Trigger Warnings in Books?


If you’ve ever been on Tumblr, you probably know what a trigger warning is.

For those who don’t, a trigger warning is usually used for something controversial or might “trigger” someone who’s had a bad experience with the topic. Examples might include TW: rape or TW: eating disorders.

There are two sides to this debate, in general.

Side one:

Side two:

I’m not going to get into those arguments because…it never ends well.

I’m not willing to go there. I’ve read enough arguments on the Australian Nerdfighters group and it’s ridiculous. There are points for each side and I don’t want to get into my opinion. This is a pretty sensitive issue after all.

But after seeing a warning on the back of Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant, it made me think.

The warning was about the gory, violent nature of the book or something (which, fair enough because GOODNESS it was violent).

So I started wondering if there should be trigger warnings on these kinds of books.

Like Ellen Hopkins’ books, for instance.

perfect tricks crank

Or Laurie Halse Anderson’s books:

wintergirls speak

Both of these authors consistently write about very dark themes.

It often involves suicide, eating disorders, self-harm or mental illness. These issues can be triggering for some people, and I know from experience that some topics are really, really difficult to read about.

Let’s be honest: book blurbs aren’t always the best at conveying what the book’s actually about.

Recently some people have been shocked by A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell – its blurb was pretty vague and so people got…blind-sided, I guess. That’s not the fault of the author, or the book – it just makes me wonder if these warnings should be present on books with darker themes/issues.

It wouldn’t be difficult to do, either.

Just a sentence about CAUTION: contains themes of suicide/eating disorders, or whatever it is.

I don’t know.

I don’t actually know if there’s a need for this, because I haven’t seen much of it around.

But I’m just wondering what your thoughts are.

So tell me: what do you think about the idea of trigger warnings in books?

3 Comments

  1. I’ve never actually thought of this before… Now that I do though, I think that adding a little “warning” sentence will probably take only 10 seconds. And if you don’t need a warning, you just don’t pay attention to it. And at the same time it might help others. So why not?

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  2. Interesting idea; didn’t know it had a name. Thank you.

    In my first novel, I put “WARNING: This novel contains some obligatory gratuitous erotic content …” right after the preface. And in my second one, I put the erotic scene online and only put a link in the book itself. So readers have to make a conscious choice to read that part. Maybe I’ll put that on the back cover next time I have something that needs some warning.

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  3. I have actually wondered this before. For personal reasons, I appreciate trigger warnings – they allow me to avoid reliving nasty nightmares of things that have happened to me in the past. It’s really just a courtesy thing. You’re right though, blurbs don’t always convey what the story is really about and just a basic trigger warning on the back of the book (in my mind I think along the lines of movie classifications warning of certain themes) would be good!

    xx

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