One of the most beautiful things about fiction is that it can be whatever the author wants. A writer can craft and create almost anything, as long as they can put it into words. But, this is also a challenge because sometimes authors abuse that power, or simply write content that some readers are uncomfortable with consuming. So, if you’re like me, and prefer to stay away from the more…intense, sexual, and graphic content that exists in fiction, this post is for you, dear voyager.
Before we dive into the best places to find trigger warnings and content reviews, I think it’s important to unpack and define the difference between trigger warnings and content warnings. I, like many people, tend to use these terms interchangeably. However, after thinking about it, I realized that this is a really insensitive thing to do because it undermines the main difference between “trigger” and “content.”
A trigger warning is different than a content warning, at least to me, because they have different purposes. The purpose of a trigger warning is to help people avoid having to remember and relive traumatic experiences. On the other hand, content warnings are meant to help people avoid content that may make them uncomfortable. Thus, the key difference is why the avoidance of certain content is necessary: for trigger warnings, it’s to avoid trauma; for content warnings, it’s to avoid discomfort.
This is, I assume, why trigger warnings are typically more focused on violence and sexual content. While these things can definitely be uncomfortable and disturbing to many people, for those who have been victims of physical or sexual abuse, these things can be incredibly triggering. This is why trigger warnings exist.
Now that we have a foundation, let’s look at some valuable places where you, my voyager, can access trigger warnings and content warnings/reviews.
When you open up a book review, you’ll see the youngest age that they would recommend the book to, as well as a star rating. When you scroll down, you’ll see several content categories:
- Educational Value
- Positive Messages
- Positive Role Models
- Drinking, Drugs, & Smoking
Each of these categories will have a 1-5 value (1 being minimal and 5 being severe) for how prevalent the category is in the book. If you click on the category, you can read a more in-depth summary of the content for that category. Beneath the content categories, you can read a “What Parents Need to Know” review, which will summarize all of the categories into one paragraph. Finally, there are reviews from parents and kids, which can provide multiple perspectives on the content and educational value of the book.
Pros: The reviews are very thorough and provide descriptions of the content.
Cons: You can only access three reviews each month without a member subscription (which costs $30.00 U.S. per year); limited number of books reviewed.
When you click on a book in Goodreads, you’ll find the blurb, author information, where to buy it, and other general information. If you know what certain genres are triggering or uncomfortable to you, check out the genre tags for the book (they’ll be on the right-hand side if you are on a computer, but at the bottom of the screen if you are on a phone). While not all reviews contain trigger or content warnings, some of them do, so I recommend reading or skimming a few reviews to get a feel for the content.
One other place you can check for trigger and content warnings are in the question section. Goodreads allows readers to ask questions about books, so it’s possible that someone else has already asked about triggering content and gotten an answer.
Pros: The genre tags and question section can give a good idea of the content for the book; almost every published book can be found on Goodreads.
Cons: Hit or miss because not everyone posts trigger and content warnings.
This is a newer website (at least to me) that lets readers create pages for books with information about trigger warnings, tropes, representation, as well as general information about the book. You can search for a specific book or author, and quickly view any big trigger warnings. If they don’t have a specific book listed, you can create a page for that book after making a free account. They also have a page dedicated to a working list of potential trigger warnings that readers can include for different books.
Pros: Detailed list of trigger warnings and representation.
Cons: Many books do not have trigger warnings yet.
This is also a new(ish?) website that is dedicated to providing readers with trigger warnings for books. This database is different from Book Trigger Warnings because instead of allowing readers to directly edit the website, readers have to submit a form for any book that they want added. This database is also better suited for those looking to avoid specific triggers, rather than finding triggers for a specific book. The website is a little clunky in its layout, and is not the easiest to navigate (but that could also just be me).
Pros: You can search based on specific triggers; includes both fiction and nonfiction books.
Cons: Difficult to navigate if searching for a specific book.
At the end of the day, each of these platforms is an excellent resource. They all have different pros and cons, but all of them are tools that we, as readers, can use to inform ourselves about content so we can make informed decisions about what we allow ourselves to read and consume.
Before I end this post, I do want to take a moment to acknowledge a couple of things:
Just because one person is triggered or uncomfortable with a certain type of content, does not mean that everyone will be. Not all of the warnings will apply to every single person. So, if you see a trigger warning or content warning that looks ridiculous to you, try to remember that some people need that warning because of their experiences and their comfort levels.
You should never, ever feel ashamed for DNFing or choosing not to read a book with triggering or uncomfortable content. I hate the idea that some people would feel pressured to finish a book that forces them to relive trauma or makes them just feel icky. Some books are meant to make us feel uncomfortable, but I don’t think you should ever feel like you have to read those books because not every book is meant for every reader. You get to decide where your boundaries are for your reading habits. Don’t let anybody try to convince you that you should feel ashamed of taking care of your mental health by making healthy reading choices.
Finally, I try to always post trigger and content warnings in my book reviews, so feel free to send me a friend request on Goodreads (just make sure to tell me that you’re coming from my blog, so I know that you’re a voyager). My reviews are also public on Goodreads, so you should be able to find them, even if you we aren’t friends on there.
Do you also check trigger and content warnings before reading a book? Where do you go to find warnings and reviews? Are you planning to try any of these free resources? Let’s exchange secrets and tips about how to find trigger warnings in the comments below!