August 15, 2011

What do YOU do when you see a spoiler coming?

Personally, I'm not a fan of spoilers. I tend to run away when I see signs of impending spoilage. I appreciate reviews that go, "WARNING: THERE IS A GIGANTIC SPOILER AHEAD" or words to that effect. Or better yet, ones that put them in white text (like I do!) so you can choose if you wish to be spoiled.
A sign like this would be good.

I don't like finding out ahead of time how a book ends, or which love interest the protagonist ends up with, or the major twist in the book that changes everything. And telling me who dies? Don't you dare.

But: apparently, according to recent research, it really doesn't matter. In fact, not only does getting spoiled NOT reduce reading enjoyment, it even enhances it. Check out this article about a psychology study on spoilers. A couple of researchers at the University of California found that participants preferred reading an excerpt when they were spoiled about the ending ahead of time. This was true even for mysteries!

I always love when psychology research shows us something about human behaviour that is completely counter-intuitive. There's no way you would logically think, "Okay, I know the identity of the killer...I'm so excited for reading this book now!" And yet, it may be due to the spoiler that the reader can more thoroughly appreciate the writing style...since they already know how it ends.

When I think about re-reads, though, I kind of see the similarities. Obviously for books with a mystery component, reading it the second time just isn't the same because you know what the big reveal is. But it's still fun — in fact, sometimes it's more fun than the first read, because you get to pick up on all the clues you missed and marvel at the author's skill (assuming, of course, this is a well-written book we're talking about).
The second time around, it's all about the red herrings.

For the moment, I'm going to keep on doing my best to avoid spoilers. I still like being surprised when I read. But if I do get told the ending ahead of time, I'm going to try hard not to let it get to me. In the past if I've been majorly spoiled I've avoided picking the book up, or waited a long time in the hopes I'll forget. Seeing these results, though, makes me think that perhaps finding out the ending not only opens a reader's eyes to the secrets of the story, but also allows them to better appreciate the journey.

What do you think? Are spoilers the bane of your reading existence? Or do you welcome them with open arms? When writing a review, how do you decide what's a spoiler and what isn't? Would love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Very interesting article! They're probably right about the comfortable reading thing if you know the end, in the past I sometimes skipped ahead to find out how it all ended and then proceeded to read the whole book, still enjoying it very much.
    But these days, I tend to avoid spoilers, I like being surprised. I hope I don't put too many spoilers in my reviews, I always try to put them in white, but my idea of what's a spoiler can differ from someone else's...
    Anyway, great topic!

  2. Like yourself, I definitely stay clear of spoilers if at all possible. I would much rather try to figure out how its going to end as I'm reading. I love that "I knew it!" feeling when I'm right as well as the shocked surprised when I'm wrong.
    When I write reviews, I try to stay away from any specifics past the first hundred pages. When talking about the story arc or ending, I try to only comment on how well written it was or how I felt about it.
    Great post. This is one that I'm sure people have varying opinions about. I'm interested to see what other people have to say about spoilers.

  3. For me, it depends on the book. I didn't want to be spoiled for Deathly Hallows. But, I had to be and actually went in search of spoilers for The Mortal Instruments because I nearly had a heart attack with all the goings on in those books.

  4. Not only do I not like spoilers, I usually don't even read the blurb. I only like to know the basic genre and premise. "OK. It's about angels, and there's some romance." Something like that. Recently I wrote a review, and mentioned that I couldn't say more about something because I didn't want to spoil it -- then I read the blurb and they said it RIGHT IN THERE! This was something that was revealed about half way thru the book. I was appalled. Come on -- what are you thinking???? (Just my opinion....)

  5. I personally like spoilers because I want to find out about things and see how they play out. The only thing spoiler I didn't want to see was Mockingjay. I hardly ever reread books so going through the red herrings the first time around is fun for me.

