Update: After this post was published, a fan suggested this crowd sourced website, Does the Dog Die? From a screen reader point of view, the website could be better structured, but it is navigable if you are willing to navigate via unvisited and visited links.
Recently, I tried to reread a book that my eighth grade teacher assigned to us back when I was young. It was one of the few fiction books with Disabled characters I can remember, and I also remember hating the ending because one of the two Disabled characters dies at the end. The book is called Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick.
I didn’t make it very far into the book as an adult. I knew Kevin was going to die, and I knew when he was going to die. I didn’t want to read that over again. The experience was far worse the first time I read it back in the eighth grade. It didn’t help that Kevin knew he was going to die. In my mind, that actually made it worse for me to try to read again.
Perhaps I’m experiencing a kind of grief fatigue. Even though I enjoyed many parts of the story, I just didn’t want to feel sad again, even though I knew what was coming in the final chapters of the book.
Recently, I’ve become more averse to plot twists and surprises in books, especially devastating surprises in books that are meant to emotionally gut punch readers.
This grief fatigue carried over to books I haven’t read yet. I wanted to know the endings of books with Disabled characters before I read them, especially if they had a Disabled character dying in them. I’m just exhausted reading dying Disabled characters. If I’m being honest, I’m extremely exhausted reading emotionally devastating twists that are meant to shock you and make you feel uncomfortable.
Books are coming out with Disabled characters in them, which is great, but trying to actively find spoilers on these books is harder than I initially thought.
Spoilers are usually seen as a negative thing. Perhaps this is a United States thing, but I had a far harder time finding spoilers for a book. Reviews I’ve read of upcoming books all had spoiler free reviews. The trouble was, in this particular case, I actually wanted to be spoiled. I wanted to know exactly what was negatively going to happen to all the characters. I don’t know when this shift occurred in me, because I used to be very anti spoiler.
If I had this sudden change in my reading habits, then I’m pretty sure there are others out there just like me that actively try to find spoilers for tragedies in books. Just because a book has a tragedy spoiled, does not take away from the experience of reading the book. In fact, I’d even go as far to say spoilers empower readers.
Perhaps this is more of my grief fatigue settling in, but it would empower so many readers if publishers started including clearly separated, optional, text before the books contents that spoiled every negative aspect of the plot. Who dies, who lives, who gets together, who suffers an injury, and more negative things.
Content warnings already prepare readers to a degree. Even so, I’ve seen poorly written content warnings or even outright misleading content warnings for books.
If more books were spoiled, I believe that would empower readers and help readers manage their spoons, and, of course, reading energy. I, of course, wouldn’t want spoilers forced onto people that didn’t want them, because spoilers simply wouldn’t work for some readers. I’d want a spoiler section at the front of every book, before the main content. I’d want it clearly distinguished from the main content but easily skippable so people could skip past the detailed reveals.
I don’t believe this would hinder content warnings. After all, I believe that this would enhance content warnings. Readers can pick which level of warning they want.
The only negative thing I can figure out about this new approach to spoilers is that people would criticize the book before reading it. this wouldn’t be any different from what people do now. Increasing spoilers could help readers enjoy the writing more as well as the character development and story experience. I know I would, and, if spoilers were more normalized, maybe I wouldn’t feel so disappointed every time a Disabled character dies in an otherwise entertaining book.