Let’s Talk About Spoilers // special blogiversary discussion

“What exactly IS a spoiler?” I ask, after seeing potentially hundreds of spoilers over the past few years. 

Hello, friends. 😌 It’s been a while. 

Yesterday was my blog’s 2nd Blogiversary! I… literally can’t believe it. This is a very hard thing to process. Especially since I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I did on my first year of blogging. 

And in honor of my blogiversary, I’m going to revisit one of my first (and best) discussions. In March of 2019, I made a discussion post titled “What do you think about spoilers?” and to this day, it’s still one of my favorites. However! There are still so many things to discuss when it comes to spoilers. So in true Xandra fashion, I’m going to talk about everything I can when it comes to spoilers.


2 + 2 = A Spoiled Plot Twist 

Let me give a little bit of backstory here. 

A while ago, I received an ARC from a publisher, and I was quite excited to read it, despite almost no one talking about it’s upcoming release. I went to Goodreads and saw that one of my friends had recently finished it. Their review was short (and I didn’t actually mean to read it, I just glanced at it really fast), but one thing stood out to me: they mentioned there was a “sad major plot twist towards the end”. 

Which… doesn’t sound like a spoiler, at first. They never said what the plot twist was about. They never even said where the plot twist happened, exactly, or which characters were effected by the plot twist. 

But you know what? I was able to guess the plot twist less than 50 pages before it happened, and not because the writing was bad. It was because I knew it was coming. I took the outside information and what the story was telling me, put two and two together, and was able to guess what the plot twist was. But was that really a spoiler? Or am I just being dramatic? 

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What’s In a Synopsis? 

The first dictionary definition of a “spoiler” I could find says a spoiler is “a person or thing that spoils something”. Ah, yes. *sarcasm* Thank you, Google. What would I ever do without you. 

The second definition I found is more clear. “A spoiler is an element of a summary or description of any piece of fiction that reveals any plot elements. Typically, the details of the conclusion, including the climax and ending, are especially regarded as spoiler material”. Yes, fair enough. 

To me, a spoiler is “any bit of information which reveals part of the story”. It’s very simple. If you tell me anything about the story (not just the plot), other than what’s already given on the synopsis, I will… not enjoy that. It feels like a spoiler to me!
side note: this does NOT mean i want you to change the way you write reviews! you should absolutely do what you want! i’m just sayin this is why i don’t tend to read reviews :))

Whenever I discuss elements of a book in a review or with someone who probably hasn’t read the book yet, I make a point to mention that everything I reference is either in the synopsis, or in the very beginning of the book. But even then, am I saying too much? Sometimes I don’t like to read spoiler-free reviews, just in case!

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Here’s the thing. If I’m going to read a book, I like to go into it with as little information as possible. All I want to know is the title, the genre, what the cover looks like, and THAT’S IT. I just want to get the general vibe before I commit.

I’m super behind on popular books, but sometimes this is an advantage. My TBR process generally looks like this: 

  • January: *reads a book’s synopsis, adds it to my TBR*
  • February-September: *completely forgets the book exists*
  • October: *looks at my TBR and has no memory of what the book is about, but trusts January Xandra’s decisions and starts to read the book*

By the time I actually read a book, most of the time I’ve forgotten the synopsis but I know I’ve seen it before and wanted to read it back then, so… remembering nothing is sometimes useful, I guess. 😌 This is especially useful to me because it doesn’t allow me to put any information together! I can safely go into the book with almost 0% knowledge about it! 

This is something I’ve been doing for a while, and I wanted to demonstrate the benefits of this by showing you with a visual…

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The Trailer Theory 

I’ve talked about this before, but that was back when I was a baby blogger and only two people and their cat read my blog, so –

Just as I don’t enjoy reading a synopsis before reading, when it comes to movies and shows, I like to know as little as possible before watching. I want to know the genre, what the cover poster looks like to get the general vibe, and I also want to know what the reviews are like (the 10/10 stars, but not reviews with actual words). And yes, this also means I don’t really watch movie trailers! 

