There have been plenty of times when I was caught off guard by a book. One minute I was reading for enjoyment and then, all of a sudden, I was hit with words I was not prepared for. No one should ever suffer through that horrible experience. It takes away from one of the purposes of books, which is to help people escape from reality. That is why a Trigger Warning or Content Warning is important. Below you will find trigger warning books which you should be aware of before you pick them up.
What is a Trigger Warning?
A trigger warning is a statement or collection of words that inform people about subject matter that they might find very upsetting or disturbing. In books, this kind of warning informs readers who may have had similar experiences, and alerts them to possible graphic references like sexual violence, disorders, self-harm, and others.
Writers have recently been putting up content and trigger warnings in the beginning of their books. Grown, a YA mystery thriller, has such warnings. Readers have also been conscious about this matter when including these warnings in their posts and reviews. I have gathered some trigger warning books that I’ve been caught off guard by which should have warnings about these types of subjects.
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7. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Trigger Warnings: Murder, gun violence, abuse, PTSD, intense trial proceedings, bullying, death, sex, suicide
Featuring the aftermath of a tragedy, Jodi Picoult explores the depth of justice, negligence, and tolerance in school as well as in our society as a whole. Josie Cormier, the sitting judge’s daughter, can’t remember what exactly happened even though she’s about to stand in as a witness. Her side of the story can change someone else’s life. This story is raw, thought-provoking, and poetic.
6. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
Not everyone gets a happily every after. Life is real and sometimes it’s ugly and you just have to learn how to cope.
Trigger Warnings: Death of a parent, child abuse, sexual abuse, rape, suicide
Seventeen-year-old Sky meets Dean Holder – a guy with a very strong personality that contradicts her own. Finding herself struggling to avoid his persistent pursuit, she discovered secrets Holder has been keeping that changes Sky’s life forever. As simple as it may sound, Hopeless is a slow-burn new adult romance with very disturbing contents one needs to watch for.
5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Trigger Warnings: Suicide, violence, illness, sexual abuse, bullying, depression
With all that has been happening in Afghanistan, The Kite Runner has been gaining new attention recently. It highlights love, friendship, and redemption amidst the devastating war the country had been facing over the last thirty years and how war can affect relationships. This heartbreaking and extraordinary story begins with Amir and Hassan, innocent children roaming around the streets. It then challenges our perceptions of the victims of war and betrayal, where one simple decision can cause a devastating outcome.
4. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Trigger Warnings: Mutilation, murder, rape, torture, graphic violence
A very graphic and gore mystery thriller, Pretty Girls follows the story of Claire Scott, who she discovers the truth behind her sister Julia’s disappearance twenty years ago. Her thorough investigation begins when another girl goes missing, and she believes that there might be a connection to her sister. The plot was very dark but this is one of the most recommended thriller books for beginners so I highly suggest that readers be cautious and prepared before reading it.
3. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Until now I didn’t realize how memories clumped together. Remembering one unlocked another and then another until you were drowning in a tidal wave threatening to sweep you away.
Trigger Warnings: Child labor, off-page murder, sexism, violence
A heartwarming middle grade book about determination and perseverance of a young girl in an ordinary Pakistani village that everyone should read at least once. Amal dreams of becoming a teacher someday but this dream is put on hold, for she has to work to pay off her family’s debt incurred by an accident with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord in the streets. Behind this inspiring story lie heavy topics that young readers need to be aware of.
2. Calling Mr. Nelson Pugh by Christopher Opyr
Trigger Warnings: Violence, anxiety, panic attacks
This short book took my breath away with its vivid narration of what its like to have anxiety, bringing the readers into the mind of the Mr. Nelson Pugh while he is apart from his family. A series of unusual calls from his wife trigger his anxiety. While suffering from panic attacks, Mr. Pugh must uncover the truth before the mystery reveals itself with potentially horrific consequences.
1. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Trigger Warnings: Death, eating disorder (anorexia and bulimia), mental illness, self-harm (cutting), suicidal ideation
Lia suffers from anorexia, which is a type of eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted perception of weight, and an abnormally low body mass. Her best friend, Cassie, had another type called bulimia, and she recently passed away. The story follows Lia as she navigates through grief, regret, and recovery. It was highly descriptive on how it feels to be trapped inside your own mind.
There are a lot of books that should come with trigger warnings as there are more and more trigger warning books being written. Bloggers have begun putting up websites that lists down trigger warnings for each book accessible online.
I appreciate publishers and authors who take time to include these within their books. As a reader, you should not take these cautions as spoilers. I can’t emphasize how important that we take these seriously, and as contents you have to be prepared for.
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