WHAT Constitutes a SPOILER?


Recently while reading a review, the writer had mentioned a surprising twist towards the end of the read that changed their thoughts on the book.  I am certain that in my review of this same book, I too mentioned a twist towards the end that really threw me for a loop. It had been a discussion on Twitter that saying there is a “twist”, is sort of a spoiler to the reader of the review who has not yet read the book.



I am reminded of Season Two Downton Abby.  For those who may not know, this is a British tv show on PBS that has caught the attention of many… addicting for sure… and that is not a spoiler… I don’t think.  😉  Anyway, a friend of mine who had finished the second season before I had, eluded to a big SHOCK that would be devastating once I knew it.  I remember from that point on each episode I watched I was waiting for it…. wondering, is that the big shock?  Is that?  When will it happen?  Who will it involve?  It may be safe to say that knowing something big was coming did take a way a bit of the experience as I was waiting for the BIG THING.



I can see how saying there is a shock, or a twist can lead to the reader waiting for that moment to happen – but I think it also builds up the read.  When I mention that a book shocked me or a twist really impressed me as I had no clue, to me, that builds value in the read.  If a reviewer I enjoy says something like this, it draws me closer to the book… the mention of a surprise makes me want to know… “Wow, what happens?


So the question before us is… is it?  Is it a spoiler to a book if we discuss that there is a twist at the end, or a change that happens that totally changed the way we felt about the book.

Also…  how do you define what a SPOILER is?  As Grace from Books Without Any Pictures recently (and brilliantly) said in a historical fiction review, “is it a spoiler if it actually happened?”


58 thoughts on “WHAT Constitutes a SPOILER?

  1. When reading a mystery I think it goes without saying that there will be twists and turns before we reach the end. So when someone says there is a twist at the end I don’t think of that as a spoiler.

  2. Thanks for the mention! 🙂

    I don’t mind knowing that a shock will come, especially if the book starts out slow. Knowing that something big is gonna happen can keep me reading a book that I might otherwise DNF.

  3. I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that there is an unexpected twist as long as you don’t give details 🙂

    I also like knowing if there is a cliffhanger ending so I can prepare myself for it!

  4. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there is a big twist or a shocking ending, a spoiler would be actually giving out the details of said twist or ending. I actually kind of like it when people say there is something big because it can make the book more enticing to read. I doubt I ever would have picked up Gone Girl if I hadn’t known that there was a huge WTF in it.

  5. I think partially the great thing about a twist is that you don’t expect it. Although I feel that as a reviewer you should talk about what happens in the book, but I always find myself wondering whether I’m taking away from the “unsuspecting-ness” (I know, not a real word 😉 ) of a first time reader. It’s not exactly a spoiler, but it does change how you approach a book. Sometimes I don’t even read a synopsis properly if I feel it is giving too much away! Great post 🙂

  6. As long as you don’t give away actual plot developments, I don’t think discussing “surprises” counts as a spoiler. It seems to me that almost all works of fiction have SOME sort of “twist” or unexpected events/actions, don’t they? At least the good ones do. Saying a novel has unexpected turns is sort of like saying it has a beginning, middle and end, and that certainly shouldn’t spoil the story for anyone. But I guess if I didn’t want to know anything at all about a book, I wouldn’t read a review in the first place. Good post – it’s really interesting to see different opinions on the subject!

  7. I don’t consider it a spoiler to indicate that the book has a twist at the end. When the movie The Crying Game was first released, I heard that the movie had a big surprise but there was no clue what it was. This “spoiler” only encouraged me to see the movie. I don’t believe that being aware that there was a surprise lessened the shock of the surprise when it did occur.

  8. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say there is a twist. When I write reviews, I focus on how the book made me feel, what I thought of the characters, setting, flow of the story, etc. I try to never give out specific details. I don’t ever want to accidentally ruin a story for someone!

    I agree with historical events not having spoilers, as long as it’s a nonfiction book…sometimes there are historical fiction books that have real events but the rest of the story is fiction.

  9. I agree, if you’re just saying that there is a twist, that’s not a spoiler. If you reveal what the twist was, then obviously that’s a spoiler. I agree, sometimes hearing that there’s a twist can intrigue you. I’m waiting on my copy of We Were Liars and I can’t wait to find out what happens at the end that everyone’s been talking about.

