Warning: If you are expecting a professional-sounding review here (not that my other ones are all that, but I do make an effort) this post will not be anything even close to professional. I will not hold anything back. I realize that this book is the result of E.L. James' blood, sweat and tears, but at this point I'm sure she won't care how I feel. The woman is laughing all the way to the bank.
It is my understanding that this trilogy ("Fifty Shades of Grey" being the first of three installments) started out as Twilight fanfiction. In other words, it was Bella and Edward with a lot more sex. After taking some flack for that, James reworked it into Fifty Shades, and readers will easily be able to identify the similarities. However, instead of its target demographic being tween and teenagers, it is aimed at women over the age of thirty...deemed "Mommy Porn" by some news agencies. Because of the publisher's limited marketing budget, there was a huge reliance on blogs and word of mouth to spread the word. Well, it worked. It was endorsed by Dr. Phil. It was banned in Florida Country libraries. Nothing like that combination to fuel the fire.
While I was loathe to read this, it was selected by one of my book clubs. I was less than thrilled at the prospect. However I do believe that if you are going to wave around some attitude towards something so popular, it is only right to back it up with your personal experience firsthand.
The premise: Recent college grad Anastasia Steele interviews young, studly but mysterious billionaire Christian Grey for the college newspaper. Ana is apparently gorgeous but unaware of her beauty, and is a virgin. The moment Christian sees Ana, he must have her because, you know, she is irresistible and so very clever. He stalks her, woos her with his private jet, private helicopter, rumpled hair and white linen shirts, then asks that she sign a contract with him that details what will be required of her once she becomes his Submissive.
Christian unleashes all of Ana's unexplored talents in bed. She is insatiable you see, and perfects the deep-throat on her first try. She is a natural...she was born for this. She is introduced to the finer points of BDSM, various toys, bondage, fisting and spanking. But she is nervous about all this. What if he spanks too hard? And what if she has eye contact or touches him when she isn't supposed to? And what is up with his control freak issues...the stalking, the temper that flares when she dares to talk to another male or wants to fly out and see her mother for a long weekend? Such decisions for a young woman to make. Good thing her inner goddess is around to offer an opinion every fifth page.
She loves him so. And the sex is so good, except for the spanking, which hurts. And they do fight a lot, when they're not having sex. He is damaged, since he was abused and abandoned as a child, so poor thing, she must try to fix him! No wonder why he is such an ass! It is not his fault!
Redeeming qualities: Many taboos are addressed here, out in the open for all the inhibited over-thirty crowd to see and fantasize over. And that is exactly what this is...fantasy. There is absolutely nothing realistic going on in these pages. I doubt that any of these women who are frothing at the mouth would actually go through with anything on Christian's "contract", but if it gets them talking about their own fantasies and spices things up with their boyfriends and husbands, then something good has come from it.
My personal thoughts: I've read some pretty bad books in my life but this one wins the prize. Ana is stupid, and Christian is a spoiled creep. These two are annoying. They fight, they have sex, they fight, they have sex. I've seen plenty of these relationships. They are dysfunctional, and usually end badly. There is nothing sexy or romantic about it. But if you tell me you just want brainless reading on the beach? Fine, go ahead. But just be cautioned...it is explicit. But maybe that is the attraction. Apparently the average American woman isn't getting enough deviant porn in their life.
The writing is horrid. Harlequin romances are more literary. I should have kept track of how many times there is a reference to Ana's "inner goddess". Fifty? A hundred? I'm not exaggerating. It wasn't cute, even in the beginning. The dialogue feels like something written by a teenager. Here is just one of a couple thousand examples I could give you:
"What is your thing, Anastasia?" he asks, his voice soft, and his secret smile is back. I gaze at him, unable to express myself. I'm on shifting tectonic plates. Try to be cool, Ana, my tortured subconscious begs on bended knee.
Try 528 pages of this. It's popularity is impossible for me to fathom. By the time I got to the end, which leaves the reader with a manipulative cliff-hanger, I could have cared less. Let them spank each other into oblivion.
My drinking game: During one of my rantings about this book, my friend Molly Bumble suggested I devise a drinking game for increased enjoyment. I realize that I am not the first to do such a thing. In fact, Tasha and Kimberly made up this one. But I have my own. So to make Fifty Shades easier to get through, take one drink of your favorite alcoholic beverage any time these events occur in the book. You will be comatose by page 150.
* Ana gasps
* Ana bites her lip
* Ana says "Oh my"
* Ana refers to her inner goddess
* Ana says "Holy XXX" (Holy crap, Holy shit, etc.)
Fifty Shades the movie? Ugh. Whatever. It is not a huge shocker that a movie studio wants to get in on the gravy train. I'm sure it will make millions.
1 out of 5 stars