Tuesday 18 April 2017

Discussion Post: Trigger Warnings

Trigger warnings seem to be an incredibly controversial point at the moment. A well known YA author took to twitter to criticise them and bemoan the fragility of those who ask for them. This isn't an attempt at arguing with him - I feel like that would be pretty futile anyway as he seems very sure of his viewpoint. But I seem to have a lot of thoughts on Trigger Warnings so I thought I'd make this post - whether I'll ever be brave enough to post it is a whole other issue.

Firstly, and speaking personally, trigger warnings are hugely important to me. I have triggers. I don't hugely want to go into what they are because that's almost a discussion for a whole other time. But they're serious and getting triggered can have hugely negative affects on me. Recently I was triggered by a book at a time when I was already going through a rough spot and it sent me into a bad spiral which affected my personal life (I also vanished from blogging and reading for a few days because I couldn't handle it). In this instance a simple trigger warning in the blurb of the book could have prevented all of that. Time and time again I rely on trigger warnings to advise me on a book, whether it's going to be shaky but I can handle it or if its too much for me or if it's perfectly OK - I need them and a lot of other people do too.

On a practical note think of allergen warnings in detergent or in foods. Nobody has ever argued that a chocolate bar should definitely not have allergen warnings because it might spoil the surprise of eating the bar. Of course not. Because not having the warning would cause harm to a lot of people. Now I understand that a book and food are very different things. But why shouldn't the same rules apply? I haven't got any food allergies so I never check the allergy section of food. My Mum is allergic to gluten so she does check. If you have trigger warnings you can check the blurb for them, if you don't they are very easily ignored. 

A refusal to include trigger warnings, to me, seems at best neglectful and careless and at worst downright cruel. To state that people with triggers, people like myself, don't deserve to be protected from any harm that might come to us through them is heartbreaking. It's a statement that our problems, our anxiety or depression or trauma is just not important. And that... kinda hurts.

I don't think I'm fragile. I've had chronic depression and anxiety for over eight years, the fact that I even survived some of what I've experienced is kind of a shock to me. And whilst when I was first diagnosed I thought I was so weak and pathetic - I'm not. I've survived. And if I have any say in the matter I will keep on surviving. So I'm not being weak or needy or easily offended when I say that I need that warning, I need that help because without it my mental health is even more at risk. I will always include trigger warnings in my reviews because I think it's an important part of any decision when choosing to buy a book and I definitely wouldn't want to recommend a book without including trigger warnings and wind up causing harm to someone who reads it on my recommendation. I will however be more clearly signposting them in reviews by including a clearly marked section of the review for people to check.

I'd love to know what you think of trigger warnings! Do you think there's a way they can be implemented without accidentally spoiling people? Do you include trigger warnings in your review? (And if you disagree with me completely feel free to say so - this is a discussion!)

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare), Facebook and Instagram to keep up with what we are reading.


  1. I think they're important. To be honest I think a lot of critics just think everyone has gotten too sensitive. But maybe that's because the critics haven't experienced what it's LIKE to be triggered or to have an experience that can be brought back to the forefront? So I have no problem with it. In fact I think blogging and connecting with the community has educated me on this and made me realize HOW important they are.

    As society gets with the program and representation increases, I think it's great that people can go into a book knowing if there's something there that will affect them. Absolutely.

  2. As a survivor of child abuse, totally agree. Triggers can open the doors of hell. Critics who think we are too precious obviously haven't survived hell or if they did, didn't survive with humanity or compassion intact.

  3. I'm so happy you wrote about this, Clare, because I think this piece conveys perfectly why trigger warnings are essential to many people. I'm genuinely baffled by people not wanting to have trigger warning, because you can just skip them if you don't want to be 'spoiled'!? Though, tbh, if, say, attempted rape or self-harm is a plot-twist in a novel and can be considered a spoiler... yikes. Seems like the author really doesn't have much creativity. *shrugs*

    Wonderful post!!

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

  4. I think it's great that you spoke about this. I don't necessarily think posting a trigger warning is spoiling a book. I've mentioned it sometimes in reviews and don't feel like I've given too much away. I would never intentionally ruin a book for someone, whether I mentioned it had triggers or not. I HATE animal abuse in books. I've went as far as to ask reviewers if books contain it. It doesn't spoil a book for me because I usually end up not reading them. I don't consider it a slam on the author. Plenty of people will read their book if it's good. Glad you posted this and great discussion!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing, I think this is a great post. I don't have anything against trigger warnings, and also think a well written blurb or synopsis should be able to get across what actually happens in a book. I think reviewers have a responsibility to be honest about problems within in a book, which includes things that may cause harm to someone else who reads it. Does this mean every review has to say explicitly "TRIGGER WARNING"? I don't know if I'd go as far as to tell someone how to include the information in their review, just as long as it's there.

    And furthermore, I think if whether or not a book works hinges completely on some super-secret possibly-triggering plot device, then the book itself probably needs some work and likely should be avoided for a slew of reasons.

    Thanks again for talking about this.