Spoiling Spoilers

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Most readers have one thing in common: they can’t stand spoilers. For some, having a plot twist revealed or a mystery solved is a deal breaker that sends the book straight back to the shelf. Other readers, however, actually enjoy having a book spoiled. There’s even the odd friend who goes out of his or her way to seek spoilers out, searching book plots on Wikipedia or hitting up Australian-based chat rooms to get the scoop on the new Star Wars a day early.

Most people, however, aren’t into that level of spoilage.

We’ve all had a book spoiled. Your sister drops a careless line about a character who died, or a coworker says she couldn’t believe that X was the murderer the whole time, or you see an online blurb about the wise mentor turning out to be the main character’s long-lost father.

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Some spoilers are simply unavoidable. This is usually the case with classics. There’s just no avoiding knowing about the serendipitous meeting at Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice or the unexpected Carton-and-Darnay switch in A Tale of Two Cities. Expecting not to have spoilers about books that have been read thousands of times will only lead to frustration. And yes, this goes for Harry Potter – if you haven’t read the books by now, overhearing a spoiler or two is just your luck.

So what do you do if a book has been spoiled for you – utterly, completely, irretrievably ruined?

Unfortunately, luck is on the side of the spoiler-lovers in this case. There are only a couple things to do: try to forget, or roll with the punches.

If you’re blessed with a not-so-retentive memory, this first option may work for you! You can always put the book back on your shelf for a couple years, hoping that you’ll forget that dastardly spoiler. Some people find that they forget the plot after a time, or at least, forget enough significant details to restore spoiler-free integrity.

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But there is some good news: one study showed that far from ruining a book, spoilers might actually help readers enjoy a book more. Why? One reason, scientists speculated, was that by knowing a key plot twist that was coming, readers were able to relax a little and delve more deeply into the story. They weren’t focusing on the stress of ever-heightening plot tension; they were paying attention to the interactions of the characters and the world of the book.

Knowing how a story ends doesn’t necessarily mean that everything in the book is predictable. After all, stories are odysseys. They have much more than a beginning and an end. Even if you know the fate of a character or where they end up on the last page, it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy watching them live their tale.

There’s no doubt spoilers can be frustrating, but there’s no reason why they have to ruin a book. Next time you find out who dies in the new YA fantasy series, take a leap and read it anyway – you might even enjoy the journey more.

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