The gore factor

This has been discussed about a million times before, but I wanted to specifically bring it up on my blog because it affects me and I am the most important person ever. What I’m talking about is, of course, whether I should “warn” for certain things when reviewing a book.

I’m talking stuff like heavy cursing, gore, violence, etc– all the stuff that makes movies jump from a G to an R rating, specifically in YA books. I’m an adult and can handle stuff like that, and I also don’t have to worry about what my nonexistent kids are reading. So I tend not to mention anything that would warrant something above a G rating in my reviews, except for that one time because, uh, that was pretty extreme. But that was an adult book, not a YA book, and now I’m wondering if I should say something.

It’s not because I don’t think kids (or “young adults”) couldn’t handle– what would you call it? Extreme situations?– and I think in some instances it’s pretty obvious the book is going to have things in it that would be upsetting (hello). But what about books where you wouldn’t expect an overly descriptive amount of gore? Like in the book I just reviewed today, Blood of Ambrose? I didn’t mention it in the review, but that book has got some scenes of torture in it that are pretty descriptive (and gross), and I found myself today being really uncomfortable that someone might give it to a younger kid without reading it themselves because it’s a King Arthur story, right, and thus mostly harmless, and WOAH, yeah, that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t think I’d want my younger-than-15/16-year-old kid reading it (nonexistent though they are).

I think this problem stems from the stereotype that YA books, while not all full of sunshine and fluffy bunnies, tend to stay beneath an R rating. And so when a YA book breaks free of the fluffy bunny stereotype, like Blood of Ambrose, I almost feel like I have to “warn” people about it. Which is DUMB, because I’m be responsible for people’s reading experiences, but at the same time I’ve recommended the freakin’ thing and what if somehow people think I’ve misled them into reading an Arthurian story that they think is tame (because I sort of did review it like it was) and then a dude shows up who was tortured so much he ends up looking like a lump of bloody flesh? Should I have said something about that? I would have liked to know about that myself, because while the violence didn’t deter me from reading, it was pretty gruesome and I wasn’t expecting it. Being forewarned about it might have been nice.

So I guess what I’m TRYING to say (or justify), is that I think I might start adding another line in my reviews, something like “if this book were a movie it’d be rated [whatever] for [violence/uber-angst/angry bunnies]”. I’ve seen it done on another blog before (although I can’t recall where), and I think it might be a good idea. Yes/no?

Although now I feel like I’m capitulating something and I don’t want to be the book police (or someone’s metaphorical parent), but honestly, if it’ll stop me from feeling guilty about “misleading” people with my reviews I’m totally doing it. It’s like I feel I have this weird responsibility to make sure people get all the facts. I don’t know.

Here’s an angry frowny face which sums up my feelings to this post perfectly:


What do you think?

0 thoughts on “The gore factor”

  1. I usually try and add a heads up about content if one wouldn’t expect it from the summary, cover, and other material- for instance, I might warn for gore and violence in a memoir or a thriller whereas I might not in a horror. I think if it’s something that you wouldn’t want or don’t think the demographic can quite handle without foreknowledge, you might want to warn for it or do a film rating for it.

    1. Yeah, that’s exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. If it’s a Stephen King book I wouldn’t feel the need to warn for anything because, like, hello. But when it’s a YA fantasy book (with horror undertones), it’s kinda different.

      (Actually, I’m not even entirely sure if Blood of Ambrose is MEANT for teens; maybe it was just marketed that way because one of the main characters is young? The YA/adult divisions of books is so weird sometimes, I swear.)

  2. You don’t need to feel like the book police for adding a warning! I don’t do it regularly, but if a book surprises or upsets me with the amount of violence (particularly sexual violence!), I’ll generally say something. My thinking is that I have a pretty low tolerance of yuckiness, so if it doesn’t bother me it’s probably not that bad.

    My two cents is this: You might not want to couch it in terms of film ratings, because those are silly and arbitrary. If I were putting ratings on the books I read, going by what I thought each book would be rated if it were a film, I know my ratings would skew high for books that contained sex, because the film ratings people are so weird about sex and certain swear words. (I watched a documentary ALL ABOUT IT. It was QUITE SHOCKING. Or, well, it wasn’t shocked because I’d noticed this bias myself, but it was sad to find out how right I was.) Whereas in fact warnings about violence are far more useful to my squeamish self.

    1. The reason I picked film ratings though is because they’re so easily translatable, at least in the US. If you see something is rated R you expect it to have things that a G movie wouldn’t. But you’re right about skewing ratings for certain swear words and sex; it’s weird. I think I saw that documentary, too– was it This Film is Not Yet Rated?

      Maybe I should do video game ratings instead? E for everyone, M for mature, etc? 😀

      1. Yes, it was. It made me quite soap-box-y about film ratings, especially all that mess about rating things higher for same-sex smoochies.

  3. I thought about doing this once to cover myself against people thinking I was misleading them but decided against it because of a few different reasons. I don’t hide it if there’s graphic violence in books, but unless I want to talk about it as part of my review I don’t make a point of mentioning it. You can’t get everything into a review and I basically decided I didn’t want other people’s worries dictating what I wrote about.

    Saying that I consider giving a warning is if there is rape, or domestic abuse mentioned (because I saw someone mention that they needed to know about these things because they couldn’t handle reading about them because they’d been attacked). Other people warn about self-harm being mentioned because it can be a trigger for those who harm. And those kind of things are all down to your personal comfort. So don’t feel like you have to be the book police, but if something makes you uncomfortable because it might cause someone else mental pain I’d say it’s worth mentioning. That’s seperate from warning because you think somone might get it for their kids and then the parents might find out about the violence and get upset.

  4. I wouldn’t feel like the police if I were you. There are just certain things people don’t like to read about and it’s not necessarily in terms of right or wrong. Book blogs are a great source for recommendations, and I like to know if there is something in a book that would ruin it for me. Abuse is a big one for me that I can’t always handle reading about.

  5. I’m one of those who has “warnings” though I like to say they are more “noting the amount of this content” ratings. As long as you aren’t saying “beware this book because it has X and Y” then I think it’s ok to just note that there is some of X and Y in this book. I like to know in advance 🙂

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