Confessions of a Bookworm: Trigger Warnings

Hi all my wonderful Bookworm family,

My name is Chiara and I am a Bookworm.

A lot of people in the book community have been talking about trigger warnings in books, especially in response to the ARC release of Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo.

Now until my current read, The Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that come with a warning at the front … and curious, I read it.

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I’m not against the trigger warning. I have anxiety disorder. I was diagnosed when I was sixteen and I have my triggers. Things that will set off panic and anxiety. Especially the word normal. I have a problem with the word normal.

But that is a topic for another confession.

I want to come at the warnings from just a bookish point of view. Say you don’t have and of these so-called ‘triggers’ yet you read them … sometimes I think they can act as spoilers.

I read the warnings when I started the books and I went into it thinking “right, okay, so I’m definitely going to see that in the book. How’s the author going to deal with it? Will it be as horrific as I think it could be? Or will there be detachment? Will the character explore it almost as an out of body experience?” And as I’m reading that’s all I could think about. I put the book down and it was all I could think about. Not nice when you put it down right before going to sleep.

I don’t want to get rid of the triggers. For some people I understand just how necessary they are. Sometimes those trigger warning will decide whether they pick up a book or not.

My idea, or rather solution, so that some people can see them and some people can’t, is to have two pages at the front of the book with little red tape on, the sort you can snap away easily if necessary. On the first page it just says trigger warning included inside. That way for those who don’t want to see what warnings the author has in store for them they can just flick past that page, but for those who want to see what could lay beyond they rip through the tape and see a lovely letter, author’s note, detailing what trigger may lay beyond in the following pages, also with helpline numbers and websites for those who need to seek help.

I’m sure some people don’t see this whole thing as a problem. The trigger warnings are there, they help, and warn, the people who need them. But for me, having that trigger warning there created unnecessary worry. This way we almost create a Schrödinger‘s cat situation. The warnings are both there, and not.

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