Why I Don’t Really Mind Book Spoilers (And Can’t Avoid Them Anyway)

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What I Consider a Spoiler (And What I Don’t)

Readers have wildly different opinions on what constitutes spoilers.  Some people want to know literally nothing about a book before they go it–they might even avoid reading the jacket copy!–while others basically just don’t want to know how everything ends.  Personally, I have a middle ground for spoilers. I usually don’t want people to reveal major plot points, but I don’t really mind hearing about details.  In trying to be sensitive to other readers, however, I do attempt to mark spoilers on the blog.  But what does that really mean? Here’s a breakdown:

I’ll Mark It As a Spoiler

  • Anything the author clearly thinks is surprising. I might have predicted it from page one, but if the author meant it to be a plot twist, I won’t mention it without a spoiler warning.
  • Large plot events. I’ll mention random details that occur even very late in the book, but if it’s particularly relevant to the plot and not mentioned in the jacket copy, it’s probably a spoiler.
  • The ending. We all know that middle grade and even YA almost always have happy endings. Conclusions are not hard to predict. However, most people find book endings sacred, and I respect that.

I Won’t Mark It As a Spoiler

  • Any “surprise” that’s revealed within the first 20 pages of the book.  Ok, it may not be info that made it into the jacket copy, but if it’s told to the reader in the first chapter, that seems pretty much like background information to me.
  • Something so, so obvious it’s not worth pretending it’s surprising. I’ve only done this in a handful of reviews because I know this is completely subjective, but I have mentioned plot details that are so glaringly obvious literally anyone could have seen them coming from chapter 1.

It May Not Be Possible to Write a Truly Spoiler-Free Review

However, for those who like to go into books completely, 100% blind, I’m not sure there can be something that’s a truly spoiler-free review.  If I want to have a completely surprising experience  while reading a book, I try to avoid reading anything about the book at all for some of the following reasons:

Thoughtful Reviews Are Often SPECIFIC

We all know from writing lessons in school that one of the cardinal rules of convincing writing is to back up your claims with evidence; the same rule applies to reviews.  I like reviews that are thoughtful and in-depth, but this usually means the reviewer has to tell me something specific about the book.  If they didn’t love the main character, they need to say why.  If they thought the pacing was off, they need to say when.  If they thought the book was the greatest thing they’ve ever read, they still need to give me reasons.  Without details, the review falls flat–and it also begins to sound generic.  You can only write so many reviews when you flail about how great the main character is (without telling the reader specifically why he or she is so great) before all your reviews will start looking the same.

Even Generic Statements Can Be Spoilers

Sometimes people think they’re writing safe, spoiler free reviews, but to the careful reader, anything can be a tip off.  Sometimes people write statements as generic as “I didn’t like the ending” or “I thought the conclusion was brave” and I immediately will translate this sentence into something like “The main character dies.”  I’ve rarely been wrong.  The same is true for books that rely heavily on plot twists to be entertaining. Sometimes all it takes it mentioning that a major plot twist exists to spoil the book for another reader.

There Are Unspoken Time Limits on SPOILERS

I firmly believe that avoiding spoiling newly released (especially highly anticipated) books for other readers is important; however, if you don’t read the book fairly soon after release, expecting others to never talk about the book in your presence becomes more difficult.  It’s still good manners for people to avoid mentioning major plot twists or other large spoilers, but leaks are bound to happen.  And for books that have become ingrained in popular culture (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight), trying to avoid hearing/reading spoilers is essentially like trying to avoid learning the ending of Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet–impossible.  (As a child, I learned that Romeo and Juliet die before I even knew who Shakespeare was!)

I Don’t Really Mind Spoilers

Ultimately, however, I’m not big on avoiding spoilers. I try to avoid them for very big books I’m really looking forward to, and which I intend to read nearly immediately after release.  Yet my philosophy has always been that a good book is still good even if you know the plot.  If the primary thing a book has going for it is that the plot is suspenseful or surprising, that book is not going to stand up well to a reread.  The best books reveal new things, layers of nuance and subtlety, on subsequent reads, and don’t put all their value in the plot.  If Shakespeare can literally open Romeo and Juliet with a plot summary and still get readers invested in the story, he’s doing something right.

