Should Books Have Trigger Warnings?

bp

(I apologise for my long-drawn out absence and I sure hope it’s ended now. Happy new year!)

Not too long ago, I saw a post on a blog (I know, detailed right?) titled something along the lines of “Should Books Have Trigger Warnings?” and, I’d like to share my opinion. [If you just so happened to be the writer of this blog post- because I literally have no idea where I read it- then claim it and I’ll name it. (That doesn’t make sense but I wanted to rhyme.)]

So, should books have trigger warnings?

Truly, I’m not sure. Personally, it would be really helpful if books had trigger warnings. It’s hard to go into a book and be blind-sided by something you weren’t expecting. Annoyingly enough, I have quite a few triggers. And, its especially hard when I have invested myself in a book, only to find that there’s something stopping me from continuing. But, I want to continue.

And I don’t know what’s worse:

Letting myself be triggered

OR

DNFing a book…

I’m kidding. Of course it’s letting myself be triggered. But, I hate not finishing a book. And, I especially hate if I can’t finish a book because of my goddamned feelings. Screw my feelings, I like finishing books. It’s hard when it’s just a regular book and I’m triggered. Sometimes, there’s really no specific reason as to why I’m triggered. And, people wonder why you didn’t read the book. That’s hard to explain.

“Oh, it triggered me.” Please don’t ask, please don’t ask…

“Why do you mean it ‘triggered you’? What does that even mean? Guns, were there guns involved? That kind of trigger?”

“No, a girl was being really mean to a guy she doesn’t like.”

“And?”

“He really liked her but she wouldn’t give him the time of day.”

See? It sounds stupid. ‘Cause it is. But, I can’t help it. It just happens. I don’t want to have to stop reading a book just because something small happened that I was affected by when it really shouldn’t have had any effect on me.

So, we look at the alternative: books with trigger warnings.

While I’ve said above it would be helpful, I don’t want to not read a book because it’s triggering. That’s so constricting. My mental illnesses putting a barrier on my reading. I don’t want my mental illness to stop me from reading books I want to read. It’s like fuelling the stigma around mental illnesses. We’re supposed to be getting on with our daily lives. Reading is my daily life and I don’t want my illness to affect that.

I don’t know what to think. Would I prefer to be blind-sided and risk not finishing a book or not even opening a book because I know there’ll be a trigger? I really have no idea.

Going along with this point, we can’t please everyone. The above example was something triggering for me. Why? I don’t know. But, it was. And, yes, it’s stupid but it happened. And, all publishers aren’t going to know that. I could be triggered by something like “frogs” or “water balloons” or “flying monkey” but publishers aren’t going to know to put those kind of thingsΒ in their trigger warnings. Everything could be considered a trigger. The word “everything” could be considered triggering. (Little bit of a stretch but it could happen.)

What I’m saying is that, with any book I read, I can be blind-sided. It’s inevitable. I could discover new triggers while reading. I just have to deal. We all have to deal with it. Trigger warnings are useless because there’s going to be someone out there reading the exact same book as you having a panic attack all because they saw one little thing while reading. Publishers can’t please everyone. There’d have to be a sign on every single book saying “THIS MAY BE TRIGGERING FOR SOME”. And, you may be affected while reading, you may not.

What do you think? Trigger warnings or nah? Share your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!

Β yeah

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39 thoughts on “Should Books Have Trigger Warnings?

  1. Alex @ WhimsyPages says:

    Interesting! I think some books with more sensitive matters should have some sort of warning. For example, not long ago I request (what seemed like a YA fantasy) a book from a web-site to participate in blog tour.

    The cover was great, the blurb was interesting, it had magic school and all sort of creatures! I was very excited about it… and somewhere close to the middle of the book I found out that “it was okay to have 2 soulmates, it was okay to share someone you love with a third person and you should deal with it” – and that’s it. I honestly tried to give it a go, especially considering that I personally requested it and signed up for the tour. I felt incredibly bad but I couldn’t get myself to finish the book..

    Maybe for some people it didn’t matter much, but this subject is particularly sensitive AND we are talking about YA book, a book for young and easily impressed teenagers. Some warning would have saved me quite a lot of time.

    Phew, that was a long comment πŸ˜€ Long story short, I vote for selective warnings! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate says:

      That too is interesting. So, the book was pushing for a polyamorous relationship?

      That’s understandable. To be completely honest with you, I couldn’t have continued reading either. Or, rather, I wouldn’t. I think I would have liked to have been warned also.

      You’re completely right in this case. I think that, yes, being a YA book, it should have included some sort of warning. If it were my non-existent kids reading this book, I’d be rather upset that they didn’t know going into it that it were a book which included such a relationship, or that they had the possibility of being impressed on.