  10. of course saying there are twists isn’t a spoiler in reviewing something unless you provide details of it. that’s part or your review that the twists kept you reading or surprised you etc. at least that’s how I incorporate into my reviews. I don’t often read reviews of books I’m reviewing before I review them but I did glance at one on Good Reads and someone gave away a mystery/thriller’s ending without saying: spoiler and that I think was an egregiousness error on her part. She ruined the book for me because I knew going in what was going to happened. not just that something was happening but EXACTLY what. I made a comment and she brushed it off. truly irked me.

  11. let me add that TV spoilers don’t bother me as much. Game of Thrones for instance. I didn’t get into it until recently so I’d heard about the show. I knew what was going to happen and still enjoyed it. not a huge deal to me. it’s TV. didn’t ruin it.

  12. I agree with prior comments. Saying there is ‘a twist’ is just setting out an element that the reviewer liked … or not. It is similar to saying there is ‘good action’ or ‘strong characters’. However, it would be a spoiler to describe the twist details.

  13. Seems like I’m in the majority … I agree with Martha, saying a book has a twist that kept you reading or wanting the next book is like saying a story has brilliant characterisation or suspense that had your heart in your mouth. It’s usually a while before I get around to reading a ‘hyped’ book so I’m unlikely to remember that someone mentioned there’s an unexpected ending. I do like to know if there’s a cliffhanger that way I can choose to wait to read it until the next book is out. Good post Sheila 🙂

  14. I agree with most of the comments that mentioning a twist or surprise is not itself a spoiler. As long as you don’t give away what that twist is… I often think that the back cover copy or blurb often gives away info that would be considered a spoiler if a reviewer mentioned it! I read something recently that sorta built up to a surprise but the back cover clearly said what was going to happen, so it was kinda funny.

      1. I had that problem with a book I recently read. The back cover revealed a plot twist that occurred midway through the book, and it made the twist (which should have been a surprise) completely anticlimactic. And I get that the point of the blurb is to make people want to read the book, but you can do that without ruining the book too.

  15. I here ya. On one hand I say, no. On the other, it might put the person on edge expecting something they might not have expected otherwise. In a way stealing the shock of the twist. So yah I’m on the fence. I can definitely see both sides of the issue. Good question.

    1. Thats about where I am – I do mention twists in my reviews, mainly because that is exciting – however, as in the case of a book I recently read… I am so glad I had no clue… it was all the better for it. 🙂

  16. I disagree, I don’t think it’s a spoiler. Every time I read a review and someone says there’s a twist I’m just interested to find out what that is. As long as the person didn’t drop any hints towards what it actually is, I’m totally fine with it. Sometimes it’s good because if the book doesn’t sound too interesting, this will give you a heads up that it may be a little boring in some parts but there’s something exciting that will happen.

  17. good question. I think I kind of like to not know, but it’s hard not to when often than not TV or book promos always elude to something as a draw card.

  18. Great post Sheila. Honestly, I can’t see anything wrong with saying there is a big twist coming in a novel as long as you leave it there. I’ve read plenty of reviews where they tell you what the twist is without any warnings of spoilers and they annoyed me more than I care to admit, because it effectively ruins the book. I’ve also read plenty of reviews where people mention or allude to the twist at the end without giving anything away. There’s nothing wrong with this approach – I use it myself in my reviews – afterall the books that have twists in them, are usually made better by said twist being included. So to not include at least some kind of mention of the twist (even in vague comments) is like ignoring the elephant in the room. AS long as you don’t give away too much or carry out conversation about it openly on social media, I’m fine with talking about twists.

  19. OOooooo, hot topic here, Sheila! I have to say I lean pretty heavily toward the “I’d rather not know” camp. Like you, when your friend eluded to a big SHOCK that would be devastating once you knew it, it ruined the real enjoyment of the show. Believe it or not, this happened to me for Deathly Hallows! Yes, THE book I’d waited years for,! Two people I know and love (both separately), having finished the book before I did (they’re both fast readers and were able to read without interference, unlike me), gave away—simply by their reactions!—Harry’s ultimate fate. It ruined it for me in the same way 😦

    I think it’s fine to say there are twists and turns, but I think where the problem is, is in the telling of WHEN and WHAT KIND of twists and turns. Saying there’s a twist “at the end,” in my opinion, is too specific. Saying it’s “devastating” is definitely a spoiler. Even saying you “love” the way it ended is a spoiler. I feel this way about any storytelling, whether it’s film or books, but with books I’m much more touchy because there’s a lot more time invested and the absorption level while reading is on a deeper level. I want to experience the ride and be surprised/shocked/moved when and how the author intended, and I don’t want to be “waiting” or “expecting” anything specific at a certain time. When someone tells me they LOVED a book, or it was a REALLY GREAT mystery or whatever, and maybe just telling me an overview of what the story is about, saying it’s a beautiful love story with compelling characters, or that you’re totally captivated from beginning to end, a real page-turner or I laughed and cried and didn’t want to put it down—that’s enough to whet my reading appetite without spoiling anything. I’ve often had to stop people from further explaining a story to me if they begin to give too much away.