What’s your stance on spoilers? Do you avoid them or go looking for trouble? What do you think a spoiler is?

Briana

42 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Really Mind Book Spoilers (And Can’t Avoid Them Anyway)

  1. mrenee says:

    Great post!

    I love spoilers and will seek them out so I am really guilty of putting them in a lot of my reviews. I always state at the top that there will be spoilers but I’m not convinced everyone reads that part lol. I’ve been trying really hard to right spoiler-free/light reviews recently but sometimes I get so exciting by something that happens that I can’t control myself haha.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Haha! I don’t purposely go looking for them (except in rare instances), but they don’t generally bother me as long as it’s not some major reveal about the end of the story.

      I also have trouble sometimes keeping them out of my review because sometimes that’s the part of the book that seems really interesting and worth discussing! I always mark them though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. TeacherofYA says:

    I try to keep my reviews spoiler-free. I give just enough info to show that I followed what was happening, so someone gets more info than, “this book was really great. Love the ending!” I hate those kind of reviews. Don’t even review a book if you’re planning on writing shit like that. I’ll introduce the main character and what starts to happen, but leave questions as to what might happen next. It’s hard because sometimes I just want to say, “so and so is so stupid when she blow up x,” but I can’t. I just don’t want to ruin it. Many people after reading the latest Harry Potter gave away a TON of spoilers, but I was expecting it. With a book that hyped, it almost is hard not to spoil it.
    Honestly, people read reviews because they want a bit of synopsis that is more than the blurb, and they want to know what you think of certain parts of the character and plot. Those are necessary evils. True spoilers involve people saying, “omg, I can’t believe he dies!” Or something like that. Then I get mad there wasn’t at least a warning telling me that a major spoiler was coming…you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Yes! I don’t love really vague reviews either. I’d rather find out some small details about the book than have the review be so generic it’s not really informative. As long as the blogger doesn’t reveal really big things, I’m ok with it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • TeacherofYA says:

        Me too! I hate it when there’s like, a paragraph saying, “I hated Bob but Sally was an interesting character.” What is that going to mean to me?? I don’t know Bob or Sally…you know?
        There’s a girl on Goodreads that is a major blogger, and she is guilty of writing reviews like that. I don’t know how she gets approved for the big titles with little skimpy blurbs that aren’t helpful to those of us who haven’t read the book. It’s exasperating!

        Like

        • Briana says:

          I think that of a couple big bloggers I carefully do not name. I understand they have the follower list to get titles a lot of “exposure,” but their reviews are so..unhelpful to me. :S But since I do NOT have thousands of followers, maybe I cannot judge them. :p

          Liked by 1 person

          • TeacherofYA says:

            Ehh, who cares if you have thousands of followers when your reviews are empty? I’d be happy with the ppl I have because all of us write our reviews with substance!
            They may get galleys, but eventually people will see the reviews for what they are…an excuse to get free books and ARCs. 😜

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Jamie Wu says:

    I don’t look for spoilers, but I won’t go on a rampage if I accidentally read them. Though I prefer not to know about them. I think you’re right about books being good even if you know the plot. The plot is only one part of a story. Journey before destination.
    I try my best to keep my reviews spoiler free, but the definition of spoilers differ from people to people. Some people might consider that “this book has a plot twist!” and “OMG that ending!” as spoilers since it preps them for what’s ahead. Personally, unless it’s “this guy dies” or “this specific twist happens” I’m fine with spoilers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Briana says:

      Exactly! It’s so hard when people actually have very different definitions of spoilers. I try to mark the things that I believe a majority of people would consider a spoiler, but you just never know!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bianca @ The Ultimate Fangirl says:

    I have been enlightened by your post! For a reader like me who just picks up a book blindly most of the time, I can get in quite a fit when it comes to spoilers. What irks me is when others mark their reviews as “spoiler-free” when they blatantly point out key moments in the book that are important for other people to not know before they read the book. But, in some aspects, I do not mind spoilers because it drives me to know what happened in the book that led to that certain “spoiled” event.

