Discussion: The importance of trigger warnings

Discussion

I wanted to discuss the idea of trigger warnings after my latest book review. I reviewed the book It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover. You can see the review here for reference. The Goodreads synopsis for this book has a very basic warning about the content which reads “This book contains graphic scenes and very sensitive subject matter”. However, my paperback version of the book has no content or trigger warnings what so ever.

I mention in my review that I had no clue what to expect going into the book and based on the blurb I had assumed the book would be a love triangle. Was there romance? Yes, but just as the Goodreads synopsis suggests the book mainly revolved around much heavier subject matter of domestic abuse and homelessness. Neither of which are directly mentioned in any way in the blurb. And this is essentially what has prompted this discussion for me. As even I a person who fortunately has no personal experience with either issue was left emotionally raw at the end of the book. Which lead me to contemplate how much worse I would feel and what I would need to try to deal with if I had experienced either of those things in my past.

These thoughts were further pushed on when a reader Jillian (who I am unable to link to at this time) commented on my review. She mentioned that Hoover has actually received backlash multiple times over the years for not putting trigger warnings on many of her books. This was not something I was aware of and it shocked me. It makes me wonder how many other books and authors have had similar issues. Why is this something that is allowed to happen? Especially on matters that could severely emotionally hurt someone, or event mentally hurt a person. Is it a fear of ruining the experience of the story for others? As in, is it treated by some as a spoiler if there is a warning for certain content?

Which leads me to ask, in which case is a blanket warning like the one Goodreads has used enough or a happy medium? As this essentially warns people of potentially difficult subject matter without spoiling anything in my opinion. It gives people with triggers an opportunity to think twice and even look up what the difficult or sensitive subject matter could be, in order to make and educated decision on whether or not to read the novel in question. I think this should be something to be considered for all books that deal with triggering issues. However, some people may not think that this is enough. Should we have more specific warnings? And if so where do we draw the line?

I think this is a matter that really needs to be considered by authors, the publishing industry and readers alike. I mean things that are aired on TV and in the movies are required to firstly give a maturity rating. Which essentially books also do by placing the reads into children’s, MG, YA, NA and Adult. But TV and films also need to mention what makes the content possibly troubling e.g. coarse language, violence, sex scenes and drug use. Which lets the viewer decide if they are comfortable watching something that may involve these things. This clearly is something that books are not required to have. Although I do know that some do. The back of some of Sarah J. Maas books for example include a warning about content that is of a sexual nature. So, it is clearly possible to give some kind of a warning for those that may need it. So why isn’t this required? This is potentially an issue that will have many varying opinions and may be multi-faceted, but I personally believe that it is something that needs to be discussed and looked into further. Let's Chat!What are your opinions on trigger warnings? Do you think at the least books should be required to have content warnings like TV and movies? Is a blanket statement about heavy content enough? Or do the warnings need to be more specific? Discuss with me below! 

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15 thoughts on “Discussion: The importance of trigger warnings

  1. There’s a publisher I read randomly (I want to say Chicken House) that has a but of a key on the books as to what it includes. I think that’s the best way to do it as Goodreads may be popular but I think its far more likely for people to pick up a book at random. Also I think it’s better all around for each reader has a better understanding of what they can handle.

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    • Yea I don’t think just warnings on goodreads is good enough I was simply praising them for putting something there. It is very likely for people to pick up books at random! There is a publisher called hot key books or something along those lines and they have a small key on the back of each book stating the three or four main themes. I really like these not just for trigger warnings but to get a bet idea if it’s the type of book I like 😊

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  2. I think you bring up a great point with regards to this book- since the blurb I read didn’t imply/mention domestic abuse- I was really thrown for a loop in that regard. Personally, that’s why I would have preferred to know about it, because I don’t read this topic as a general rule. But, that said, I’d have been happy with just a heads up, with regard to the more general warning (or even a hint on the blurb like I said) cos back when I read it, that wasn’t on there. I have a lot of different opinions about this topic- because a lot of it isn’t totally helpful with regard to some of the PTSD literature (particularly that of Dr Metin Basoglu and Prof Richard J. McNally that argue trigger warnings are harmful for PTSD survivors since they encourage avoidance). I also think that some warnings can be vague, unhelpful and just the opinion of the reviewer. That said, a lot of readers just want to be informed about some of the content they’re picking up, and I don’t think there’s a problem with that. I saw somewhere that some books are starting to put these kind of warnings on the copyrights page- and I think that could be a happy medium both for the people that want it (and will look for it) and people who don’t want to be spoiled. Anyway, sorry if my thoughts have been long and all over the place- just think it’s an interesting topic!

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  3. I absolutely agree that triggers need to be mentioned. Although I have to say, the author usually doesn’t have a lot of say what goes on a book’s cover, and it’s usually someone else who writes the blurb. But publishing does need to realize the importance of trigger warnings in general. It needs to become at least a label system, like they have for movies.

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    • Yes I understand that authors most of the time have little to do with blurbs and covers so I think it’s a thing the publishing and book industry as a whole needs to look more into. I think a label system or even a key would be great some publishers such as hotkey books already put small keys on back covers listing main themes 😊 thank you fo discussing!

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  5. Completely agree. A few books have trigger warnings, such as Girls of Paper and Fire but it’s certainly not the standard and it should be. It’s not to police the books, it’s to give the reader a fair warning that the book may contain content that could affect their mental health. Great post.

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