I would like to forewarn readers that this review is going to be talking about very adult sexual content. I'm sure you've all heard about 50 Shades of Grey and know what this will deal with. There are going to be spoilers and I'm going to be discussing the sexual events of the book. If you do not agree with these, or are averse to these topics please do not read the rest of the review. Naughty words will be used.
Anastasia Steele is about to graduate from college and must interview the reclusive multi-millionaire Christian Grey. With her air of innocence and rather naive interaction with the opposite sex, she intrigues Christian who propositions her into an unconventional relationship. As their interactions become more sexually deviant and Ana's emotions become more confused, a choice needs to be made whether or not Ana can deal with the fifty shades of fucked up that is Christian Grey.
I don't know if you all know this but this book is actually a fanfiction based off of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. It's not always apparent, but there's definite themes that you can see that are the same in each book. Let's be honest, as much as I enjoyed the Twilight series, it was not great literature. The writing is pretty awful, the characters are rather messed up and one-dimensional, and the actual story is pretty weak. What Stephenie Meyer's does do well is wrap you up in the emotions of the characters, to the point where you get wrapped up in angst and can't help but be carried off by it.
What Stephenie Meyer's does with emotion, E.L. James attempts to do with sex. Ana is swept off her weak and naive feet by the dark brooding Christian Grey. They end up having sex, and of course Ana's "inner goddess" is awakened. (Sidenote: I don't think I've ever read a book where the phrase inner goddess has been more overused than in this book. Every other second that damn inner goddess is popping up, and I just wanted her to die.) This leads to Christian introducing Ana to his BDSM lifestyle and pushing her into signing a sexual contract. The contract essentially lays out the rules of their relationship between Christian the dominate and Ana his submissive. There are soft limits, which are things that they won't do right now and might introduce later i.e. anal, and hard limits, things that will never happen i.e. peeing on one another, sex with children, you know the usual stuff. There's also rules about how frequently Christian's submissive is supposed to eat, sleep, and work out. It's a very all encompassing contract, throughout which I laughed while reading.
The sex is pretty graphic, with a lot of goofy romance phrases thrown in to balance out all of the spanking. E.L. James like Stephenie Meyer's tends to overuse phrases and descriptions. Ana bites her lip constantly and Christian smirks a lot. A lot of attention is paid to Christian's eyes if I remember correctly.
Here's a little niggle I had, E.L. James is from England, and originally this book was self-published, so there's a bit of British slang and jargon thrown in. I'm pretty sure that the word knickers pops up a couple times. But what really annoyed me, and something I think someone should have just said no to is the use of "laters." You know, how some people will say "Laters!" instead of "See you later." or "Goodbye". The vision that comes to me is in Bend it Like Beckham when a British girl on her phone says "Laters," in a rather high-pitched girly squeak. Unfortunately Christian Grey tends to say it all the time to Ana as the part from each other. It's obnoxious. I've never heard an American use this term, and you'd think since the setting is Seattle that someone would come in and change it so that it would be more suited for the setting. This is not me being America is better, I was completely outraged when I heard that some of the phrases in Harry Potter were changed for American readers. I'm just saying that if the setting is stated, the colloquialisms should match. And for the amount of money that the books have made you'd think they could splurge to have someone re-edit the book.
Okay, on to what I'm sure many people are looking for. The sex. I get that this is supposed to be titillating, and some of it is. Most of Ana and Christian's interactions are sexual in nature. Either they're making out, talking about sex, having sex, thinking about sex... But other parts, where there's punishment and anger involved, is very uncomfortable. At least for me, and maybe I'm misunderstanding some of it. From my rather shallow grasp of D/s play is the fact that the submissive actually holds a lot of the power. The submissive is allowed to say no and draw the lines. It never really felt like Ana understood that and therefore the power was always in Christian's hands. So when he goes after her near the end of the story and punishes her, it feels more akin to rape than sexual exploration. Gross. I think the fact that it no longer felt like it was an act between two consenting adults felt very off putting.
Oh! I forgot, here's another weird thing. The book takes place over the span of about two to three weeks. That's right, the entire 528 pages spans less than a month of time. Ana loses her virginity, enjoys a D/s relationship (for the most part), falls in love, and breaks up with the love her life thus shattering all semblance of humanity in a matter of weeks. Ridiculous.
I would like to mention the one thing I did like about this book. Throughout the plot, Ana and Christian send emails and texts to one another. I found that the subjects for the messages were actually rather funny and Christian changes his job title to fit the message as well. I thought this was rather adorable and engaging. Unfortunately this was the only thing I really enjoyed about the book and a book cannot be made of email subjects alone.
Final verdict? Awful. I felt like pieces of my brain had dribbled out of my ears which I'll never get back. I get why it swept the nation. But seriously, if you want to be reading erotica there's better stuff out there. This was rather mind-numbing.