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    • Briana says:

      Yikes! I label very few things “spoiler-free,” and I’m really careful about it when I do! Especially since people do have different standards for spoilers. Maybe I don’t consider it a spoiler, but you do.

      I do think, though, a good book should still be good even if I know how it turns out. As you mention, the journey should be interesting, too, not just the big “surprise.”

      Like

  5. Ali (@thebandarblog) says:

    I hear you about spoiler-free reviews. I try to write them as spoiler-free as possible and they can be SO VAGUE sometimes. It’s hard! But yes, no matter what you do, you’re going to be spoiling something for the reader if they choose a read a review. I don’t love spoilers – I wish I could be more like you and be sort of neutral about them!

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Sometimes the spoilery things are the things I really want to talk about! So sometimes I do just give up and go for it, but I obviously mark the review as containing spoilers. :p

      Like

  6. Emily | RoseRead says:

    What a wonderful post! I absolutely agree! I always warn when there is something I consider a major spoiler in my reviews, but most of the time I have to include mild spoilers or else I won’t have anything to say in the review!! Love this post, very thorough!

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Yes! I do try to sensitive to things that are big spoilers or that I think most readers would consider a spoiler. But since some people think basically anything is a spoiler, I can’t mark everything that might irk someone. I wouldn’t have anything left to say about the book!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. SERIESous Book Reviews says:

    I detest spoilers! I’m one of those people who will probably stop reading a book if I find out a major plot point because I’ll get bored.

    I try not to write reviews with spoilers, but like you said it’s hard not to! If I really have to have a rant, I’ll disclose it before and then hide the text just in case someone doesn’t want to see them.

    I find it interesting you brought up a time limit. I feel like with books, there isn’t a time limit. You should keep spoilers to yourself. People read things at all different speeds and at times. But it gets so hard with social media. Especially with TV shows! I have a firm 48 hour policy when it comes to TV shows because people don’t always watch the episode right when it airs thanks to PVRs.

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    • Briana says:

      I think the time limit thing is hard and really subjective, but it feels like there’s one. For a mid-list title many people don’t know about, I’d say that there’s an indefinite period where people aren’t going to spoil it. But when it comes to HUGE books or shows that get ingrained in the culture, there’s no way you’re going to avoid spoilers if you wait 7 years after the release of the book to get around to reading it. Everyone knows who dies in HP. Every knows what ships are canon. It’s just hard to avoid knowing this, and I think kind of ridiculous to expect someone not to say something like “Oh, I really love Hermione and Ron as a couple” in public. If you really, really don’t want to know spoilers about something like HP, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, etc. you kind of need to read/watch it soonish after release. When it becomes a common topic of conversation, people are going to spoil it for you if it’s been out a few months or more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SERIESous Book Reviews says:

        That’s definitely fair!

        One thing about books I find is that it is easier to avoid spoilers if you are very careful about. You don’t click on the blog article or you don’t read reviews. Not totally foolproof but its doable. With TV shows I think it’s harder because you get images popping up on news feeds for social media, buzzfeed etc.

        I suppose my problem lies in how the spoilers are told. If it’s simply a conversation in person or a forum, I can remove myself from it. My biggest peeve about Twitter is the release of spoilers. Because of the word count, people rarely post “spoiler alert” and so you end up seeing something you rather wouldn’t. Especially if its for a book that you don’t have access to yet in your country and it’s completely out of your hands.

        It’s a very subjective thing for sure but sometimes I wish people would just be a little more conscientious of it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Keionda Hearts Books says:

    I know what you mean! Sometimes, it IS hard to avoid spoilers but this don’t really bother me AS LONG AS they don’t take into detail about the the plot twists or the ending. They can say generic phrases like “I didn’t care for the ending,” but IDK, Sometimes it just depends… You know?

