the option anyway. Thanks for running the link up 🙂

    • Rose

      Brenda, I agree with what you are saying, I just do not want it labeled on the book. I want there to be a place you can look up the information if you so choose, but not that everyone is forced to see it printed on the back cover of a book. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Leila @ LeilaReads

    I’m not a fan of content warnings at all, as the genre tends to provide an idea of the content (romance, for example, commonly has sex, so a warning seems unnecessary). And as to triggers, if one were to put a trigger warning on reviews, warnings would be on most books. There are countless types of triggers, as well as varying reactions (like you not having a problem with something in a book versus a movie, Rose). Really thought-provoking post.
    Leila @ LeilaReads recently posted…Trapped at the Altar by Jane Feather

    • Julie

      True, certain genre do convey the content. But sometimes books are just classified as literary fiction or contemporary, and you really have no idea what you’re getting yourself into lol.

    • Rose

      Leila, I think you are right when you said there are countless triggers for various things for different people. How would a publisher decide what is a trigger? thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    I think trigger warnings are not only important, but I think they’re necessary. It’s easy to forget that “triggers” aren’t always simply about reader preference, but they are literally triggers for people that have struggled with some of the red flag issues. Rape, substance abuse, eating disorders, even characters suffering from diseases–LOTS of readers have first-hand experience with those things, and do not want to unwittingly encounter them in their off time. Great discussion topic, ladies!
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Early Review: Storm Siren by Mary Weber

    • Julie

      YES! An example: a friend recently lost their father, and then ended up reading a book club book where the main character lost a parent. She did not enjoy that book at all. That was just not what she needed at that time.

    • Rose

      Jessica, yes, there is a definite difference between a trigger and reader preference.

  5. Terri M. LeBlanc

    This is a tough call. For reading, I don’t have any triggers that make me turn away from a book. But, like Rose, that visual stimulation will send me into overdrive. Back in the day, I had a hard time watching ER when a trauma patient would come and be bleeding all over the place. The sight of all the blood would make me ill. As a kid, I would have the leave the room when the tornado raced through Kansas in the Wizard of Oz so I wouldn’t have nightmares. I don’t have the problem with books.

    However, I do know people that have had traumatic experiences. So I can understand the need for some kind of systematic warning to call attention to those things. I can think of one occasion where I stated at the end of a review that I thought the sexual relationship between the two main characters was a bit intense for younger readers. I did that because the book was dystopian and I could see that some parents might think that type of relationship might not be appropriate for younger readers.
    Terri M. LeBlanc recently posted…Back to School Challenge Day 01: Getting to Know You

    • Julie

      I’m glad to see a lot of people are mentioning that some kind of warning is needed for younger audiences. It is a fine line to allow teens to read everything or to keep some things from them until they are a little older.

    • Rose

      Terri, isn’t it interesting that we can read almost anything but not watch it? I find it fascinating especially considering that books tend to be way more detailed than tv or movies.

  6. Charlotte @ Thoughts and Pens

    Trigger warnings do not really affect me as I am more particular about the synopsis and the genre of a book. For one, I usually stay away from horror and suspenseful thrillers even if there are no trigger warnings. It’s already a reflex for me to avoid books belonging to the said genre, content warning or no.

    I can handle any type of gore and other horrible stuff like rape, incest, whatever as long as the book’s genre is something that I like to read. A Game of Thrones covers a lot of issues that might be uncomfortable to other readers because it’s not only sexist but also tackles incest and rape but I read it just fine because it’s under a genre that I love reading.

    OMG, Rose! The Saw franchise is one hell of a movie franchise. Tried watching one but never got to finish it My brother and sisters though devoured the movie as if they can’t get enough.

    Lovely discussion, ladies!
    Charlotte @ Thoughts and Pens recently posted…Book Review: On The Jellicoe Road

    • Julie

      Hmm that’s an interesting point of view – if it is a genre you enjoy anyway, you aren’t bothered by some of the horrible topics that are touched upon. GOT is definitely a good example of that. I have a hard time watching, and don’t think I’ll be reading it. But I think these issues show up a lot more in contemporary books.

    • Rose

      The Saw movies are definitely not for me. I hear your point that certain things that other might label as “triggers” do not affect you so long as it is in a genre you like. I would venture to say then these are not triggers for you in that you dont like them, but can tolerate them in a genre you love reading. I think there is a difference too in that some book explicitly describe the rape scene where as other books might only briefly touch upon the scene. Should these two be labeled as the same?