    I also agree with Greg about book blurbs! I know they want to pull you into the book, but sometimes they go too far *sigh*

    And now that you’re heading to BEA (or maybe you’re already there!), I can’t imagine you’ll be able to keep up with the blog, but who knows? Have a GREAT time and safe trip 😀

    1. Deathly Hallows! What a flash back. I picked up my book at Midnight and went to bed. The next morning I went out on my deck and read it between that morning and the next afternoon not allowing myself any social media or phone contacts because I did not want ANY HINTS! 😛 Then… when I was done. I read it again. Slower that time.

      1. Wow, Sheila, first—I’m impressed you’re doing BEA and are able to keep up with comments! lol

        And with Deathly Hallows, my intent was to hibernate ’til I was done. I picked it up at midnight, tried to read, but only got in about an hour ’cause I was way too exhausted from a long Harry Potter-filled day and had to get up early. I do face painting and although I only do a handful of gigs every year now, of all days I had a gig, it was that Saturday! I was literally telling people that if they were reading Deathly Hallows, to PLEASE not talk about it ANYwhere within earshot. All was well ’til I got home.

        I was downstairs, quietly and voraciously reading away, and one of my Harry Potter Theory Monger friends called me. She was beside herself on pg. 61 (Hagrid falling) and called me telling me she couldn’t continue reading, that she couldn’t bear that. I was about a chapter ahead of her at that point and assured her to just keep reading. Then a bit later in the afternoon, my then “future” daughter-in-law came over in the afternoon and came down to me. She was DYing to talk to me about it, but I told her do NOT tell me ANYthing. She said she wasn’t going to say anything that would spoil it for me, but she just wanted to say one thing. I took a deep breath and let her. She simply told me her REACTION to how it played out. I KNEW my d-i-law’s feelings about the series, so KNEW Harry’s outcome! I threw up my hands, of course, and I know she felt bad ’cause she thought that by not giving me “details” she wasn’t spoiling it. As I said, NOT giving details isn’t the only safety precaution against spoiling. Of course, I kept reading, but it wasn’t the same because, although I didn’t truly believe J.K. would kill off Harry, her plotting and all our theorizing left that measure of doubt.

        I told my friend NOT to call me again and to leave a message online when she was done, then when I was done we could talk. But no. She called me as soon as she was finished. I had more interruptions that day (my cousin couldn’t believe her unexpected visit was bad timing for me, that I REALLY wanted to keep reading! *sigh*), so I ended up behind on finishing the book. So, when my friend called, her tone of voice and her reaction clinched what my d-i-l already set in motion. I got off the phone and cried–literally, and just thought–I can’t even get to enjoy THIS the way I want! I was SOOOooooo upset, but then sucked it up, wiped away the tears and read to the end. Of course, I loved the book and love the series, but didn’t get to enjoy the anticipated end the way I’d hope to for so many years : /

        So, the moral behind this little anecdote is—-WHAT CAN CONSTITUTE A SPOILER! 😀 (Note: even with all this explanation, I didn’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the series or seen the movies 🙂 )

        I, too, immediately read it a second time, slower over the course of a week, so I could really absorb it. Also, I was taking notes through my first read, too (which slowed me up a bit) ’cause it made it easier for my Harry Potter group to find things when we discussed the books. Yes—I have detailed notes on the entire series 😀 😀 😀

  20. I have nothing new to add. A spoiler to me is the detail!. Saying there were twists or unusual happenings only adds to the suspense.

  21. I am am with the majority that just mentioning that there may be a twist is not a spoiler.

    I have a different view on spoilers then most folks do. I find that it is often to write or have a meaningful discussion about a book without revealing the dreaded spoiler.I always post a warning about it, however.

  22. I think it’s fine to mention that there is a twist, because that’s intriguing and can attract readers, but not to say what the twist is. I think anything in the first 1/3 of the book is fine to mention in a review but nothing after that- even if it means you can’t say what you want about what happened in the book.

  23. I usually only mention a twist if that made or broke the book for me. The time between me reading a review and reading the actual book makes it so I usually forget about the mentioned twist anyway!

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