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Yes, it definitely depends on the book! Like, if I’m reading a middle grade book about someone whose sister has cancer and someone writes “I wasn’t a fan of the ending,” that kind of screams “The sister died!!!” So I guess context is important when you’re considering whether you’re actually being as vague as you think you are.

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  9. kimmiegg says:

    Although I try my very best to keep my posts and reviews spoiler free, I feel like I always divulge something that could be a spoiler, and I find myself deleting sentences during my read through to get rid of potential spoilers. Although I make it a point to never EVER state the ending, it really is hard to keep all the surprises from the next potential reader. If I love a book though, I keep it as vague, but intriguing as possible.

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  10. La La in the Library says:

    When I do reviews of sequels on my blog I always put a spoiler alert for the previoius books on them now, even though I don’t do spoilery reviews, because someone trounced me for spoiling them for the first book by mentioning a character’s location in my review of the second book (something that happened at the end of the first book). I could not understand why they were reading a review of a sequel if they had not read the first book. The people who scream bloody murder when you mention anything about Harry Potter gets me, too.

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    • Briana says:

      Wow. Yeah, I’m going to hold them accountable for reading a review of a sequel. Of course there’s the potential for spoilers from the first book! That’s definitely not something it would have occurred to me I would have to state.

      Yes, some things are just so much ingrained into culture that you can’t avoid them. Spoiling Harry Potter #6 a week after its release is obnoxious. Talking about the book now is fine. I think anyone who really wanted to avoid spoilers for something that popular should have read the book fairly quickly because they obviously knew how likely it was they would see spoilers. As I said, at this point it’s like complaining you know the end of Hamlet. Is it kind of annoying if you want everything to be a surprise? Sure. But literature that becomes part of culture will inevitably be spoiled. Realistically. you just have to learn to work around it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sierra @ Quest Reviews says:

    Great post! As a child I was the terrible person who spoiled the book for others because I was so impatient with how slowly they would read (since I wouldn’t have anybody to discuss the latest book with). I have learned since then :P. I don’t mind spoilers if they are for books I don’t plan on reading. I do usually enjoy going into a book ‘blind’ but that isn’t easy these days so it’s not an expectation of mine. Unless it’s a thriller, I don’t find spoilers to be much of a problem.

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  12. stephaniesbookreviews says:

    Great post. I feel pretty similar to you in what I consider spoilers. I usually try to avoid giving any major spoilers in reviews, but not always – especially if I review a series ender. I find it almost impossible to really discuss how I feel about a series finale without revealing what happened – I always give spoiler warnings, though.

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  13. Geraldine @ Corralling Books says:

    Wonderful post, Briana! I know that it’s so difficult to write reviews for me sometimes, because I try to keep my blog spoiler free – but at the same time, you need the evidence!
    I don’t mind getting spoiled, but I know others do mind, so it’s just a really fine line to walk, I think! :/

    Like

  14. Greg says:

    I agree with all of this, I’m sort of middle ground too when it comes to writing reviews. I figure if it’s in the blurb or jacket copy it’s probably fair game, as I assume most people read those. But yeah major plot points or stuff like that are different. As for myself, I don’t really mind spoilers, and certainly don’t get all up in arms if something slips out. And when it comes to movies (even though I know this is a book post) I sometimes seek out spoilers, like with the Star Wars movies for example.

    I especially agree with your thoughts on thoughtful reviews. You’re right, you do have to say SOMETHING to back up your thoughts, and one person’s spoiler is not necessarily someone else’s. It can be tough.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Sometimes I wonder if my indifference is because I don’t get *really* into the hype for most books. I know that when Harry Potter was being released, I did not want to know anything about the new books before I read them. But that’s probably the only series where I really cared. I haven’t been similarly invested in anything before or since. Even when new Tolkien stuff is released, I’m not worried about spoilers, though, and he’s my favorite author! (But, then, I don’t think surprising plots are why I’m interested in Tolkien, either.)