      That’s no problem! It was quite interesting. Thanks for reading & commenting in the first place!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Diana Prince Reviews says:

    I personally think books, especially young adult books, could benefit from being rated like video games – E for everyone, T for teen, and M for mature content. There are some themes for “teen” readers that might be less appropriate for younger readers, such as sex or self-harm, to name two common themes. Mature content may be graphic depictions of violence, like rape or murder. It would take a committee of publishers and writers to figure out the details, but I think it’s possible and something to consider.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate says:

      I actually really like that idea. It doesn’t explicitly say what the topic is- that could sometimes even ruin the book if this information was withheld in the synopsis- but it gives the idea that something is there. And, if they were unsure, they could look it up and find what kind of topic it may have. It wouldn’t give away exactly what’s inside the book but the person would get a heads-up that it’s something from the list. That’s a really good idea and I think it’s actually something achievable.

      Thanks for commenting and sharing this idea!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Leyanis M says:

    I think it should have a warning when it involves heavy stuff such as rape, extreme violence, mutilation and stuff like that. For example last year I got this book at Netgalley and it involved a heavy dose of rape and rape talk, also derogatory names against women, native americans, etc. It was such a terrible thing to discover half way through the books these things [especially how rape was handle and how easy it was for people to just dismissed it]. I think it definitively should have warnings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate says:

      That would have been quite horrible. I could take my argument above and ask if you would rather it stopped you from reading the book at all but it seems the topic was handled badly. I’m assuming that yes, you would have rather not read the book. But, what do you think of Diana’s idea above? Having ratings like video games? You don’t know exactly what’s inside the book but you know it’s been rated that way for a reason.

      Like

      • Leyanis M says:

        Yes, I would have rather not read the awful things mentioned in this book 😦 I think Diana’s idea is good! Like everything in TV, movies and games, I think books should definitively be rated or at least something like “This book contains themes not appropriate for some people”, I don’t know, just something, because seriously discovering that halfway through a book is just not fair for a reader… 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Jazz says:

    I’ve never really considered this before, to be honest. Like you said, it’s tricky when different people get triggered by different things. I mean, I’ve had incidents where a character has said something, nothing more than a short statement perhaps, and it’s reminded me of a horrible time in my life. It wasn’t necessarily an extreme or distasteful thing they said, just something that conjured memories. This wouldn’t have the same effect on another reader so obviously a publisher can’t place a trigger warning on it.

    I think books with extreme themes – like domestic abuse, rape etc – should perhaps come with trigger warnings. I do see the odd book which warns potential readers of its ‘dark themes’ so I guess that’s a form of trigger warning?

    Interesting question, though πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate says:

      Same as me Jazz! Publishers can’t possibly know. But, then- and I’m just typing my thought process- does that make our triggers out to be smaller, less worthy of a warning, let’s say? I don’t mean for this to be taken as an “I have problems too! My problems matter just as much!” situation but I (using myself as an example) could be triggered by something less “extreme” but it could have a worse effect on me. For example, the “absentee parents” trope. It’s extremely prevalent in books, especially YA novels and, most of the time, it’s dealt with in a way that it shouldn’t be triggering. But, it used to be a trigger of mine. It’s not an extremely “heavy” topic yet I was triggered.
      Now, look at drug abuse. For a lot of people this would be considered a “heavy” or “extreme” topic and can be triggering for many. And, say a past drug abuser: while it was a hard time in their life, they could not be triggered. But, it’s still considered an “extreme” topic. While my trigger is seen as less “extreme”, reading about absentee parents had a worse effect on me than this ex-drug abuser reading about drug abuse. What I’m trying to get around to asking is does it diminish the value of our triggers because they’re smaller and less common? [In saying that, (if only italics could be used in comments) I’m not trying to diminish the value of these more “extreme” triggers, just simply posing a question out of interest.]

      I guess it could be considered so. I have see -and do read- books that have come with this sort of “warning”.

      Thanks for commenting! Sorry for the extremely long paragraphs.

      Like

  5. Azia says:

    This is a very interesting argument! I know that many topics can be triggering, such as rape, murder, infidelity, self-harm, drugs, and the like. I think books that focus on those serious topics should definitely come with a rating or warning, or at least be mentioned in the synopsis, if possible. But the other triggers that don’t seem as obvious may be hard to catch or warn against. So, I think trigger warnings for some books makes sense, but not every book can have a trigger warning because not all triggers can possibly be known. So, selective warnings may be a good idea! I think I’d really appreciate a book that warns about the mature content that is included in the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate says:

      Thanks for commenting!