  6. To be on the safe side, I generally skim book reviews of books that I'm highly anticipating. I usually just read the last line of the review if they liked/loved it/hated it/or was an ok read. And then look at the rating but that's about it. I, too, hate spoilers. I always ask someone if they are going to pick it up so I can be vague with my analysis.

  7. @Daisy: Yeah, often when I re-read a book I notice things I never did the first time around, when I was caught up in discovering what would happen. But when I'm first reading it, I must admit I try not to get spoiled! I wonder if my opinion would change if I got used to being spoiled with endings. *ponders*

    @The Happy Booker: Yes, that "I knew it!" feeling is awesome...although I think I like getting completely surprised even more, especially when I go "I *so* should have seen that coming!" And interesting that you have the benchmark of the first 100 pages. I don't have very specific criteria for deciding if something is spoiler-ish, but I try to think about it in terms of "would I find this spoilery if I hadn't read the book yet?" It's a tough call sometimes, though!

    @Jenni Elyse: It does for me somewhat too. For certain books (Mockingjay, the last couple Harry Potter books) I was avoiding spoilers like the plague. But when it comes to books that I'm not really highly anticipating, or I'm not even sure if I'll like, then often I'll take the chance and read the review just so I can learn more about the book and the reviewer's thoughts on it.

    @Annette: Oh, I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes the blurb gives away most of the plot, and so what's supposed to be suspenseful turns out to be not at all because you already know what the mystery is. So frustrating!

    @Najela: I was wondering if I'd get to hear from some readers who like spoilers (I know so many don't!), so great to get your perspective on it. And yes, I definitely did not want to get spoiled for Mockingjay either. I was so excited for that one!

    @Rummanah Aasi: Skimming is something I often do too to try to combat the risk of getting spoiled. Sometimes it works, sometimes I accidentally read something I didn't want to :D But usually I like to look at the rating at least (if the blogger uses a rating) to see their general opinion.

  8. I'm very inconsistent when it comes to spoilers. Some books I don't mind and other books I'd be fuming mad if someone dropped a major spoiler. I'm not really sure what factors of a book would make me fall into either category though.

    I love THIS POST by Sherwood Smith about being a weenie reader. I think that's sort of the type of spoiler-reader I am. Most of the time. Like when I read Harry Potter 7, I had been "spoiled" with a number of how many characters would die. I didn't know who would die, but I knew how many and I was very happy with that. If I had known the names though I would have been furious. Knowing vague spoilers like that makes me feel a little more at ease.

    As far as when I write my own reviews. I don't know. I agonize over the spoiler question. I try not to give out major spoilers, but I don't know if some things are things that I would be ok knowing but someone else might want to kill me. I hope I'm not giving out spoilers.

  9. I don't mind spoilers sometimes. I like to know if the ending ends in a good place or is a cliffhanger but I don't want actual details. Same with romance I like to know if it is good but I don't want to know if they end up happily together. I hope that makes sense. Great post :)

  10. For some books, I probably wouldn't mind spoilers but if it's a series I'm really invested in, then I'd hate to find a spoiler.

  11. For books that are a part of a series I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible. A lot of times I don't even read review of it since I pretty much want to go into it knowing nothing of whats going to happen next.

  12. @Small Review: Thanks for that link to that Sherwood Smith article! Nice to see a different perspective on it. Like you, it depends on the book for me – for some I'm okay with vague spoilers, for others I'd rather know nothing at all. And I also have trouble knowing whether or not I'm spoiling something when I write my reviews!

    @Nic: Good point about the ending! Yeah, often it's helpful to know if it's an unresolved, cliffhanger of an ending so it isn't a shock when you turn the last page.

    @A Canadian Girl: Yes, that's exactly how I felt about Mockingjay because I was so into the series!

    @Jenny N.: I do the same thing for some books - I just won't read the reviews if I'm really highly anticipating it.

  13. Huh, that's really interesting. It may not ruin my enjoyment, but it sure pisses me off! Spoilers suck.


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