Discussion: Different Criteria for Different Genres?

September 28, 2017

Hello, everyone, and welcome to my first ever discussion post!

I personally love reading and commenting on the discussions you guys come up with, so I thought I’d start doing one every so often as well. For my first one, though, I wanted to address something that feels really important, specifically with the fall season coming up (we’ll get to the whys of that logic in a moment).


My initial question to you is: do you ever find yourself looking for different criteria when reading different genres?

Let me explain, and give you an example. I have a friend who’s a blogger that addresses problematic content in her reviews, and is awesome about giving a heads-up regarding anything that could be harmful to her followers. Here’s the thing: she reads erotica, which is a genre that I find many bloggers who call out problematic content avoid altogether. When she reviews these books, she reminds her followers upfront that she looks at them a little differently than, say, sci-fi or fantasy. She doesn’t give problematic content a “free pass”, but she recognizes the context that it’s given in.


For me, that genre is horror (and occasionally, thrillers as well).

Now you see why I mentioned the importance of the timing of this post! I read a lot of thrillers and horror titles, so this discussion is going to become really relevant in some upcoming reviews.

I always try to give you guys fair warning when I see problematic/harmful content in a story, especially if that genre is one that we generally expect to be “safe” or progressive, like YA contemporary. While I may not always address tropes, if it’s something that looked like a serious potential trigger to me, I try to always mention it at some point in my review.

With horror/thriller reading, however, I recognize that the context is a little different.

While seeing an antagonist call our main character a homophobic slur in a YA contemporary may feel over the top, in horror, it’s a method commonly used to help us quickly fall into a deep hate relationship with the villain.

Casually learning that our antagonist is a rapist in a fantasy novel may sometimes feel like desensitization; however, in a thriller, it’s a quick gut blow to strike fear into the heart of the protagonist – and, by proxy, the reader.

(If you’re an oldschool AHS fan like me, you already know that Evan Peters playing Tate in the Murder House season is kind of a perfect example of a character that was a terrible person, but many of us loved him anyways.)

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I’ll give these issues a free pass just based on the genre. I’m still tremendously uncomfortable with a lot of these methods, even when I know the author doesn’t subscribe to those beliefs – like Joe Hill, who is known for being progressive and an all-around goodhearted guy, but sometimes uses words that are less than pleasant to read in order to drive that villain’s character development home.


What I am saying, though, is that while I will always warn you guys about potential triggers and problematic content, that doesn’t mean I’m going to immediately 1-star a book and DNF it right then and there. I want to be transparent with my followers and let you know that…

Just because I 5-starred a book, does not mean that I agree with all of its content.

There are plenty of books that are brilliantly written and offer such incredible and lovable stories, but have a few phrases that I would love to erase right out of the text – but that doesn’t mean I won’t review them or even recommend them.

I 100% subscribe to the belief that we, as readers, are fully capable of enjoying a book despite its problems and controversies – we just need to be honest enough with ourselves and the ones reading our reviews to admit when those pieces of fiction need to be tread lightly upon. I’ve set a precedent with warning you guys, and I won’t stop doing that – I’m just asking you not to jump to any conclusions of hypocrisy when I inevitably 5-star a book and then have to add a paragraph full of trigger warnings to the review. ?

Here are my questions for you lovelies today…

1. Are there any genres you rate differently from your “norm”?

2. How much do trigger warnings matter to you, personally? (Be honest – nobody’s judging.)

3. Do you think a book can still be worthy of 5 stars when it contains problematic content – or is that an automatic deal-breaker for you?

More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. I not triggered by anything, so tw don’t really matter to me, but I do try to put them on my own reviews just in case someone else needs them.

      My ratings tend to seem all over the place because I rate usually by my feelings for the book with a dash “should I raise this because other people would really enjoy it?”. If the problematic content is overwhelming, then I probably won’t like it and rate accordingly, but if it is only here and there — I didn’t notice it too much then I may make a mention of it in a review, but not dock it too much in the rating.

      Good question! I look forward to seeing what other people think.

    1. As far as I am aware, trigger warnings are to let people who are triggered by certain content know that depending on the person, they should either steer clear or be prepared to see these things. Not necessarily to tell people that the book is problematic.

      But I totally agree that we can enjoy a book for what it is and also recognize and condemn some of the content. My friends and I have been known to complain about certain authors and what they do in their books while waiting in line to get our books signed by said author. If it goes overboard, however, then I definitely will rate things lower. It really depends on my personal views and opinions and I don’t really believe in being completely objective about reviews–the point is to tell people your opinions, after all.

      1. All valid points! I don’t think we’re really capable of 100% objective views; even subconsciously, I feel that it’s human nature to let our bias intrude. 🙂 Nothing wrong with that, though! Thanks for commenting!