      What do you think of Diana’s idea about? (Seen as you mentioned ratings on books.)
      Would you not feel pretty annoyed if there was a trigger warning in the synopsis in the book and it spoiled the story? (Just thinking aloud.)

      Like

  6. Hemangini says:

    Recently I read a book and felt like oh God why didn’t someone warn me about this? :/ I totally agree books should come with trigger warnings. Most of the times I don’t read some books after I feel like putting it off once. Sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hemangini says:

        Well the book was named The THC under a gibbous moon by Manoj V Jain and it had 3 characters out of which 2 had too many sex troubles and so what was supposed to be a spiritual journey through a healing center turned out to be a story where two characters constantly end up being about sex and nothing else. Like their life had no other emotions in it except what was connected by sex.

        Thankfully, yes there are other good books to fall in love with. πŸ™‚ Have a wonderful night. See you.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. wordsandotherbeasts says:

    Great post! I do agree that there are difficulties when it comes to classifying trigger warnings as everyone is different and so people can be triggered by a number of different things, like you pointed out. However, I think there should be trigger warnings for things like rape, domestic violence, suicide etc because those are quite extreme events and can obviously be upsetting for some.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate says:

      Thank you!
      What do you think of Diana’s idea above? (I’m asking everyone now because I’d like to know.) She suggested ratings as a good idea. You wouldn’t know exactly what was in the book that may be triggering but you’d know there was something. Is that enough? It wouldn’t spoil anything like putting a trigger warning in the synopsis or at the beginning of the book would.

      Liked by 1 person

      • wordsandotherbeasts says:

        I actually think it’s a great idea! Like you said, saying a book contains something specific like suicide would actually be quite a big spoiler. So ratings would definitely make it easier, like 12, 15 or 18 like films are rated in the UK. That would definitely be helpful for YA. Whilst it may not warn people of specific triggering events, they at least know that the book they’re reading may contain quite sensitive material.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews says:

    Brilliant post! I think books should potentially come with trigger warnings for major things like: rape, violence, suicide, eating disorders ect. however it is a lot harder for smaller events because anything can potentially be triggering for someone. I think it’s important to mention triggering things when you’re reviewing a book too. Even then there’s still going to be things we miss because we can’t possibly know what triggers everyone unless we’re specifically told. I think the main thing is to just be respectful towards what other people find triggering no matter it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate says:

      Thanks!!
      But then there’s the argument that other things are “major” triggers, depending on the person.
      I think trigger warnings in reviews are a good idea. Vague trigger warnings, unless it’s a spoiler review and the person knows, going into it, they’re going to be spoiled. It may be unfair to point out something that may be a major surprise theme of the book and ruin the book for readers.

      I agree! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lauren.

      Like

  9. Kendra says:

    I liked how The Paperback Princess mentioned: reader discretion is advised. I think this would be helpful because it covers a variety of stuff.

    Personally, I love the dark stuff. I am more likely to PICK UP the book if it deals with the heavy content. There really isn’t much that bothers me.

    I remember the controversy about CoHo’s It Ends With Us. Some were outraged because it didn’t have a trigger warning (if I remember right). But if CoHo would have added the trigger warning, it would have basically divulged the whole entire book, like as in spoiler-y type stuff. The whole point of the book was essentially about one big trigger warning. The book would not have had such an impact if there was a warning. And those are some of the best books out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate says:

      (Sorry for how long I took to reply.) I like dark books too!

      I definitely agree. It Ends with Us never would have had the impact it did! It was such a shock reading it and that’s really what was the appeal. I don’t think it would have gotten anywhere near what I rated it had it not been for the shock value of that plot point.

      Like

  10. annelogan17 says:

    This is such a great post! I just read a book with a trigger warning for the first time (The Break by Katherena Vermette) and I was surprised to see the warning, I had never encountered one before! I’m sure we will be seeing more of these though…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. sophiethestark says:

    I do think maybe some triggers (such as rape, substance abuse, etc.) might be important to have. But at the same time, aren’t we excluding some people then? Aren’t we saying *their* situations are less deserving of attention? Maybe it sends the wrong message.

    To go through a setback is a terrible thing, especially if it was caused by something you are supposed to enjoy. You shouldn’t have to be worried about it upsetting you. But such is life. You will be upset by a lot of things, a lot of the time. So maybe learning to cope with it rather than avoiding is the key? That way you’ll always be protected. Easier said than done, of course, but we can’t expect publishers or writers to always have that kind of sensitivity. Usually, they simply don’t.

    Needless to say, gratuitous situations written solely for shock value are disgusting and should be abolished. But if it’s something that does indeed bring something to the table, then by all means address it respectfully and mindfully and make it a masterpiece.

    Great post πŸ™‚

    Like

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