For example, Disney trailers can be really cool if you’re looking forward to a certain movie, but every trailer after the first one shows too much information for my taste. I’ve noticed that Trailer #1 (aka the “teaser”) always shows as little as possible, barely anything at all. 

Take a look at these screenshots from the Frozen 2 teaser trailer. These shots are basically the gist of the 2 minute trailer: Elsa attempts to use ice powers to get out into the sea, and the other characters are shown in an autumn setting. No words are spoken. 

From this trailer alone, I can only see that there is danger, some pink fire, and a new setting. That’s not very much new information! But then, a lot more is shown in the 1st Official Trailer (aka “Trailer #2” imo).

Notably, there is dialogue in this trailer. Elsa attempts to escape like before, but this time, she fails and sees a horse underwater. There’s a scene with Anna and Olaf about to fall off a waterfall, a shot with the main characters riding through the mountains, a shot of Elsa being chased by some kind of rock monster… you get the point. It’s a lot more than the previous trailer!

But… is any of this really spoiler material? My answer is yes, maybe, but only if you’re paying attention.

Individually, these shots don’t really mean anything, especially if you’ve never seen the first Frozen movie. But from this series of new shots/scenes, I can better deduce what’s going to happen in the story. I can figure out that 1) Elsa and Anna are in trouble again, but it must be important for it to have to do with Pabbie (the rock troll), 2) Anna and Olaf get into some kind of danger. Where’s Elsa? They must have gotten separated, and that doesn’t seem good, either, 3) Elsa’s ice powers seem to be getting stronger and more strange… maybe the trouble they’re all in is her fault.
I could go on and on about these kinds of things, but I’m trying to keep this short. 😅

The more information we get about a story prior to actually experiencing it, the more we can figure out what’s going to happen.

With a synopsis or a review, it can kind of be the same thing. The more you know, the easier it is to put the information together and guess an outcome. Even if they don’t specifically give away any of the major plot points, they could lead you to deduce what might happen, either before you read the book, or while you’re reading and remember what the review or synopsis said.

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Can Content Warnings Be Spoilers? 

No. Content warnings and trigger warnings are not spoilers. At least, not if they’re done correctly.

Examples of warnings include: death, domestic abuse, gore… etc. Usually, these are included in a review or in a post about the book in question.

If a review includes warnings in this way, it’s not really spoiling anything! Saying there’s “death” in the story doesn’t really give any context. It could have been the death of someone before the events of the book, it could be side characters, or it could even be the main character. It simply isn’t enough information to be a spoiler. It’s good to include warnings, so please! Do it more often.

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One of the reasons I’m pointing this out is because I was recently in a situation where I had to try my best to explain the warnings I had in a review, without actually giving things away.

Recently, someone replied to one of my reviews asking about a particular warning, asking me how intense it was, so I explained to them every scene which included something along those lines. It was difficult to explain the scenes without “spoiling” some of the story, but everyone has a different definition of what a “spoiler” is to them. Since I was being vague about every situation, it didn’t seem very spoiler-like, in the end.

So maybe… something is only a spoiler depending on the context.

Here are the five levels of spoilers. Let’s go back to the example of Frozen, since I’m sure you’ve seen it already if you ever wanted to, and if you haven’t, you’re probably not interested.

1) Out of context, saying something like “there’s death” in the movie doesn’t really give you much information. 2) If I told you that “someone dies in the beginning of the movie”, you’d have more information, but at that point, you would know that there’s more to the story, and you wouldn’t know who died. 3) Then, if I mentioned that “the parents where the ones who died, within the first 5 minutes,” you would recognize that as a typical Disney trope and would therefore be unsurprised, and you would also know that there’s definitely a lot more to the plot. The third statement is certainly a spoiler, but at least its not a major plot point in the conclusion. 4) I could tell you that “some almost dies at the end, but is saved by love,” that’s a bit more spoiler-like, but you still don’t know who it is until 5) I mention that Anna is the character who almost died, and Elsa saved her with sisterly love.

And yet… there’s still one more aspect about spoilers I have to mention.

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It’s All About The Journey

Looking back on my anecdote at the beginning, there was certainly more to the book than a sad plot twist at the end. Perhaps a simple comment like that shouldn’t be considered a spoiler, because it technically didn’t reveal anything.