    1. Trigger warnings really aren’t important to me, but I can see why others need them.

      I pretty much agree with the stuff you posted. I can rate a book 5 stars even if there was something that bothered me. I try to look at the book as a whole.

      I find that people get mad at some of the terms teens use in YA books, but I remember all those things being common when I was young. It doesn’t bother me, but I’ve seen a lot of complaints. I think it feels more real because I’ve heard it. It doesn’t mean the author feels that way.

      I probably do judge books differently based on genre. But I’m not a huge judgey (sorry, not really a word) person. I rarely take offense by things in books unless it’s really over the top.

      This is a great post.

      1. That’s very true – sometimes authors are simply offering us a realistic view, and readers can take that out of context at times. I suppose it’s all a bit of a slippery slope, you know? The whole “how far is too far?” question when it comes to teens being portrayed realistically. I’m personally more likely to forgive an author for writing an overly authentic teen than a perfect, cookie cutter teen that in no way, shape, or form resembles my younger years, lol.

        Thank you so much, and I appreciate your comment! ❤

    1. Let me just say that this quote is perfect: “Just because I 5-starred a book, does not mean that I agree with all of its content.”

      I definitely judge different genres differently. Like you, I tend to be more understanding with horror. I also take into consideration the context that older books were written in. Personally, I really appreciate content warnings for things involving violence against women. I’m usually find reading it, but it’s just better for me if I know to brace myself for it.

      I also have definitely rated books with problematic content 5 stars, but in my reviews I always make sure to point out the issues I saw. I understand, too, if there are people who need to DNF because of problematic content that I was able to read through.

      1. First of all, thank you, Sarah! ❤❤ You are so sweet.

        Yes, I definitely also consider older books to be one of those “consider the context” things! I’ll still point out things that could hurt people in the text, but I’m not going to read a Stephen King book from the 70s or 80s, knowing it was a different time, and knowing he was a substance abuser at the time who wasn’t in his right mind to begin with, and then use that text to crucify him and all of his fans. That would be… ridiculous feels like a harsh word, but it’s what I’m thinking.

        Thank you for commenting ❤❤

    1. this is a great discussion post! ?
      since i read almost every genre i always rate my books within that genre. it’s hard to compare a ya- contemporary romance with a classic that was written over 100 years ago. so i decided to always rate books within the different genres.

      i think trigger warnings are a big help, if you are a person who is easily triggered by anything! thats not the case with me but i think it’s really helpful to know certain things before going into a book! ?

      1. Thank you so much!

        Yes, when you put it that way, I think I tend to rate at least a LITTLE bit differently for every genre. I mean, now that I’m thinking about it more while typing this comment, there are things I would forgive in a high fantasy love interest but not in a contemporary one – just an example off the top of my head. There’s no objective way to review books, in my opinion.

        Yes, agreed! Most things don’t trigger me at all, but there are a few topics I appreciate the warning on (mainly just sexual assault and child violence), so I always try to keep that in mind and offer that to my readers.

        Thank you for commenting! ❤❤

    1. This is how I feel about reviewing classics. Books written 100+ years ago simply aren’t going to have as progressive rep as ones today – and it always annoys me, because it’s hard to find the line between what I think is acceptable, and what I must accept is contextual (if that makes sense??!!)

      1. That’s very true! I have seen people review HP Lovecraft and give it 1 star “because the book was great but this author is racist!”, and I find myself going, well, YEAH, he was, and it’s horrible, but… you do know he died in the 30s, right? Context is a thing. Like you said, it can be hard to find the line, but I do think it’s important to look at the time that the book was written in for starters.

        Thank you for commenting ❤ Great points!

    1. Great discussion post and questions! I agree with you, I tend to have different criteria for different genres. Although I do have my preferences there aren’t a lot of triggers that I have and tend to avoid – I try to call them out in my reviews for those that do, though.

      1. Thank you so much! It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one who does this. And yeah, same – I don’t NEED most trigger warnings, but I always figure there might be one reader who does need them, and that’s worth it to me.

    1. This post is everything! I think it’s completely true, we judge book differently based on genre. For me, trigger warnings are helpful but I will keep reading unless I get uncomfortable. I think 5 stars are based off whether I have an emotional attachment to the book, regardless of content. If it resonates with me, I’ll rate it 5 stars.
      Also, tag you’re it! I nominate you for the Mystery Blogger Award. If you’re up to the challenge, check out my post for rules and questions. https://theliteraryempress.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/mystery-blogger-award-tag-youre-it/

      1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate you reading and commenting! ❤ I’m the same way – it’s really rare that a trigger warning will stop me from picking up a book. I just like having it so I know to prepare myself first!