    • Julie

      I’m with you, I definitely would want to be warned if a book I picked up contains those kind of brutal situations.

  7. April @ The Steadfast Reader

    Excellent topic, as always, ladies.

    I’m vehemently against ‘rating’ books the way you would a movie or a television show. That being said, I think that trigger warnings are something different and are appropriate in certain situations. Should books on the shelf contain trigger warnings? No, I don’t think so. But if we’re discussing a required reading for school, etc, I do think that such things should be listed on the syllabi.

    Trigger warnings (as I see them) are for people who have triggers that come from PTSD or similar mental health issues, a mere discomfort or dislike of a situation doesn’t require a trigger warning because — it’s not going to actually TRIGGER anything, you’re likely not going down a spiral of depression and flashbacks to that time you saw your buddy get blown up in Afghanistan.
    April @ The Steadfast Reader recently posted…Spread the Love 2.0: Week Twenty Eight

    • Julie

      That is a good point about required reading for school. Some books might even require a parents permission slip lol.

    • Rose

      well said April. I like that you point out the difference between a trigger and discomfort. There is a difference. And sometimes people should read stuff that makes them uncomfortable in order to think about topics/situations/social issues they might otherwise simple avoid or ignore.

    • Julie

      Sometimes the blurbs are very vague. Or they don’t want to spoil, so they won’t mention if a rape takes place, for example.

  8. Kimber Leigh Wheaton

    The only time I really see a need for trigger warnings are in extreme cases: horrific child abuse, graphic rape, things which could potentially cause psychological trauma to an unsuspecting reader. Most of the time though, I think this type of thing is evident in the blurb. Another exception would be books geared toward minors. If a YA book contains sexual situations and a ridiculous amount of foul language, I think there should be a warning.

    I think Rose’s idea of something scan-able on the book cover with some type of rating and more info is intriguing, especially for YA.
    Kimber Leigh Wheaton recently posted…Book Blitz: Pandora – A Paranormal Anthology – Excerpt

    • Julie

      Oh I think your point about specific triggers in a book aimed at minors is a really good one. YA books really should have some kind of trigger warning so the parents can have the full information before deciding if their kids should read it.

    • Rose

      I still think the trigger warnings and content labels should be scannable and not labeled right on the book.

  9. Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun

    This is such a great question – one that I battle with everyone time I read a book with one of those big trigger topics because I don’t know how far to go in my review. I’ve tended to lean away from specific details but made it clear that the book definitely hits some tough topics and that, if certain triggers particularly bother you, you may want to be wary or even look up spoilers before reading. That way a person can actively choose to get their spoiler.

    Oh and Rose – I’m just like you. Give me suspense gore in a book, no problem, but I can’t watch it. I tried to watch SAW and ended up sitting in the hallway the whole movie asking my BF if it was safe to watch. And most the time the answer was no. LOL
    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted…Sunday Post | 54th Edition

    • Julie

      I can’t watch that kind of stuff either. I’m not sure if I can read it, but it is easier to skim across lol.

    • Rose

      I tend to hide the pillow over my face and cover my ears, not go in the hallway (because I would be spooked at this point and can’t leave “the pack” in the living room… going into the dark empty hallway does not seem wise in a time such as this lol) but yeah, I could imagine that there was not too much of Saw that you could watch. I love war movies as well, but have stayed away from a few because of the torture scenes. I really can’t handle that. I didn’t think of it it but another trigger for me I suppose would be if animals are brutally treated and killed. I get queasy and sick to my stomach. Not good.

  10. Ruby

    I am very much okay with trigger warnings when it deals with really sensitive subjects, like rape, child abuse, and stuff like that. Otherwise, I can pretty much figure it out on my own if a book has sex in it when I see the “erotic” label on the website when I order it or I see it in the adult section. Maybe, like Julie said, I’m not in the mood to read about certain violent situations or actions against innocent people/animals. So I think warning labels need to exist when books deal with really sensible subjects, not when it has just normal, adult situations. I usually roll my eyes when I see the latter.
    Ruby recently posted…Cover Reveal: Who We Were by Christy Sloat

    • Julie

      Haha I like that you said that. Normal adult situations labeled in an NA or adult book are pretty silly. I also roll my eyes at that.

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