Discussion: Triggers – Do you need them? Can they spoil a book? Do they encourage you to read a certain book?


We all know them, triggers mentioned in reviews so we are aware of them in case there are things present we might not be able to cope with. Some view these as necessary, others claim them to be spoilers and rather not know them. This had me wondering what makes a subject a trigger and is it always a case of “yup, I’m avoiding this book!” or isn’t it?

First off, I’d like to start by saying that I’m not someone who really looks at the triggers in a book. I won’t look up reviews to see if there are triggers at all, even less so to check if there are things I should be cautious about. Why? Simply because I know I can handle the subjects that might be a bit harder for me to cope with.

I do, however, realize that the mentioning of alcohol consumption in a way that makes it look okay to drink in order to cope with life is something I can get mad about. I’m looking at you, James: Witch-Hunter. But that is a personal thing that others often overlook and even more often don’t even count as a trigger since it doesn’t automatically equal alcoholism.

Since you’ve now concluded alcoholism is one of the subjects I relate to in a personal way, I can tell you this also includes narcissism, fat-shaming, bullying, abuse and rape. I’ve had personal dealings with all these things, but that doesn’t push me to avoid the subjects at all. On the contrary. I even dare say that it makes me more intrigued in novels covering those topics.
Seeing those things mentioned in reviews as triggers tempts me to add the book to my TBR pretty much every single time, unless I can deduce that the representation isn’t well-executed. Then I won’t even bother because it’d only get me mad.

Does that mean I view those triggers as spoilers? Sometimes. If one of the triggers mentioned pretty much answers what happened according to the synopsis, I’ll consider it a spoiler. I don’t want the stating of triggers to immediately reveal the plot of a book.

I can see others wouldn’t agree with me on that point. I realize and understand that having triggers mentioned is simply necessary for a lot of people, but I also wonder whether their reading experience is impacted by this. It doesn’t matter if you relate to a trigger in any way. Even if you don’t, it can still count as spoiler-ish and that makes me curious.

Do they still enjoy the book as much as they would’ve? Do they realize they know up front what’s going to happen at a certain point? Do they get frustrated over it, even though they know they need to take triggers into account?

What are triggers you are wary of? Are there any triggers that make you want to pick up a book even more? Triggers that make you go “NOPE” all the way? Or are you simply not bothered by them at all?



55 thoughts on “Discussion: Triggers – Do you need them? Can they spoil a book? Do they encourage you to read a certain book?

  1. I read about anything and everything, I don’t mind. Sometimes these things are portrayed in a way i don’t agree with tho.
    Warnings are ok, i think. If i consider it spoiler, i’d hide it behind a spoiler tag. So it’s optional to view.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely went “spoiler tag?! what’s that? How can I do it?” and then found out you need plugins for that. Bummer.
      I think I’ll stick with putting them in white so people simply have to mark the sentence to see them.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ha, yes, that’s what i meant. To hide it with white text or something.
      I did write a code that hides text, but no matter what i do, by the time i publish it there’s always a massive gap in text and it looks a bit wonky 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If I come pick up on something in a book that could potentially be a trigger/harmful to someone I like to mention it at the beginning of my review. I’ve read books that have homophobia in them and I put it as a content warning in my review. I feel that in the beginning of your review by putting content/trigger warning words isn’t spoiling anything. I feel like they’re only spoilers if context is included with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hm, that’s definitely a valid point!
      Although I personally wouldn’t put them at the start of my review, since people wanting to avoid triggers that might contain spoilers as well will have no way of ignoring them. [I think, haha.]


    2. By putting them at the beginning of my review I think it alerts people that those things are in the book, so that way they don’t have to read the whole review to find out that those things are in the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Kathy I have some personal triggers or rather things that will make me despise a book. Drugs for example as I lost a friend to drugs when I was a teenager. Or I can’t stand some very graphic abuses made on children. As a mom I really want to throw up. These aside I can read about anything else. I also think they are vital to mention even if “vaguely” as some persons could be deeply impacted!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have to say that this discussion post makes me think of how often I’ve read about certain topics. I don’t think I’ve read a lot of books yet covering drugs, or even mentioning drug use? I could be wrong though; but nothing comes to mind right now.
      Graphic abuses made on children: definitely agree. I do have a harder time with mental abuse but that’s because I’ve been there. It’s not really a trigger for me, but more something that I really need to be executed well whenever I read about it.
      Thank you for reading! 😀


