Is Spoiler-Free Pressure Ruining In-Depth Discussions About Books?

There is a lot of pressure to be spoiler free. And I get it. I do. People shouldn’t share spoilers on Twitter while they’re watching a TV show live or write up a post on Facebook without a fair warning. But sometimes I wonder if we’ve gone a little overboard with the pressure to be spoiler free. Sometimes I want a little substance.

Protecting yourself from spoilers is hard too! Don’t get me wrong. People should always post warnings. Recently, Google itself ruined ANTM for me. I had it recorded, but checked my news stories of the day, and one of those stories was who lost (in the headline) less than an hour after the show aired. So disappointing!

Sometimes I want to read spoilers, and I’m not sure there is anywhere to go.

So why do I want spoilers sometimes?  

Because the same review is everywhere.

I mainly see “these characters are great, and that one scene totally shattered me.” Or “Characters = great, plot = awesome, conclusion = get it.”

And those types of reviews are awesome, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I want to know what tropes to expect, what dynamics to look forward to, if a book is character-driven or plot-driven, especially when I am on a fence. And sometimes, well…

Sometimes spoilers can be a good thing.

Example? Spoilers ahead for The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. If you don’t want to read it, feel free to skip to the next bolded line.

When I first when City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, I REFUSED to read the next books, not because I didn’t enjoy the first book but because the whole “the main characters who are in love are siblings” totally grossed me out. When my friend spoiled the fact that it turned out to be false, I read the sequel, and now it’s one of my favorite series written by one of my favorite authors.

Basically, without spoilers, I probably would’ve quit a series that I now love.

Now, I am NOT saying to go tweet out every spoiler in the latest Blockbuster hit when you saw the first screening. Hell no. There still needs to be etiquette to discussing spoilers, but by the fandom gods, I want to talk about these things. I want to debate and consider others’ opinions. I want to read more fan theories without having to scour the deep dark web (okay, so Tumblr) for them.

I have found it super easy to find in-depth discussions about film, but not about novels, and I wish we had a forum to do so.

I would love to discuss scenes and characters and spoilers in-depth with others. As a writer, this helps me analyze a work and see how someone else’s viewpoint can differ from mine, which I think is an important aspect of understanding literature. And it’s fun. I mean, isn’t it the best to call a close friend and chat about the latest episode of your favorite show? I want to do that with books, more often and with more people.

Granted, I know there is this lovely little place called Goodreads, but (and I mean no offense to them) I tend to only see spoilers written by those who hated the book (as if they are purposely trying to ruin the book for others) and no spoilers from those who enjoyed the book, which is why I don’t think GR is the right platform. At least not today.

I want a positive place where readers can discuss books in depth. A place where we might not all agree on interpretations, but a place where thoughts can be shared broadly and discussed nevertheless.

Recently, I checked out a new podcast called Parallel Magic Podcast by authors Jonas Lee and Kate M. Colby, and in my opinion, they have the perfect setup. The first part is a spoiler-free rundown on what the book is about and whether or not they would suggest the book (and to who they think would like the book), and then there is a very clear warning about an upcoming in-depth discussion (so that those who haven’t read can clock out), before they discuss the book in-depth, spoilers and all.

I LOVED IT. So if you’re looking for in-depth discussions, check them out.

Personally, I want more places for those who have read a novel to discuss in-depth where they won’t get in trouble for discussing spoilers.

What about you? What do you think about spoilers? What do you think about discussing them in public forums?


28 thoughts on “Is Spoiler-Free Pressure Ruining In-Depth Discussions About Books?

  1. I think it’s all getting just a little precious. If you don’t want to see spoilers don’t read reviews. There is plenty of information out there to help you decide if you’ll enjoy the book or not. Start with the synopsis. Look at the ratings on sites like GR.

    When I review a book I try to keep it general enough that the reader gets a sense of the book without spoilers…but you have to say something. If you’re not expressing an opinion, talking about the book, talking about why you loved or loathed it, why bother?

    1. Very true. There is lots of information out there about whether or not you’ll enjoy a book, but I also want a place to discuss books in-depth afterward. You know, share fan theories and such, which I don’t usually see in reviews (or maybe I’m looking in the wrong places). I love seeing what others enjoyed specifically for instance. Great comment! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  2. A good review has spoilers. At a base level, a reviewer could supply a “I liked it” or I didn’t like it” and if you generally agree with that reviewer’s likes and dislikes, that would be all you need. But let’s face it, we want a wordy, explanatory review rather than a thumbs up or thumbs down because we *love* to read, and that reading includes reviews, especially lengthy ones that the reviewer puts a lot of thought and effort into. A review that doesn’t include at least a few spoilers is a waste of time, because expressing vague generalities buys you no credibility as a reviewer.