When I read the book and the plot twist began to take place (it unfolded over the course of 40 pages), I immediately said, “Oh! That’s weird. That must mean [insert plot twist conclusion here]!” The main character was still at the beginning go the plot twist arc, and she did not know what was going on, but I did. Instead of being confused and nervous with her, I lost some of the excitement and surprise that the MC felt when she reached the plot twist conclusion.

I was able to guess at what the major plot twist could be by taking the information I had already gotten from the beginning, and thinking about what the craziest plot twist could have been. While the plot twist was kind of out there, I still guessed it based on what the characters had been previously discussing. It was… the equivalent of reading a science-fiction book, and then towards the end, the main character woke up in a contemporary setting and then had to figure out what just happened.

I lost that connection with the MC during the plot twist… but for the other 300 pages of the book? My reading journey was not effected at all, not “spoiled” in any way.

In the end, what really matters is the journey the book takes you on. Some people say, “if a spoiler truly ruins the story for you, then the story wasn’t very good to begin with”, and I really agree with that. Your enjoyment should be determined by how you felt about the story along the way, not by the fact that you happened to know one of the many concluding details.

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If that spoiler takes away your entire experience, then there should have been several other things in the book for you to enjoy, and its sad that those things were not included by the author. (or maybe you should have DNFed it!) And then there’s also the “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey!” quote, and that works too. 😌

If you’ve gotten this far into the post… thank you. :’) Did it make sense to you? Haha, if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s make long and very specific discussion posts, so I’m very appreciative of you reading my ramblings.

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How do you feel about spoilers? Do you read reviews before reading the book? Have you ever felt truly spoiled on a book’s plot? 

Chat with me about it!


You can also be my friend on social media!

Happy reading, everyone! Have a lovely day! Please stay safe and healthy!

Starry Sky Books-13

36 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Spoilers // special blogiversary discussion

  1. Happy two years. That’s amazing!

    This is such an interesting discussion. I’m someone who doesn’t mind spoilers, but I am sensitive to the fact that others don’t like them.

    I do agree that being told there is a major twist can ruin a reading experience. I am also often surprised by how much a synopsis gives away!!

    I appreciate that you brought up content warnings, because I think they are important. It can be tricky because, using Frozen as an example, while someone might not be triggered by death in general, parental death specifically could be a trigger for them. Its an important discussion to have for sure!

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  2. I love this discussion, Xandra — I really enjoyed how you explored so many different aspects of this topic! Spoilers are complicated and how you perceive them really depends on what you prefer as a reader. I personally believe that what happens doesn’t matter as much as how it happens, but even that is prone to change, especially if we’re talking about plot-centered books or a major, major plot twist. Thank you for this discussion, Xandra, and happy blogiversary! 💖🥳

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  3. Happy blogiversary to you!! Congrats on two years!

    I absolutely loved reading this discussion, especially since I feel pretty differently about spoilers! I’ve picked up books that were completely spoiled for me and still enjoyed them quite a bit, and I actually like watching movie trailers and reading synopses. I think because my memory is terrible, I never actually remember the details from those things, so it never feels like I’ve been spoiled in any way 😅 But it gives me a foothold going into the story and lets me know what to expect, if that makes sense.

    But that is part of what makes writing spoiler-free reviews so hard, because what is considered a spoiler differs for everyone. I always want to be as vague as possible while also giving enough detail to get readers interested in the book, which is a tough balance to strike.

    Ultimately, I think this is so true: “Your enjoyment should be determined by how you felt about the story along the way, not by the fact that you happened to know one of the many concluding details.” If it’s a good story, it’s a good story. I definitely think there are certain books/shows/movies that benefit from knowing nothing going in, but that cliché of it being about the journey is absolutely correct.

    This is a wonderful discussion, Xandra, thank you for writing it!