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      • Greg says:

        That’s a great point. If someone is really into the hype I could see maybe where it might be more problematic. For me even if I’m pretty excited for a book I won’t die if something gets out, I mean I’d prefer not to have the major stuff leaked but even if it is I’ll still enjoy the book if it’s my kind of book.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Briana says:

          Exactly. The more I’m thinking about it, the more I’m realizing that maybe surprise isn’t really an emotion I value in general when it comes to reading. Surprise is such a passing thing. I don’t love books because they “kept me guessing” or because the plot twist just came out of nowhere. Surprises are momentarily entertaining, but I don’t know that they’re memorable or what make me really relate to or value a book.

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          • Krysta says:

            If a book is only relying on surprise to keep readers interested, it’s not a book I’d reread. And, for me, re-readability is one of the things that really make a story worthwhile. I like seeing something new in a book each time I open it, finding new interpretations, thinking about the story more deeply. If I can’t do that, if all I can say is, “Wow, I never saw that coming,” why should I buy the book and put it on my shelf? I have no reason to return to it now that I do see that plot point coming.

            Like

  15. Christina says:

    I go spoiler hunting for books and TV shows. For me, I like to know what happens so I can avoid certain subjects and things I don’t want to read about.

    Like

  16. Puput @ Sparkling Letters says:

    Oooh I love this post! I’ve actually had this similar post on my draft for a while but haven’t been able to finish it :’) I agree with you on most of this! I think it’s almost impossible to write a complete, spoiler free review, but reviewer should really be careful when writing their reviews. There was a time when I read someone’s review, she offhandedly said that she was sad for certain character’s death and it completely ruined the book for me! I mean, that’s a MAJOR part of the ending and I was so upset 😦 that’s why I always put spoiler tag on anything even remotely feel spoilery for me 😛 but I agree, informations form the first few chapters of the book can’t be considered spoiler so I didn’t put spoiler tag on them. I actually mind spoilers, but there are times when I haven’t got my hand on the books that I became super curious about what happens and I seek spoiler! I ALWAYS end up regretting it but yet I would likely do it again 😛 great post!

    Like

  17. Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books says:

    I’m with you!! I don’t want someone to tell me about a death or that major OMG moment, but I don’t mind people telling me details about the rest of the book. Sometimes it’s so hard to write a review if you’re sticking to the old “don’t tell anything that’s not in the synopsis” rule. Because sometimes those write-ups are SO lacking in ANY detail and it’s like what do I write??? I read a book recently where the M/C found out that he got a girl pregnant and had a 6 month old baby. It played out really SUPER early on and the whole book was based around how he was going to deal with that. BUT on the synopsis it just said that “something happens he never could have predicted”. I didn’t know what to do (I didn’t say anything about it and my review felt kinda blah because of it).

    Also– personally I always comment on the ending (whether I found it shocking, liked it, loved it, hated it, etc), but I feel like it’s my review and I want to express my feelings. Also I consider my reviews more like talks than anything serious.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I think I know what book you’re talking about, and I just went to see what I had done about it…except I didn’t actually get around to reviewing it! :p But, yeah, that’s tough. It’s kind of hard not to mention what is really one of the main points of the book! (Also, I think that baby was strongly foreshadowed in the early pages of the book, so I’m not sure why the publishers are acting all secretive about it.)

      Like

  18. Jordon @ Simply Adrift says:

    I love this post, because I very much agree.

    What a ‘spoiler’ could be really depends on the person! Personally I usually love to go into a book with no idea what’s going on, so I don’t often read book reviews of books I want to read but haven’t read yet. Other times, book reviews make me want to read that book and it may be because a spoiler that I had no idea about from the book summary. So I guess it can go two ways.

    I definitely appreciate it when people label ‘spoilers’ in their book reviews so if I don’t want to know it, I don’t read it. And I appreciate it when the person does their utmost to avoid spoilers in their reviews. However, once I’ve read a book, I love to read reviews and love to discuss those spoilers. I just really hope people who are avoiding the spoilers don’t read the comments!

    Jordon @ Simply Adrift

    Like

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