Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.
So it’s been a long time since I did a discussion post, but one morning I just suddenly got hit with inspiration for this post and decide to go ahead and write it. So here we are. I was thinking about how tricky it was to avoid triggers sometimes in books, the awesome trigger warning and spoilers thing Riptide has on their site and Metaphors and Moonlight’s post about talking about sex in reviews and her point about how details about sex in reviews can help other people decide whether they want to read it or not. And it somehow combined into this idea to write a post about how to determine if a book has triggers and other content you want to avoid or know about beforehand. Sorry for the long title, I couldn’t figure out a way to make it shorter and still be clear.
Triggers and other content you want to avoid or know of beforehand
I have a few triggers I want to avoid in books I read and I have discovered some techniques over the years that help me figure out if a book has them or not. One thing I learned is to listen to that little niggle of doubt I sometimes get that a book might contain certain content or isn’t for me. My intuition is usually right, but I don’t always listen to it. Besides actual triggers there are also some topics I prefer not to read about in my books, but they might not be a deal breaker either. Often in those cases I would like to know beforehand if a book has them, just to be prepared or so I know it’s there and I skim/ skip the scene in question. Same goes with tropes or type of romance. I love friends to lovers tropes and might be more hesitant to pick up a enemies to lovers book. I am okay with reading about most types of romance (MF, MM, RH etc), but I do like to know beforehand what to expect. So this post is about all those things and which tools there are to determine whether a book has any of them.
How to determine if a book has triggers or other content
There are different techniques I use to determine if a book has any triggers or content I was to avoid or be aware of. With most books I just glance at the blurb/ cover/ review or however I first come across a book and decide whether I want to read it or not. But in some cases when I am unsure or want to know more I look at the other things as well.
- Blurb. Really in most cases the blurb is the best way to determine if the book has any content you don’t want to read about. Some blurbs have actual trigger warnings, but even if they don’t there are often subtle hints or mentions. It probably depends on the actual trigger or content you’re looking for, but often each one has specific words to look out for. And words like tragedy, dark past, dark, secrets etc can hide a bunch of triggers as well. So you know to look a bit further if a blurb mentions any of those to make sure if it has the trigger or content or not.
- Cover. In some cases the cover can be helpful. Mostly if you want to read or avoid certain type of romance or genre. The cover usually gives a good feel for the genre and maybe a few themes if you’re lucky. There are certain trends and themes covers usually follow. Like certain genres usually have a certain feel and in many cases you can determine the type of romance, by how many characters are on the cover and which genre they are. This isn’t always the case tough, but it’s a good starting point. I also have seen a few covers hint to a certain kink or specific theme, which can be helpful if that’s something you want to know or avoid. Usually covers aren’t very specific, but in some cases they can help.
- Goodreads genres/ shelves. This is something that can be very useful for more common triggers/ themes and type of romance. And mostly handy if the book has a lot of reviews. Just click on the “see the top shelves” button while on a Goodreads page for a book and scroll through it or use ctrl+f to search for the word you want to see if it’s there. If enough people have shelved the book, chances are you can find the most common triggers and themes in the book there.
- Reviews/ book blogs. Reviews or book blogs can be a great way to learn about triggers or other content a book has. If there is something you want to avoid chances are someone else thinks the same and might mention it in their reviews. There are also reviewers who specifically mention possible triggers or content type in their reviews. You have the best chance to find something helpful if the book has multiple reviews, but you only need one review that does mention the thing you’re looking out for to know whether the book has that content or not. This was also something that got brought up in Metaphors and Moonlight’s post about talking about sex in reviews that details about sex in reviews can help other people decide whether they want to read it or not. And while reviewers can never mention everything in their review, that’s the good thing about different people having different opinion and things they pay attention too.
- Author website or publisher website. I also sometimes will look at the author website or publisher website if most of the other techniques didn’t bring me any clarity. Sometimes there is extra information on the author and publisher website. And I want to give a shout out to Riptide who has this awesome feature on their site for each of their books that lists everything from type of romance to triggers. Which really is a big help. If you want to see an example of what I mean check out this page for To see the Sun, which I recently requested form them. If you go to the tab warnings they have some triggers and sensitive topics mentioned there and if you click additional details and then click toggle all details then you see a lot of information about the book. It often contains some spoilers, which why I think it’s awesome they hide that information by default and you click only on the specific category you want to know about or toggle all details. That information has helped me multiple times already when it came to books they published and helped me decide whether I wanted to read the book or not.
- Ask a reader, reviewer or the author. If all fails and you still aren’t sure if the book has any content you want to know about beforehand, asking the author of the book or someone who has read or reviewed the book can help as they can tell you exactly what’s in the book or not. I also have a note on my review policy asking authors who sent me a review request to let me know if their book has certain topics in it.
Ofcourse most of these techniques can just as well be used to determine if a book has a certain topic or content you do want to see. Even tough I focus here on discovering topics or trigger you want to avoid, sometimes you want to know if a book contains a certain topic because you do want to read about it and then these methods will work too.
Problems with determining if a book has triggers or other content
While in most cases you can figure out if a book has triggers or not. Sometimes you run into problems.
- Few Reviews. When there are few reviews it can be hard to learn a lot about the book. I often have this problem with books I find on Netgalley or when I am offered an ARC for a book that isn’t released yet as there aren’t many reviews yet.
- No hints in blurb. There are also times when the blurb has no hints about possible triggering content. I wrote a post a while ago about the topic of trigger warnings in blurbs or not and I can definitely see why some authors or publishers decide not to include that in their blurb.
- Reviews don’t mention this specific thing. Not everyone has the same triggers or content they want to avoid, so it’s possible a book has troubling content for you, but none of the other reviewers mention it.
- Uncommon or rare trigger/ content. And there at cases where your trigger or content you want to avoid is pretty rare or uncommon. Either rare in the sense that not many people have that trigger or rare in the sense that not many books have it. Or it’s only a small scene and won’t show up in reviews.
One of my recent DNF books had some of these problems. It had a disturbing (to me) scene where one of the side character killed her own pet rat, which is a super specific thing I couldn’t stand and DNF’d the book for. But before I posted my DNF review no other review has mentioned this incident and it had a bunch of reviews by then already. Later I did notice another reviewer who also mentioned the scene. So that goes to show that sometimes it can take a while before a reviewer mentions something like that. The blurb didn’t give any hint of this scene, which makes sense as it was only one short scene and most people probably wouldn’t find it as troubling as I did. In this case the only way to figure out about the scene was to ask someone, but as none of the reviews or other information mentioned it or hinted at it, I wasn’t aware I needed to ask anything. So even with all the techniques available, sometimes you just won’t know until you actually read the book. Although at least then you can mention it in your review and maybe help another person out.
So there are definitely some cases that even if you are careful and check everything you can still end up with something troubling. But the above mentioned techniques definitely have helped me avoid some books that I might have picked up otherwise.