        And thank you! 😀

    1. Great post, Destiny! This is definitely a very complex topic, and I agree that with different genres I generally have different expectations of the content I’m expecting to read about. I especially agree with what Jamieson said in a comment above about considering WHEN the book was written as well. I tend to read more recently published books, but I do enjoy a lot of classics…..and while I can certainly point out issues with discrimination/erasure/other problematic stuff in regards to the time period, I can’t really go into a book written three hundred years ago expecting it to be very progressive in a modern sense. I think trigger warnings are really important, and I personally like to know beforehand if a book has a lot of homophobia. It’s not something that will necessarily stop me from reading, but definitely something I’d like to be prepared for.

      I don’t think I’ve ever rated a book 5 stars that had problematic content. If something comes across as shitty representation of a controversial subject or marginalized identity, that generally impacts my feelings toward and enjoyment of the book. But then again, the definition of what is “problematic” is a whole other discussion, and is more of a discourse than a clear definition.

      1. Thanks, Emma! These are all really good points! Like you said, while you can point it out, it’s hard to EXPECT a book that old to NOT be problematic. There’s nothing wrong with not enjoying it if it’s too much, too, of course! I don’t read a ton of classics, so I haven’t had it happen, but I do have friends who have had to DNF classics despite adoring the genre because the racism or sexism was just TOO much, and I can respect that, too. Everyone should follow their own comfort levels aaaaand I’m rambling but long story short: I AGREE! Lol.

        I can respect that, too! I’d say it’s very rare that I will 5-star a book if I found it extremely problematic, but I definitely have given 5 stars to many an imperfect book. Then again, I don’t think the “perfect” book exists, since “perfect” is objective and blah blah, you get what I’m saying. 🙂

        Thank you for commenting!

        1. yes, I definitely get what you’re saying! it’s a complicated issue, bc I love the way diversity is increasing and being promoted in newer books, and the reason older books are “problematic” is bc of a history of discrimination and erasure……that’s often why I don’t read a ton of classics either, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t fantastic older books that I will enjoy.

          Exactly, no book is objectively perfect!! Reading is such a personal experience, and I think the most important thing is having (friendly!) discussions like this that help us understand why our opinions differ. 🙂

    1. I skimmed this post when I was half asleep and decided to reread it in the morning. [I’m so awesome that I actually remembered!]

      1. Are there any genres you rate differently from your “norm”?
      I mostly read fantasy, but once in a while I get in the mood for sappy romance. I review those differently. In fantasy I’ll think more about the world-building, the elements, whether it feels unique and isn’t a rip-off or loosely based on something else I’ve read. While reading romance, on the other hand, I’m just going with having to lose myself in it immediately, or fast. It has to be sappy and a typical romance; there has to be sexual / romantic tension between the MC’s and it has to ooze out of the pages.
      So, obviously, rating differently!

      2. How much do trigger warnings matter to you, personally? (Be honest – nobody’s judging.)
      Honestly, they don’t. They used to. Bullying in stories used to be a sore spot for me but ever since I feel good, got myself some confidence.. Let’s just say that I don’t have any problems with things like that anymore. Also, I always keep in mind that what’s mentioned in a novel isn’t necessarily the author’s view / way of thinking. It’s the character’s. Reading would be boring if all characters were well-behaved and there wasn’t a trigger warning necessary for any book out there, no?
      [Please don’t shoot me if you don’t agree. :’D]

      3. Do you think a book can still be worthy of 5 stars when it contains problematic content – or is that an automatic deal-breaker for you?
      Of course it can! Problematic content should be addressed. Even if it’s not in a good way [read: “Oh, yeah, he’s a rapist. Bye.”], it’s still getting addressed. It’s still making people think about it and maybe realizing it should be talked about more. In a way, it’s THE way to make people shout their opinions?

      ~ That’s it for Kathy’s opinion of the.. morning.

      1. First of all, what kind of monster ARE you that you remember to reread blog posts? How do I get on that level?!

        1. Great point! I’m totally with you. In fact, when you put it like that it got me thinking, I probably even rate differently within the same genre, based on different… subgenres. You know what I mean? If I go into a high fantasy that’s raved about for its world building (Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo), I don’t rate down much if the romance isn’t what I wanted (lookin’ at you, Mal). On the other hand, if I go into a fantasy ROMANCE that has a beautiful romance but not a super well-fleshed out plot (An Enchantment of Ravens which is sooo character-driven and AMAZING imo), I’m not going to rate down just because the plot wasn’t crazy elaborate, because that’s not what the purpose it intended to serve, y’know?

        Wow, a wall of text and only the first point. Good job, Destiny.

        2) No shooting going on here! I actually agree with you on this one 100%. The author’s views are NOT necessarily represented by the characters’ dialogue or actions, and also, like you said… reading would be boring if no books ever touched on anything that triggered anyone, because it would rule out… well, everything, really, given that what upsets one person might actually make me happy (or vice versa). Even if you just count the big, common TWs like violence, for example, cutting it entirely out of books would leave me a very sad reader, lol.

