May 8 2011 4:20pm

The Great Debate: Is It Better to Seek Out or Avoid Spoilers?

Book on the Beach image by LWY via FlickrPoint, from Natasha:

I’m a weird reader; I refuse to read anything—I mean, ANYTHING—about a book until it’s in my hands. Only for series that have a new book coming out, I don’t read about them. I steer clear of author websites, Goodreads, Amazon and I even go as far as not reading the back blurb on the book even when it’s in my hand. If the previous book has a “Coming Soon” in it, I close the book and put it away. I don’t want a sneak peek, damnit, I want the whole book! Stop teasing me with it, gimmie gimmie NOOOOW.

I like the surprise; I mean, I already know the character so why do I want to be teased with what’s going to happen? I’d like to read it for myself and I don’t want to spend months after reading a “Coming Soon” dying to know what the next chapter is.

This concept has served me well, but drives my fellow bloggers insane because I do the equivalent of plugging my ears and singing “La La La” when they push information on me. With Chloe Neill’s Hard Bitten, I may have screamed at a fellow blogger to stop talking to me. She was tweeting to me about it, while I was reading it! I don’t want to know how anyone felt about it!!! Leave me in the little bubble I have, please?

Dreamfever by Karen Marie MoningI was one of the lone few who held out and refused to even touch Karen Marie Moning’s Dreamfever because I was told there was a cliffhanger ending. I waited until the week before Shadowfever came out to read it. That was a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) because that was one hell of an ending.

I know I’m weird, but I like the element of surprise, and sometimes I feel the back blurbs give way too much information away. So I’ll continue to be surprised, at least until someone else tries to tell me they can’t believe what happened in So and So’s book. Then you’ll hear me yell.

Counterpoint, from Myretta:

Hi.  My name is Myretta Robens and I'm an end-reader. People look askance when I admit this. Right, Natasha? And yet I am unrepentant. Don't get me wrong.  I don't open a book and turn immediately to the final chapter.  Good heavens, I'm not that crass. No, I'm more gentle than that. I start at the beginning, just as I should.  I like beginnings. I like getting to know the characters. I want to learn if I'm going to like them and I want to see what kind of trouble they're going to get themselves into.

I'll read two or three chapters—sometimes more—and then, something dire will happen.  The heroine will be abducted.  The hero will be imprisoned.  The hero and heroine will be separated by an evil uncle or they'll have a falling out and each go his/her own way.  And I just can't stand it.  Although I know they'll be together in the final chapter, I need to console myself.  I need to take a little break from the tension and look ahead to happier times.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. RowlingSometimes, when there has been a lot of pre-publication discussion about a book (Yes, Natasha, I eat up all that pre-pub chat on a long-awaited book AND read the back cover blurb), I jump right to the end.  I'm one of those people who read the epilogue to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows before I even started the first chapter.  I mean, I already knew these characters, had known them for years.  Before I started the last book, I damn well wanted to know if Harry, Ron and Hermione were still going to be around at the end.  So there!

So, while I guess I can understand those peculiar readers (*ahem*) who don't want to know anything before it happens, I'm afraid I can't relate.  Give me the Happily Every After and give it to me as soon as possible.

Book on the beach image by LWY via Flickr 


Myretta Robens, The Republic of Pemberley

Natasha Carty reviews Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy on her website Wicked Little Pixie and lives in Toronto, Canada, with her cat, Seamus.

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Smash Attack
1. Smash Attack
I'm with you, Natasha! I detest spoilers and usually don't read book blurbs, either. I get so nervous reading book reviews before I read a book and will only go to trusted sources so I'm not spoiled. I hide when major books are released because I will hurt someone if I'm spoiled. I can't, for the life of me, understand why you would want to ruin the story by knowing the ending. What is the point of reading it then? I quite enjoy the emotions I feel while reading, and if I knew the ending in the beginning, that experience is lost.
Smash Attack
2. bungluna
Myretta, I'm your kind'a reader. I get acquainted with the characters, then I go see how the story ends. I enjoy the journey, even though I know where it ends. What would kill me is finding out the destination was a wash after spending all that time and effort on the trip.

I used to read doggedly through all books, not wanting to spoil the story, until I was burned once to often by a twist that left me hanging. I'm too old to waste time on books which will leave me unsatisfied or unhappy. I want to make sure the destination is worth my effort or I'm moving on to the next book.

As for spoilers, give 'em all to me. I might be dead by the time the next one comes out; I wanna know what's coming right now!
Smash Attack
3. ms bookjunkie
I'm with Natasha. If it's an auto-buy author, I don't want to know anything other than the name of the next book so I can pre-order it. No excerpts, no reviews (until I've read the book myself), certainly no spoilers FFS! and I don't even read the back cover copy anymore.

I believe got this way because I used to read excerpts, back cover copy etc., but because of the wait for the book (either for pub date or the arrival of an online order), the story started living a life of its own in my head. I had expectations about the plot that blossomed while I waited…and then that long-awaited book turned out to be a disappointment because it didn't meet the expectations I'd built in my head! The shock! The horror!