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  4. This is just me but I like spoilers (and when I write a review I sometimes include them), I like to have information before entering the book and I learned this the hard way after reading my first e-ARC. My first e-ARC had a lot of things I do not read at all but the synopsis didn’t provide insight into this and I didn’t read reviews. After that, I was ‘hell no’, no more surprises. So I started reading reviews, reviews with spoilers, spoilers in general. Even if I like the synopsis I will always read comments/reviews to see if the book is really for me. From time to time (very rarely) I will pick a book blind and try to enjoy it 😀

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  5. Congratulations, wishing you many more years of happy blogging! Wonderful discussion, I laughed when reading your TBR process, that’s literally me sometimes. Ooh I liked how you used Frozen II as an example, it was really clear. I think I can take small spoilers, like a squeal-y line here or there so I can look forward to that part — this also saves the book if I’m in a boring spot. But of course, big spoilers are like…please no! I generally like to read reviews of books before reading — that’s how I add books to my TBR which I HOPE I’ll get to…someday right? lol — so I have a general sense of what to expect. Like, if 10 people say “world was great! character fell flat” then I know that I shouldn’t set my expectations too high for character, but that I should for world. This will probably affect my overall rating later on…content/trigger warnings are definitely not spoilers, rather, a good way for a reader to decide what they’re comfortable with. Sorry this was rambly 😅but congratulations again on your blogiversary!! Woo hoo 😀

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  6. Happy blogiversary!! This was a super interesting discussion, and I used to agree with a lot of your same points- I don’t tend to read the full synopsis of a book & I don’t watch many movie trailers. But, I actually don’t really care about being spoiled for a plot point in a book anymore (if I happen to get spoiled unintentionally). For instance, I’ll sometimes read something on Twitter about a book that’s technically a spoiler, but it doesn’t bother me. Usually, my memory is so bad that I’ll forget about the spoiler by the time I get to the book anyway, but even if I remember it, it doesn’t really affect my rating of the book. I think that if a book is good, your enjoyment of it will not change even if you know a spoiler! That’s just my opinion, though, and I used to feel the opposite!

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  7. Omg I hate writing reviews because I never know if I’m giving away too much. Do the readers want to know these characters have a relationship? I also hate when people say there is a plot twist at the end because then I’m trying to look more into the clues of what the plot twist is. I love this discussion. And happy two years! ❤

    -Amber

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  8. happy blogiversary!!! that’s an amazing accomplishment!! and i struggle so much with writing quality reviews that don’t spoil. it’s also so annoying because i hate knowing that there’s going to be a big plot twist usually ruins the book, but i also want to read books with great plot twists? it’s such a dilemma hehe. lovely discussion💜

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  9. Happy blogiversary! So far reviews hasn’t spoiled my reading experience. I don’t prefer to read spoiler reviews before I read the book but I read them after I have finished the book. If some reviews either with spoiler or without make me want to buy or read the book, I usually don’t read book immediately after getting it. I read it whenever I have free space or I have mood for it and so I wouldn’t remember what I have read in reviews and wouldn’t affect me in any way.

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  10. This is a really fantastic review, Xandra! I personally don’t mind spoilers, in some cases I even look for them haha. I always find finding “easter eggs” in trailers and synopsis and putting them together, and then proven to be right is just sooo satisfying 😂 But I do understand why some people hate spoilers and it’s honestly why I find it really hard to write reviews. Sometimes there are elements that just tied with the plot, like character growth and romance, and attempting to explain them could accidentally reveal too much 😫

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  11. This was a really great discussion! I appreciated that you said that trigger warnings aren’t spoilers since I’ve seen a lot of discourse on that.

    I also agree that simply saying there’s a big twist can be a spoiler and affect someone’s reading experience. I feel like once I know something huge will happen, I can generally guess what it is. I also don’t like it when synopses say that “tragedy strikes” etc because i spend the whole book guessing what the tragedy will be.

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  12. Happy happy blogiversary, Xandra!! What an amazing discussion to celebrate such an occasion!! 😍🤗 I think I actually view spoilers from a plot structure standpoint… a synopsis usually reveals the character’s basic situation, aka their “normal world” in plot structure. The next plot point is the inciting incident, where that normal world changes. I still consider that to be non-spoiler, and it’s often included in the synopsis. But embarking from there into the climax of act 1 and into act 2 is where we start to get in spoiler territory.