        3. Yes! I genuinely don’t believe that books exist only to teach us things; sometimes, I think they exist to force us to reflect on ourselves and to dig deep for our own ways of thinking on a topic. Jack Ketchum is a big-time user of that writing method. I don’t know if you’ve ever read anything of his, but he’s known for a book titled The Girl Next Door, and in that book, the narrator is a teen boy whose neighbors take in two sisters in their extended family, and begin to abuse them. The narrator knows it’s wrong, but he mostly just stands by and watches, occasionally even participating a little bit. Jack Ketchum wrote this author’s note about it afterwards where he basically explains that he didn’t write it to encourage that kind of behavior, but to help his readers understand the “bystander effect” and why it’s so dangerous when it comes to situations like child abuse. I actually hated the book because it was so gruesome and heartbreaking, but I couldn’t help but respect the reason he wrote it, once I gave it some serious thought. Like anything else, in the wrong hands, it could do more harm than good, but I think he had a solid idea in mind when he wrote it.

        Aaaaaaaand now I’ve written you an entire novel and I’M SORRY

        1. Monster?! MONSTER?! Well, thank you <3 I'm just awesome that way. <3

          1. Haha! Shadow & Bone is on my TBR.. As is.. MY GOD. I'm refusing to do this AGAIN.
          But I'm sure you're right. We all have certain expectations from a genre / subgenre and it only makes sense that we write our reviews and rate accordingly. I think it'd be pretty weird if we didn't?

          2. Whoop! I can live another day! [Maybe we should find a book like that and see how it goes? I can't even imagine it, tbh..]

          3. Completely true! Another novel that I have to think of immediately is THUG. But that's simply because the subjects touched in that book are subjects that I don't see in my everyday life. Reading it really made me think about everything, even the way I look at stranger [no matter their skin color] and made me realize that books can be so much more than just something to read. Might not be as gruesome as The Girl Next Door, but it's still a book that can touch many people and really change something.

          Haha, I did the same thing. Twice now. No apologies needed! xD

          1. Yes, monster. Only something… INHUMAN… could be such a proficient blogger. 😉 ❤

            1. AHAHAHA this first couple of lines literally made me laugh loudly enough to stir my poor, sleeping child. But yes, I agree, it would be weird!

            2. I can’t imagine either, but I bet book twitter could find us one… #shade

            3. I can’t believe I haven’t read THUG yet. *hangs head in shame* It’s on my December TBR even if it KILLS me. (Maybe not really, but I AM determined to read it before 2018.)

            1. Inhuman.. Monster.. Well, you made my day! That’s how I’ll introduce myself should I see the PR-dudes. “Hi, I’m an inhuman monster. Nice to meet you.”

              1. Oh god. SORRY! Or not. Laughing is healthy. Ha.

              2. Book Twitter always finds everything. It’s creepy sometimes. :’D

              3. December = DIVERSE DECEMBER. Perfect book to join with. [Now I just gave you an extra reason to read it. You’re welcome.] :’D

            1. Please do! I dunno, I mean, I haven’t listened to THAT much of their music, but I feel like they’d dig it?

              1. No apology needed, lmao. He’s good. He sleeps!

              2. TELL ME ABOUT IT

              3. Well that’s just perfect! I’m probably devoting the entire month to just chipping away at my TBR shelves though, lmao. So far my Dec TBR is, like… THUG, the rest of The Lunar Chronicles, and the first two Throne of Glass books. Beyond that, I’m wingin’ it!

            1. If some of their interviews are anything to go by, I’d immediately get a top-knotch comment that would make my face tomato. xD

              1. Whoop! Good boy, haha!

              2. I JUST DID.

              3. That’s what I’m doing with October. I’ve literally thrown all my TBR’s over our table – we’re seriously eating on the couch this week – so I can easily pick what I want without having to move aside piles and piles in my bookcase.
              Yup, my TBR is a disaster..

    1. This is such an interesting topic! I definitely get what you’re saying – certain genres should be more progressive than others. Without a doubt, horror, thrillers, mysteries, etc. are more likely to contain problematic content, but like you said, a lot of the time it’s to make you hate the villain or to show that they’re not a good person. I think it’s okay as long as it’s shown in the book that either those specific views are wrong or that the person who holds those views is not a good person.

      1. Thank you for commenting! And yes, I agree – I personally can handle the “problematic” content so long as it’s being challenged or is being used as a method to vilify the bad guys, rather than it being an unchecked opinion from the MC that is just kind of… “allowed”, you know?

    1. What an excellent post, Destiny! You bring up some pretty valid points. I read historical fiction quite frequently so there is often a lot of issues related to homophobia and things like that. I don’t like post it by any means, but I recognize that during that time period that is what was being said and that society then wasn’t as progressive as today.
      But this was a good post and it brings up some really good points that I honesty hadn’t really thought of.

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