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

Fifty Shades of Grey?  No way— more like Fifty Shades of Ghastly.  Because that is what this book is in every way.  Consider the following review a cautionary tale of what happens when one avid reader finally gives in to the pressure of participating in the latest literary craze.

I did it.  I finally caved and read E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey after months of endlessly hearing about this more “adult” Twilight-esque sensation.  I am not happy to admit it, but I actually enjoyed Twilight, despite my dislike for both Bella and the quality of writing.

In case you have been living under a rock, Fifty Shades is about a soon to be college graduate who helps out her sick roommate by going to interview the extremely wealthy business owner, Christian Grey, for the school paper.  Although Ana feels an immediate pull towards Christian (in other words, a fiery tingling in her loins) upon meeting this mysterious man, any lust she feels is quickly replaced by absolute horror and mortification at having to ask the prying interview questions her roommate has written.  Unfortunately (for the reader), this short interaction is hardly the end of Ana and Christian.  All within a couple of week’s time, Grey has whisked Ana away to his lavish Seattle apartment and presented her with a contract to be his submissive.  In case you are confused by that term, it basically means that if she agrees, Ana would be Christian’s personal sex slave, there to satisfy his every sexual whim (although he promises Ana’s complete satisfaction as well).  Ana is equal parts appalled and fascinated by the proposition, and by Grey’s “playroom” where all the action goes down.  But instead of running for the hills, she can’t seem to turn her back on Mr. hunk-a hunk-a burning love.

This book seems to be your run of the mill romance novel, with an S and M sort of twist.  So why did this book suddenly blow up in popularity while all the other romance novels, some of which HAVE to be better written than this one (trust me, it wouldn’t take much), will spend their days in complete and utter anonymity?  Believe me, I asked myself this very question every single laboriously read page, and still haven’t come up with a good reason. However, I have about fifty reasons why I hate this book and everything it stands for.  Granted, I have come to terms with the fact that I am an extremely petulant reader.  I get annoyed quickly with characters I don’t like, as well as bad writing, so take this critique as you will.

A Brief List of Why I Hated Fifty Shades:

  1. Mentioning the title of the book once or twice within the text can be a good (albeit unsubtle) way of tying concepts together for the reader.  I have complete respect for a passage that illuminates the true meaning of a confusing title.  However, it is just downright unnecessary to use the title repeatedly within the book, as James did to describe the smoking hot enigma Christian Grey.  Especially since it is completely obvious what the title stands for without explanation, playing off the fact that Christian’s last name is Grey and that his personal affairs are not quite as black and white as they first appear.  Over and over, James refers to Christian as Fifty Shades of F****ed Up, Fifty Shades of Exasperating, and just plain old Fifty Shades.  We get it already!  E.L. James is clearly obsessed with her title, and doesn’t want us to forget for one second what it is that we are reading (if only…).  Clearly, she is quite self-obsessed.  Or to put it in a way she will understand, she is Fifty Shades of Self-Obsessed.  Get the picture?
  2. The rhetoric between characters in this book is infuriating.  I kid you not, when Ana and Christian say goodbye to one another, they often say “Laters baby.”  I hope I don’t have to elaborate on why this is appalling.
  3. In a similar vein, I hate the way Ana and Christian call each other Miss Steele and Mr. Grey the entire book.  I don’t think it is necessary to keep bustin’ out the surnames, especially considering the things they do to each other behind closed doors.  I know Christian told Ana to call him either “Sir” or Mr. Grey and never to use his first name (part of the whole dominant thing), but he can just get over himself.  And if it’s not bad enough that Ana overuses Grey’s surname, she also uses the same formalities with her best friend, constantly calling her by her first and last names.  Such behavior is just plain weird, and makes Ana (and Grey) seem like pompous pricks.
  4. Ana has a bit of an Id and Ego thing going on throughout the course of this book that gets really annoying.  Her Ego, which she refers to as her subconscious, is constantly telling Ana “Christian is crazy!  Run away!”  Her Id, on the other hand, which Ana refers to as her inner goddess, just wants Ana to get down and jiggy.  Ana talks about her inner goddess about 55 times throughout the course of this book.  Yes, it bothered me so much that I counted.  This averages out to about once every seven pages.  In fact, Ana’s inner goddess speaks so often that I think it is safe to say that Ana must be schizophrenic.  Oh, she’s not?  Then she should stop talking about the fact that her inner goddess is doing back flips, or the samba/merengue/salsa (apparently her ID is quite the dancer), or trying on her cheerleading costume, or shaking her head disapprovingly!
  5. Another annoying bit about Ana – the minute Grey lays hands on her, she turns into some sniveling, desperate fool.  Every time she whimpered her “Please” (as in, please just let me have my orgasm now), which was quite often, I just wanted to slap her.  Furthermore, her breath “hitches” so frequently in this book (just about every time Ana catches sight of Christian), that I think it’s about time she starts carrying an inhaler around (now if only that inhaler would also cure her obvious mental problems and general obnoxiousness).
  6. As per the contract, Ana must spend almost every weekend from Friday through Sunday with Christian.  In what sort of alternate reality does Ana live in that her roommate and other friends wouldn’t get upset that she went AWOL once she started shacking up with some dude?  Clearly Ana and her friends never had the hoes before bros talk.
  7. Ana, who is a virgin when she meets Grey and the first time she reads the contract he presents to her, doesn’t freak out nearly enough when she reads the types of things he wants her to do, like anal fisting.  Ugh.  I clench up just thinking about it.
  8. Although they don’t get into too much of the weirder, sadomasochist type stuff that Christian is into, he does do some things that are really nasty.  For instance, Christian has sex with Ana while she is on her period.  And he thinks her period blood is a big turn on.  I don’t care what you are into…that is just disgusting any way you slice it.

I could go on, but I think I’ll stop there, because frankly it both angers and depresses me the more time I spend thinking about this book.  I know a lot of people really enjoyed it, so feel free to leave comments putting me in my place!  You won’t change my opinion, but you are entitled to yours!

Final Rating:  I give this book 1 out of 5 stars.  I would have given it zero stars, but I will give it the one because somehow the author managed to get this atrocity published and she also somehow tricked a lot of people into (1) reading this book (myself included) and (2) thinking it was good (myself definitely not included).


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

  1. You said pricks… eh heh heh. You reading this book was definitely worth it for me because I got to read this, which was arguably made much funnier because I could hear your voice while reading things like: “Ana, who is a virgin when she meets Grey and the first time she reads the contract he presents to her, doesn’t freak out nearly enough when she reads the types of things he wants her to do, like anal fisting. Ugh. I clench up just thinking about it.”

    Now I hope to read a retort from someone else saying why this was such a great read.

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