Trigger Warnings in Books

It Ends With Us by Colleen HooverConfess by Colleen Hooer

Author Colleen Hoover has an interesting blog post up about putting “trigger warnings” at beginnings of books.

A note: I have never read one of her books, and the newest (which I believe sparked some of this discussion) is apparently a little controversial. However, I think her opinions matter in a wider context.

I’ve got to say, I think she makes some excellent points. As do some commenters, who (rightly) point out that the new trend for trigger warnings at the start of every book seems to be largely in the New Adult genre so far, which isn’t one I read extensively in. The NA community seems to be a whole different world on its own when it comes to romance and romantic fiction.

These “trigger warnings” – telling readers in advance what dark themes are in the book they’re about to read – well, they’re everywhere these days. I see so many people even putting them at the beginnings of their book REVIEWS.

There are some times I think vague warnings are warranted. Graphic sex when it’s not expected, for example. Or a certain recent historical romance where the heroine had lost something like twenty babies, and some readers were unhappy they weren’t warned about how extreme the book’s theme of infertility was.

However, if a story is going to be spoilt because readers demand to know every twist and turn in advance…?

My most memorable reads are those that surprise me in some way; I don’t want the plot ruined before I’ve read it.

Is it really a good thing to spoil an entire story before it has even begun, no matter what? To the point some people won’t even use a word like “cheating” or “assault” without disclaimers first?

Colleen Hoover Trigger warnings

These warnings used to be about rape, but now apparently you can’t put anything other sunshine and rainbows in your books without some readers demanding the author give the whole plot away in advance. To a certain extent, this reminds me of how frustrated I become with people who refuse to follow the news because they never want to hear bad things.

If rape is something that is going to upset many readers, then this issue needs to be addressed. But when authors are saying they’re getting one-star reviews because one of their characters got cheated on??

I don’t know… But I do think I agree with quite a bit of what Hoover has to say in her post. Perhaps if I read this new book of hers and find it to be over-the-top extreme, I might change my mind.

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2 thoughts on “Trigger Warnings in Books

  1. Honestly, I find that most authors think their plot twists are more unpredictable than they actually are. I was ambivalent on trigger warnings, but after reading the reasons why people would like them, for mental health reasons, my understanding is that having something in the blurb that alludes to potential triggers would have been enough and would be a courtesy for people who would genuinely find the content distressing. As far as I can tell, the trigger warning isn’t to tell people who are triggered to stay away — it’s to give them the ability to prepare themselves before reading, and not being suddenly triggered without being able to mentally be prepared for it. I tend to think that maybe this isn’t such a huge burden to expect from book blurbs. After all, most of them do that now.

    1. Yes, they do, and I think that there’re some books (Courtney Milan’s warning-free extreme story about infertility and miscarriage) should have more complex warnings. Erotic books have had “fun” warnings at the beginnings for years.

      But I’m also thinking that in this new environment books like Harry Potter would now come with a gazillion trigger warnings attached to them, or else everyone would complain. Robyn Carr would never be able to publish anything again.

      I’m having a big problem with readers complaining – for example – that secondary characters cheating (I’ve seen that twice in the past twenty-four hours) should be explicitly stated in the blurb, or that the word “assault” in any context (also seen that in comments) should not be in a book without a warning.
      I hate the term “going too far”, but for me, this is going too far.

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