  4. Very interesting discussion, I think it’s so personal there’s never an easy answer/solution. I’ve seen trigger warnings for certain books and having read it wondered how on earth it needed a trigger warning but equally aware that could just be my privilege i.e. not aware of the trigger because it isn’t my experience. But there are books where I’ve reached a certain incident in the book and gone “nope” and quit the book, specifically one I recall where a dog was tortured then killed, NOPE!! I also hate gratuitous subservience of young women, especially sexually, written by a middle-aged man and other such sexist rubbish like where the female character becomes overly aware of her breasts *yawn* And miscarriages where they are used as a casual plot twist or not handled sensitively because that can be horrific and though I’ve read books where it is a feature and has been written wonderfully in a cathartic way, there have been some that have made me angry by the way it’s dropped in to just add drama or a plot twist, just no! Horrible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. I think people who don’t have any triggers – or barely have any – definitely can consider themselves privileged. [I know I do on that account.] It’s hard to see why something can be a trigger for others when you’re like that, especially when it comes to “smaller” things, or sometimes even a very small event that’s described in a very.. detailed manner. [I shivered when I read a scene where a beast tore up an animal and I now realize that might be something to warn others about, to be honest.]
      Sexist rubbish is hell! I once DNF’d a book because of it. Women aren’t sex objects, for skies’ sake.. And the miscarriages.. I haven’t read a book where that happened – yet. I don’t know how I’d be about it, really. Time will tell, I guess.


  5. This is a really interesting topic! I don’t like to put spoilers in my reviews, so I usually just provide a broad generalization of potential triggers in books. So if a book has a rape scene, I’ll write that the book contains elements of sexual violence.

    If a book has a scene where a character uses heroin, I’ll say that the book contains drug and/or alcohol use. That way, if any readers are concerned the book could trigger them, they can contact me directly for more detailed info!

    I know that some things people don’t normally think of as triggers can be triggering to certain people, so sometimes it’s tough to know what to include or leave out, but generally I try to use my best judgement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s definitely a good way to handle things! I guess sometimes I’m trying to be a bit too specific too since there’s so many options when you simply say “mental illness” for example.

      I might just have to go with your general way and then add some line that people can always contact me if they want to have more specific information.

      Good thinking!


  6. Speaking as someone without mental illness, yeah I do use them, bc I also want to avoid certain subjects. BUT it will never have a big impact on me if I stumble upon a rape scene in a book, but I have friends (with mental illness) for whom that would mean panic attacks, terrible flash backs, and perhaps would trigger depressive episodes. Because triggers aren’t just things that make you uncomfortable. Triggers are things that can cause you to have a panic attack, or push you into a depressive spiral or just generally worsen your mental health. The term was originally used for people with PTSD.

    So yeah, probably their reading experience is impacted by knowing potential triggers/avoiding media bc of those triggers. But having a panic attack bc they encounter something they weren’t ready for, does that even more so. So I want to help them by stating there’s a rape scene in that book, and other such triggers.

    I don’t think trigger warnings are spoilers, but honestly, the internet is full of spoilers all the time? If people are that concerned with books being spoiled, they shouldn’t read reviews beforehand. Bc even the most non-spoilery review will be sort of spoilery, bc otherwise you can barely talk about a book. Some people complain that the blurb on the back spoils a plot. People complain trailers spoil movies. Like.. just don’t read/watch them? Problem solved?

    And honestly if the word ‘rape’ (or other vague, general words in the description) spoil the plot, it’s not a great plot to begin with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your giant reply, Lotte!

      I definitely agree – and thank you for the small history lesson on triggers, ha. I never even thought to ask myself where it originated from.

      You’re definitely right about spoilers being everywhere. I also think people reading reviews are mostly people who’ve already read the book to be honest. I often skip reviews of books I have yet to read simply because of the possible spoilers. As for trailers of movies? Don’t really care about those. You can hardly decide whether or not a movie’s up your alley without knowing what it’s about and for that.. seeing the trailer is pretty much one of the only options?
      As for the blurb on books having spoilers: YES. I know some people who don’t even bother with reading them at all because they want to go in without having a clue what’s going to happen. Lately I’ve even found myself doing that with my older TBR books because I genuinely can’t remember what they’re about anymore and I feel like going in blind, ha.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post! I feel there should be triggers in review or blurb. It, at least, prepares readers for the subject that they feel uncomfortable to read if they come across unaware and all of sudden. There isn’t a trigger based on which I decide my reading but I like to be prepared for it.


  8. I fell like listing the triggers can be spoilers but at the same time I understand why some people need to know about them up front. I’ve never bothered putting trigger warnings in my reviews but I want to try to start at least saying hey this book has potential trigger warning if you want to know what they are message me. That way it works out for both sides of the spectrum. The ones who want/need them will know and those who don’t want to know what know the specifics if that makes sense. I’m not good about mentioning stuff like that though because fortunately I don’t have anything that are triggers for me so I don’t automatically think hey this can be a potential trigger for someone. But like I said I want to get better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel you! I know there are triggers that apply to me, but in the sense of “hey, I’ve been there” and not the “Okay, not reading this” or “I’m sensitive to this” kind of way.
      When you’re not bothered by any triggers, it’s definitely hard to actually see what could be a trigger to others!

      Liked by 1 person

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