Spoilers in reviews


A while ago, Romancing the Blog did a post on spoilers in reviews and DA followed that up with a poll for readers to vote on spoilers in reviews or no spoilers. The majority voted they liked spoilers but what caught my attention is that neither the blog post nor the poll really identified what they considered spoilers. They hinted this could be characterization points or perhaps plot points. At the time, I thought “I like spoilers, sure.” Yet when I read a recent review that had so many plot spoilers that it takes the fun right out of that book should anyone buy it after reading that review – I was pissed. I read the same book and knew that it would be hard to write a review. So, why write a review if you can’t keep the spoilers out?

I realize that review writing isn’t easy. Even with the plethora of uninformative reviews (personal opinion there), that doesn’t mean the writer put little to no effort into the review – even if it seems that way. So it stands to reason that the average book is hard to review: what to say, what’s unique, different, did the reader like it, etc. When a book appears with a twist, a mystery, clues, etc and it’s even harder to review, it’s no surprise the reviews tend to have spoilers. I’ve done spoiler reviews myself.

However, I do think it’s essential to keep spoilers out of reviews as much as possible. This benefits everyone. Those readers who use reviews to help choose their books can still enjoy the book without knowing the ending and the author doesn’t feel as those their book was just thrown up on a pirate site because now everyone know that Mrs. White did it with the candlestick.

Romance reviews are really easy. It’s a HEA and there is really no spoiler that despite the tense question of “will jack and tom end up together?!” the reader knows they will end up together and they’re not buying the book to answer that question. They’re buying the book to read how Jack and Tom end up together despite the problems the author has thrown between them. There the journey of the romance is the reason to read the book, not the actual outcome. That is a given – it’s why readers buy romance. Well one reason anyway.

So what about mystery or other elements? The rule of thumb I use is that anything I didn’t see coming is a clear spoiler (duh). Even elements clearly telegraphed, if the author obviously thinks they are clever or a twist, don’t explicitly tell them. If one of the main characters has a surprise prince albert that plays into the plot – leave it out. Usually books are told in such a way as it’s clear to see what the author thinks of as the twist or an important clue – even if it doesn’t work the way the author wants or it’s really not that clever. Still, the story uses it as so and other readers may enjoy it more.

It’s exceedingly difficult to review a book without spoilers. I have a hard time doing it and furthermore, I don’t enjoy writing those reviews. Especially so if the review is negative, as there is very little you can say beyond that element wasn’t clever/didn’t work/too obvious. You can’t really explain that it was too obvious because Jack killed Tom’s brother in the opening sequence thus Tom is bound to find out and so the argument was uh, predictable. Instead there is an inherent vague quality to the review with bland words and not much explanation. Yet the review is for the reader so they can make a judgment. They can decide if they are intrigued enough to read the book even knowing the twist isn’t that well done and as obvious as the proverbial smoking gun.

Giving too many clever details and synopsis points away hurts everyone. Although I personally like spoilers in a review when they are obvious such as Tom and Jack are going to live happily together – it’s a romance – I’d rather not be told that Tom and Jack kill each other in a bizarre Romeo and Juliet twist. You can simply say there is no happy ending due to a weird twist.


What do you think?

Too many spoilers in reviews? Or not enough?



14 thoughts on “Spoilers in reviews

  1. Great post Kassa, really thought provoking.
    I try not to include spoilers in my reviews as much as possible but as you say, sometimes it’s hard. Basically anything that happens in the first few pages is fair game in my view, after that I try to be more circumspect and only hint at parts which might affect character or plot (ie I might say ‘then something happens and the plot takes a dramatic turn’, or something similar).
    Then again what I consider to be a spoiler – which is as you say something surprising or unexpected or a big plot event later in the book – may be different to what someone else considers to be a spoiler. It’s the same for endings. I often state in my reviews if there isn’t a straight out HEA as that may affect whether someone buys the book or not. Some people may not like that I do that, but there are some readers who don’t want to read anything which doesn’t have a strong HEA and I feel they need to know that.
    You are right in that the HEA does help in not needing to give the game away. However, I can still be caught out. I once wrote a review about a book where the hero had to choose between two men and in trying to explain a problem I had with the book I mentioned that the hero chooses at the end – I didn’t say which man he chose, just that he makes a decision. I didn’t think that was a spoiler because it seemed obvious to me when first reading the book that the hero would choose by the end. When the author linked to my review she mentioned that I’d been a little spoilerish and I can only think it was that I’d told them about that choice.
    When I read reviews I’d rather not know major plot spoilers. I’d rather a reviewer be a bit waffly about why a part did or didn’t work – and perhaps explain that they don’t want to give away spoilers – than tell me something which would ruin my enjoyment of a book or affect how I felt about a character. I also admit that if I buy a book then I won’t read the reviews until after I have read it for fear that other reviewers may give away spoilers.
    Eek! I’ve rambled on a bit here – sorry about that!

    • Hi Jen, thanks for your rambles! Always welcome and you articulated exactly what I was trying to say.
      It’s interesting the author felt that was spoilerish. Can you tell me which review? I’m curious to read what authors consider spoilers vs. my judgment as well. I’d have very likely agreed with you and said it wasn’t a spoiler.
      I like to read reviews to choose books thus it’s annoying the spoilers that splash around. It’s making me hesitant to read ANY reviews anymore :(.

