If you haven’t heard of E. L. James’ smash hit erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” then you’ve probably been living under a rock. I’m a bit late to the game; everyone and their mother has read it by now. By “everyone and their other,” I even mean my mother.
I hadn’t planned on reading the book, but I have a copy of Fanny Merkin’s parody “Fifty Shames of Earl Grey,” and I don’t feel like it’s fair to read a parody without first reading the work that it’s poking fun at.
It took every ounce of willpower that I had to finish “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I was very tempted to DNF it (for those of you who aren’t book bloggers, DNF=Did Not Finish), but that would mean admitting defeat. I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED BY A POORLY WRITTEN EROTICA NOVEL! NEVER!
The basic story is that Bella interviews Edward Cullen for the school newspaper (Okay, it’s Ana Steel and Mr. Grey, but it’s pretty much the same thing). The two of them are instantly attracted to each other, but Mr. Grey is into BDSM and Ana spends the entire book deciding whether or not she can live with the fact that she’s dating a guy who likes kinky sex. Then there’s a bad metaphor about Mr. Grey being fifty shades of fucked-up, which comes completely out of the blue and makes no sense. I mean, fifty shades? Really?
Let’s look at Ana. She’s supposed to be a senior in college. However, James expects us to believe several things about her:
- Ana’s still a virgin. While somewhat remarkable, this one’s still within the realm of possibility. She’s also incredibly naive about anything sexual, which is even harder to believe.
- She’s never been drunk. Um, did she go to college under a rock? Still within the realm of possibility if she’s going to BYU, has a medical condition, or never leaves her dorm room, but it’s highly unlikely.
- Ana doesn’t have a computer. Having a computer is pretty much required in college these days, and borrowing your roommate’s won’t cut it when you both have papers due the next day. Pair this with the two points above and you’re in dangerous territory. The suspension of disbelief is just not happening anymore.
- SHE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A FRICKIN’ E-MAIL ADDRESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, so I started yelling in shouty caps locks there. This is 2012. They give you a lovely .edu e-mail address when you enroll in any college. In fact, you get one if you even take a single class. *facepalm*
For someone who supposedly reads a lot, Ana’s remarkably stupid and ditzy.
One should also note that adding the phrase “Holy shit” or “Holy cow” to the end of a paragraph does not make your narrator sound like a young adult. The colloquialisms that the author used were all wrong, and so Ana sounded like a middle-aged British woman pretending to be a teenager.
Throughout the entire book, Ana has an incessant habit of referring to her inner goddess. Within the first few chapters, I wanted to find a revolver and shoot Ana’s inner goddess in the face. I’m the peace-loving hippie pacifist type and don’t do the whole violence thing, but 300-some pages of inner goddess sorely tested those limits.
And then there’s the sex itself. I expected a lot more based on the way that everyone seems to be reacting to it, but all we get to see is a bit of light bondage and spanking. This would be fine if we didn’t have to listen to Ana incessantly whine about how much it freaks her out even though at the same time she admits that she enjoys it. Having read other books that explore the topic of BDSM, I also got rather annoyed that Mr. Grey couldn’t seem to explain at all what’s in it for the sub, such as massive endorphin/adrenaline rushes and the stress relief that comes from letting somebody else be in charge (which is why it’s surprisingly popular with modern career women).
Spoiler alert: I’m going to bitch about the ending for a few moments. Spoiler text is in white, so you’ll need to highlight it to read it.
Can anyone say anticlimactic? Not to mention dumb. “Oh Mr. Grey, show me your worst!” “Okay… are you sure?” “Oh yes!” *spanking commences* “Oh noes, I didn’t really mean that!” *Ana runs away*
You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re running away from him BECAUSE HE DID EXACTLY WHAT YOU JUST ASKED HIM TO!?!?! I SUFFERED THROUGH THIS ENTIRE BOOK SO YOU COULD HAVE A FUCKING BREAKUP?!?!?!?!
So as not to be completely one-sided, there were a couple things that I thought the book did well. One thing that I will give the author props for is the fact that Ana and Mr. Grey always used protection. This isn’t one of those books where characters have unprotected sex five times a day but somehow miraculously never get pregnant. Another thing I liked is that James is not afraid to use explicit terms to refer to having sex or to the genitalia. It bothers me when authors try to use phrases like “throbbing member” to describe a dick. It’s a total mood-killer, by which I mean I usually start laughing too hard to take the scene seriously. I was happy that James wasn’t afraid to use four-letter-words when they were warranted.
Overall, I would not recommend “Fifty Shades of Grey” unless, like myself, you’re reading it as preparation for reading a parody. I like my porno novels to be well-written, thank you very much.
Pro-tip: If you find yourself forced to read the book, it’s helpful to pretend that the novel is satire and to mentally replace Mr. Grey with Gaston from the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. It eventually stops working, but it helps.