Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Publisher: Vintage
Age: Adult
Series: Fifty Shades #1
Source: Library
Interest: Movie trailer/ book buzz

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever. (summary from

*WARNING: major plot spoilers are contained in this review.*

I've had . . . *ahem* opinions about Fifty Shades of Grey ever since it's meteoric rise to pop culture fame a few years ago. At first I refused to read the book because I was on the disapproving side of basically publishing AU fanfiction as a book. Then, hearing numerous negative opinions about the book's writing, characters, plot, etc. I felt smug satisfaction from dodging a bullet, so to speak. However, after viewing the Fifty Shades movie trailer, which exploded onto my Facebook feed Thursday morning, I wanted to give the book a shot. I read the 513 page book in a six hour marathon session last night. 

My reaction to Fifty Shades has largely been, "that's all?" This book was supposed to be some wonderful, salacious, BDSM-laden erotica. I'm sad to report Fifty Shades did not live up to its reputation. Granted, because of reading The Professional by Kresley Cole first, where there are n*pple clamps, gags, hard spanking, exhibitionism and other wicked deeds and gadgets, the light use of toys, spanking, restraints and flogging in Fifty Shades doesn't seem as exotic. Still, I acknowledge I only read the first book in the trilogy. There could be more intense scenes in later books. 

Two major issues reviewers have brought up about Fifty Shades are Christian being abusive and the writing not being good. I will say both issues seem less extreme when taking the book as a whole. Don't misunderstand me. Christian is a domineering a-hole who takes his control too far, case in point yelling at Anastasia to eat when she isn't hungry. In the interest of being fair however, Christian does warn Anastasia this is how he is and to not get involved with him under any circumstance. Of course he then ignores all his rules and lures her into his bed and his life anyway. But I don't want to spend this entire review dissecting all the ways their relationship is disturbing. *Cough* Mrs. Robinson *cough.*

As for the writing, I admit it isn't anything super magical or even poetic. However, taking out certain lines or scenes, like when Christian's sister Mia "lapses into perfect French when she's speaking" and Christian has to tell her she's done it in "equally perfect French" makes it sound worse than it is. 

My biggest problem with the book was actually the elevated language. I pride myself on being a well-read individual with a large vocabulary, but I can promise you Fifty Shades used complicated words it never needed. For instance, instead of using "envisioned," a perfectly normal word, the book used "envisaged" every time. They mean the same thing, but one will send me looking for a dictionary instead of continuing to read the book. There's also a lack of contractions in the book. What modern day person, raised in the United States, never uses contractions when they speak, without making a conscious effort not to use them? 

Despite many questionable decisions on both Anastasia's and Christian's parts, (I mean who buys someone they've known for less than a month clothing, a top-of-the-line computer, Blackberry, laptop, and car?) I was so happy when Anastasia left Christian. Now, I love happily-ever-after endings as much as the next person. But when you are scared of, confused by, and hurt by your partner or know they aren't able to provide what you need in a loving, healthy, consensual relationship, you leave their ass in the dirt and never look back, no matter how much you love them. If nothing else, I will admire that about Anastasia's character. Also, 200+ points to Miss Kate Kavanaugh for being the best friend who is worried about Anastasia, tries to protect her, and tells Christian to leave Anastasia alone.

My favorite part of Fifty Shades was Anastasia and Christian's email exchanges. It brought out a playful side in both of them that was usually lacking in their in-person meetings. 

Final opinion on Fifty Shades, the book is better than I thought, but not as good as it could have been. I'd recommend Fifty Shades for the people who, like me, judged the book without reading it first. Otherwise, I think everyone who would have been interested in it has already read it. 

Teaser Lines: “Sometimes I wonder if there's something wrong with me. Perhaps I've spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.” 


Happy Reading!

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