  2. As a writer – I am against spoilers.
    As a reader – I am against spoilers.
    As a reviewer – I am against spoilers.
    I don’t like them, no matter the size or the (personal) judgement on importance. I want the whole experience from my POV. As a writer, they piss me off. Particularly because at the moment, I’m known for my short stories.
    You can not spoil a short story because its a 99.9% chance that the spoiler that is posted is the gist of the whole 5k thing.
    As a reviewer, I tend to do long reviews because I like to dance on certain points of the story, usually the way a character is presented. I try and I’m pretty sure I succeed, at totally avoiding any spoilers at all.
    But then this is probably why I don’t always read reviews if ever. I read the ones for my own, yes. And if I’m directed to one or happen to stumble upon a review for an author I like, I might.
    I read Kitteh’s for the pure humor. But in the end, I dodge reviews. Because not everyone posts a spoiler note so I’d rather just not take the chance at all and read the book based on its merits — not someone else’s opinion.

    • Exactly Ms. Zoe! I’m against spoilers. But it seems we are the minority looking at some posted reviews. I’ve seen some authors even post “please do not include spoilers when reviewing my work.” Sad you have to point that out.
      You seem to be one of the many who avoid reviews – thus making me wonder. Who reads them then?

  3. Depends on what you’re writing. The vast majority of ‘reviews’ I’ve read are actually book reports, and not critical reviews at all. If you’re writing a book report, particularly on a romance book, it would be next to impossible to not have a single spoiler moment included.

    • Well book reports are unhelpful and a waste of space – IMO. If someone is going to write about the book, it’s helpful to write something the reader can use than a long re-iteration of plot and then “i liked it/it sucked.” But yanno that’s just me. Trying not to go off topic with the whole “those who write book reports” rant. :/

  4. Difficult or not for the reviewer to do, I don’t like spoilers in reviews at all. What I mean by spoiler is something that if not hints but states clearly what the outcome of the story and/or the conflict/climax is.
    I especially hate it when the reviewer offers no warning that a review contains spoilers. It makes me bloody furious and reminds me of all those times I’ve been reading a book or watching a movie and some arsehole comes along and ruins the whole experience for me by telling me the ending.

    • OO yes! When I read the above mentioned review with spoilers, there was no warning. Thankfully I’d already read the book and was just curious what others thought, but there was no warning that they were giving away a rather big plot point. But part of me realized – reviewers DON’T get they’re doing spoilers.
      Part of the issue is that reviewers blithely list all these spoilers without thinking. I remember being asked about a book I’d read and the person editing the review was curious about a plot point included. It was a HUGE spoiler. The reviewer had carelessly thrown such a thing into their review without thinking. Oooh that made me mad.
      I prefer to be warned for sure, but I also prefer that ppl are intelligent about it too.

  5. Hate ’em.
    The fun is in the journey. Being told about every interesting plot twist is like watching a movie with people who insist on telling you what’s about to happen– or, worse yet, who give away the ending. (Oh, GAWD, I could go on and on about this, because the men in my household seem to take a perverse delight in blabbing about what’s coming next!)
    I’ve wanted to wring the necks of some reviewers who’ve blithely dished up spoilers. What’s the point of reading the book (or watching the movie) if you know what’s going to happen? It totally ruins the “immersion” experience!
    I do appreciate it when a reviewer warns of upcoming spoilers and tucks them “under the fold.” That at least gives me the chance to decide if I want to keep reading or not.

    • You hit the nail on why they piss me off. The fun is in the journey. *noddles* While most of the time I can figure it out, I don’t need to be told. What’s the point of reading if you already know everything!?
      I’ll have to remember if I ever do spoilers to tuck them under something so ppl can skip them. But it reminds me of a present under the tree. Can’t look just yet, and then you want THAT present as soon as you’re told you can’t. Or perhaps that’s my inner/outer kid.
      Don’t give me the choice please. Just dont do it 😦 save a tree/author/reader!

  6. I don’t like spoilers in reviews. Ruins the book for me because half the fun is wondering what’s going to happen next as you’re reading along.
    When I read reviews, I’m basically looking to see if the reviewer thought the book was worth spending my money and time on. I can usually tell from the blurb whether the general plot of the book will be interesting to me or not. Thus, I’m looking to the reviewer to let me know if the characters were well-developed, if there actually was a plot (vs mostly sex) and it was believable, if the story was well written, and if there were lots of typos/editorial mistakes that are going to drive me crazy. I think that can be done without including spoilers. Your blog, Wave’s, Jenre’s, and Kris’s all do an excellent job of that.
    Jenre mentioned this in her reply, but in m/m romance reviews, I do like knowing if there’s an HEA or not, and I don’t consider that a spoiler. I’ll read romances without HEA, but I like to have advance warning.

    • ooo! Good point. I’m curious what ppl look for in a review. I wonder if it’s more helpful that I do a lil TLDR paragraph up front in case no one reads any further for more information. You know… good or not good, brief reasons why and then onto the actual review.
      I always consider a HEA to be a given unless otherwise stated but I’ll have to be sure to remember to make sure I include that one.
      THank you for the comment!

  7. Hi, Kassa! Good post. I try very hard to avoid mentioning spoilers. This can be difficult because it’s getting to the point where one of the main things I critique about a book is whether it had enough strong, developed conflict. I’ve reviewed books that didn’t have enough conflict or that sidestepped the opportunity for conflict and — talk about having my hands tied in a review! I want to say something like, “There was an opportunity for some conflict here but it all dissipated when the author chose to do this other thing,” but I have to be vague. I’m still sorting out how to critique conflict without putting in specific spoilers.

    • Hi Val! I didn’t see your comment but yes, it’s difficult to write without spoilers – I completely agree. It’s why some books I simply hate writing a review. Sometimes mysteries are easy because everyone knows you’re avoiding certain secrets and can read between the lines. Others you’re stuck wondering “was that detail important?”
      It’s a really thin line and I’ve seen all kinds of arguments on it.

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