    Side note… what do you think about spoiler “expiration dates?” Like, if it’s been 1 year and a book is out, can we discuss spoilers? Or 5 years? Or 6 months?

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  13. Happy blogiversary!!

    I don’t like spoilers, I like being completely surprised by the story which is also why I do the same as you, I add books to my TBR because of the blurb, forget about them and when I decide to finally read them, I don’t remember what the book was about. Although, there are times when I’m not sure I’ll like a book so I look for spoilers and that way I decide whether I want to give it a try or not.

    I try really hard not to give spoilers in my book reviews so sometimes I feel like I don’t make much sense lol but when it comes to trigger warnings, I try to be as specific but also as vague as possible because if I only mention “death”, some people might want to know exactly who dies so they can know beforehand if the book will trigger them somehow.

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  14. I do read reviews and I understand about the “sad plot twist at the end” and such comments may affect my reading as well. But if I’m being honest, I generally don’t take every sentence if reviews to heart. I take the entire message and opinion without focusing on details and because of that, non-spoiler reviews never affect me. But I understand how it would affect others, which is why when I review I just write “I wasn’t happy with the ending” which is pretty vague. And it shows that it’s MY opinion and not something to do with the plot.

    Also, content warnings are not spoilers if done right, completely agree. And they’re required. I hate it when authors don’t agree to this.

    Great discussion!

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  15. Happy Blogiversary!

    I’ve been thinking about this lately. I like to write spoiler-free reviews, but at the same time, I feel like I’m being a bit too vague in my reviews if I’m trying not to say too much about the story. This is especially the case if it’s the kind of book where it really is best to go in knowing nothing! But instead I tend to comment on the elements of the writing and story itself.

    When it comes to reading reviews, I tend to think that’s what I’m looking for though. I think I am the kind of reader that wants to know very little (aside from trigger warnings) and I enjoy hearing about the reader’s experience more than anything. With other bloggers I know what their writing style is so I know if they include spoiler discussion or not, so I tend to not get spoiled on things. Goodreads can be a different story sometimes though! I think the worst was when I was browsing for books online and they said what the ending was IN THE SYNOPSIS. 🙃

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  16. Congrats on two years!!

    Great discussion. I think spoilers are personal. What one person might see as a spoiler someone else might not.

    I avoid reading reviews of books I haven’t read because I don’t want any spoilers whatsoever. The only time I will read a review of a book I haven’t read is if I know for sure that the person writing the review doesn’t include spoilers or at least warns you when/where there’re spoilers.

    I am like you in that I will read a synopsis of a book and add it to my TBR on Goodreads but then go months/years without reading it and when I finally decide to pick it up and read it I tend to not read the synopsis again.

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  17. Eeepppp so so so glad you’re back!! And omg happy belated blogiversary, so so exciting.

    Also, super loved this discussion. It’s a really… interesting topic and I have a very…. interesting relationship with spoilers lmao. Literally was spoiled all the time back when I was getting into reading because I was that gal who watched the movies first. Though in my defence I didn’t KNOW they were books a lot of the time hehe. Though I also am just terrible and sometimes spoil myself when I’m impatient whoops IM SORRY.

    THAT PINGU MEME OMG DYING HE WAS MY CHILDHOOD

    Anyways, loved your commentary on spoilers. Especially the twist part. I guess it really depends on the book?? Like if its a mystery, then there HAS to be a twist. And fantasies can also have good twists. So yeah. Also, love that you also forget synopsis after a while because SAME. I tend to read and by the time I actually get around to reading it, I don’t remember all the minute details. Never knew about that Trailer theory but that’s so true. I’m definitely with you on preferring like a blurb. Because it gives you just enough to see whether or not it could be for you, but not too much.

    Loved this essay (hehe friend it really is one) Xandra! And you ilysm xoxoxoxo

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  18. This is an amazing discussion, and congrats on two years!!!

    I don’t really don’t like major spoilers, and will go to great extents to avoid them. However, I will read spoiler free reviews because I only want to read books that I think I’m really going to like.

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