    As an example, I recently read reviews for a book on Amazon, trying to determine if I should spend my hard-earned money on it. A couple of spoiler-free reviews almost had me convinced I should buy it, but two reviews that contained spoilers gave me information that I knew would make me regret my purchase. The reviews don’t have to be negative – they just need to provide you with a little more information. And to be honest, with the growing pile of books I have to read, by the time I get around to the book in question and get absorbed in the story, those spoilers have been relegated to the far recesses of my mind and are no threat to ruin a story.

    With that said, I do try to give a warning if I feel I’m about to reveal a major plot point that would remove surprise and/or tension from the story. Just like you’ve done above.

    This was an excellent topic for a blog post…I think I’ll reference it from my blog. Nicely done, Shannon!

  3. Book spoilers as we call it are similar to movie teasers or sneak previews. You give just a little info to tickle the consumers’ imagination and curiousity so as to spark further interest and to promote the product.No need to divulge everything. The mystery factor(just some) will be the selling point. Without it, the excitement will be gone. No one will consider even buying a product without knowing a little detail about it, IMO.

  4. I think it should be okay after a certain amount of time has passed since release day and giving a spoiler warning. Not sure why people don’t do the warnings any more. They used to be everywhere. Sometimes I think people simply forget that others didn’t grab a book or movie to devour on opening week too. So they spill the secrets too early.

    As an author, I dread spoilers and that makes discussing my own stuff a pain. There have been times I simply mentioned a new character debuting and people yell at me about spoilers. Maybe everyone has their own definition of spoilers, but modern Internet rules require yelling instead of accepting that some reveals will happen.

  5. Interesting post! Obviously we all don’t want the mystery ending revealed but reviews should have some substance. As a reviewer you have given me something to think about.

  6. Yes, there is a lot of pressure when it comes to being spoiler free reviews. It can give you less substance to write about, or discuss. Although I tend to review Film, TV, and comics more than books, I go by the general rule if its on release date or around it – must be totally spoiler free. But if its a week or two afterwards, a more retrospective piece ect, then a few mild spoilers are ok. It can be a fine like to walk though at times.

    1. You know, I did not consider that, but you are so right. Giant twists have been super popular, almost expected (though I don’t think every story needs a huge twist to be awesome).
      Thank you for commenting!

  7. Persons are going to discuss spoilers on public forums which is why avoid those forums and reviews since it’s going to likely contain spoilers whether it’s books, movies, tv shows, comic books, video games, etc.

    It’s boring to not be able to discuss a book on online forums after reading the book because can’t debate about a ambiguous ending, if a character is or isn’t alive, why a sequel could be written, etc.

    I agree reviews should contain information about Spoilers but still reviews usually contain spoilers which is why it be best to avoid reading reviews.
    Look at the ratings on Amazon, Goodreads, And Barnesamdnoble also read the plot if you are interested because of the plot, the author or both then read the book.

    Also writing a review of a book is hard without spoilers.
    You could say it is terrible, bad, good or great but wouldn’t be able to elaborate why because of spoilers which is why you wouldn’t want to write a review or make a book review video.

    It’s best to read a book to make a judgement about the book rather using reviews.
    Flaws for them may not be flaws for you including ridiculous nitpicks, their expectations possibly won’t be the same as your expectations, disagree about a main character is likable or unlikable, etc.

  8. This has made me think about spoilers differently. I, myself write spoiler free book reviews but sometimes you need a little more to get you to read. If I didn’t know about the forbidden relationship in Slammed by Colleen Hoover, I would have never read it. Just that little tidbit made me want to read it. However, when I really do want to write about something spoilery, I make sure to warn readers about it before it begins, and I do that towards the end of the review.

  9. When I do reviews of things, I tend to do light spoilers. I think my reviews are better if I can talk about very specific things that I liked or that irked me. I’m doing a quasi-review about Avatar: the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, and I absolutely couldn’t do it at all without explaining my specific problems between the shows.

  10. I really like Spoilers most of the time because, like you did, they change whether I will be willing to read the book. So I end up wikipedia-ing a lot. I also really like talking about stuff of substance with other people who’ve read the book. I write reviews and do videos so I function by just giving warnings and then go ahead and say what I want to say. But I have found it hard to convince other people that I want spoilers before I read things, and most videos and Blog posts assume the reader hasn’t read yet and so don’t include spoilers even with warnings and that can be frustrating.

  11. This post has got me thinking about how I write my own reviews. I tend to stay away from spoilers because I don’t want to ruin anything for readers even if I badly want to talk about certain characters and scenes. The idea about having a short spoiler-free review first then an in-depth one is something I’d like to experiment applying to my own reviews. Because I find my short spoiler-free reviews to be too shallow.

    Before reading a book, however, I don’t read any reviews besides checking the rating on Goodreads. But for some, I do read reviews because I need to know if this book is up to my taste and a synopsis cannot provide that adequately! Love this post!

  12. I’ve done “Spoiler-Filled Discussions” of the books in the Three Dark Crowns series (in addition to my quick, regular spoiler-free reviews), and they have been the most successful posts on my blog (by a crazy margin)! I keep telling myself I need to do more of them because it’s fun to rave (or rant) about books without worrying about spoiling anything.

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