So yeah, I. don't. wanna. know. ANYTHING!
Natasha Carty
4. WickedLilPixie
@ Smash & Book Junkie - I want everything to flow, I could never just skip to the end!
Miranda Neville
5. Miranda Neville
Like Myretta, I'm an end reader. However, as a writer I love Natasha. It's frustrating to know, even as one incorporates surprising twists into one's story, that anything up to about page 100 may well be revealed by the back cover copy and/or reviews. In my last book an event that took place on page 260 was mentioned in numerous reviewers' summaries. There ought to be a law.
Smash Attack
6. DarleneMarshall
Heh. Once at a signing I nearly ripped one of my books out of the hands of a potential buyer who said she wanted to read the ending first to see if she'd like it.
"You can't do that!" I said. "There's a huge plot twist and if you read the end first it gives it all away!"
I don't know what she saw on my face, but she backed away slowly from the table.
I too hate spoilers.
Smash Attack
7. torifl
I'm like Myretta. I've been known to read the last chapter or so before starting the book. I'm not ashamed. lol But it's usually because the book has been hyped so much or we were left with an unacceptable cliff hanger.
Smash Attack
8. Taragel
Hee. Great discussion. I'm someone who doesn't like spoilers when it comes to books (although I don't mind them at all when it comes to TV usually--with some exceptions) although I'm not as strident about hearing nothing about a book before I start it. I love discovering new books and it's tough to do that without reading some info before hand. But I never skip ahead once I start reading.

I do have friends who always do go to the end first though! Heh.
Jessica Turner
9. TheSpinecracker
Oh Nat, you're making me feel so normal right now! That is me to a T

A lot of times, after finding a new book/author at the bookstore, I put it on my shelf for a few weeks before reading. When I actually get around to reading the book it is as though I know almost nothing about it. It's the most genuine experience I can get.
Smash Attack
10. brontëgirl
I usually don't read ahead, but my mom does, lol :). I too am one of those "find out as I'm reading" readers. And the more compelling a book is--Jane Eyre, East of Eden, The Beautiful and Damned, Act One (playwright Moss Hart's autobiography)--the quicker I'll finish.
I don't mind reviews, but don't like spoilers. TV spoilers are sometimes another matter :).
Susanna Fraser
11. Susanna Fraser
I don't actually read the end, but particularly with long-running book series or a TV show, I'll actively seek out spoilers. Stuff like who dies, whether my favorite couple is finally going to kiss/have sex/get married, that kind of thing.

Oh, and I'm prone to reading ahead when an author uses multiple points of view, particularly with multiple plot threads. I'll have a favorite character, or a plot thread that interests me more than the others, and I'll skim ahead to see what happens next with it. E.g. I've just started reading A Game of Thrones, and I find myself skimming ahead for more of Arya and Dany. And with Winds of War and War and Remembrance, the first several times I read it almost exclusively for Natalie's plot. It was years before I went back and read all the "boring Pacific Theater Navy bits" and discovered they weren't so boring after all and that Victor Henry was pretty much awesomesauce.
Alie V
12. ophelial
I'm an end-reader too and not ashamed! I can't stand not knowing. I don't want to waste my time on a book with a sub-par ending. When Breaking Dawn (Twilight Saga) came out, I read the end first to see if Bella became a vampire or not.
Regina Thorne
13. reginathorn
@ Myretta, I am in your camp!!! If I'm invested in the characters and something bad happens to them I HAVE to know what happens.

Having said that, @ Susanna Fraser - do yourself a favor and DON'T skim ahead in the Martin books. I spoiled myself for something in the third book and I literally was sort of paralyzed in my reading up to that point because I did NOT want it to happen and I felt that if I hadn't known about it, it might not have occurred. /crazy book logic

@taragel, I think I am one of the friends you mentioned :D
Smash Attack
14. Karen H
Great post! I do a bit of both. I do avoid excerpts because I have a very good memory and I discovered that I was thinking I'd already read the book because I remembered the first chapter. So no more of that! I get newsletters from several authors and publishers but I just use them to decide if I might want to read the book and add it to my list.

I always read the back cover to decide if I'm even going to pick up the book. Once I'm ready to read, I read the back cover again and if there's a front page with a scene, I read that, too, before I start the book. I don't always read the end pages unless something awful is happening and I need to make sure things will be okay in the end. I know it's romance and that's a given but I sometimes need reassurance!

I don't, however, read reviews until I'm finished with the book since I don't want to be influenced. I'm the same with movies but I devour the extras on the DVD once I've seen the movie and I'm likely to go to the book author's site and check for extras there, too, but only after I finish reading the book!
S Tieh
16. infinitieh
With books as with movies, I have to know the ending first. Of course, with a romance it's going to be HEA, but I really want to know. I refuse to go see movies that I don't know the endings of because I don't want to invest all that time if I know the ending is going to tick me off or not be satisfying in some way.

I have often read the last few pages of a book, especially if I suspect it to end in a cliffhanger. I loathe cliffhangers; I'd lower the rating of a book if it has a cliffhanger especially if I wasn't warned beforehand.
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