Book Review – 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I’ve been agonizing over when to put this review out there.  Since today’s April Fool’s Day and this book is a bigger joke than Twilight… Here ya go.  I’m warning you, though.  This review is about 2x longer than any other I’ve ever written (or anyone on this blog has ever written) and is absolutely not safe for work.

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey

Author: Writer:  Chick who managed to put words on paper: E.L. James

Format: Paperback

Published: 2012

Also known as: Twilight, the fan fic.  (You did know that, right?  Because, you know, if you didn’t, you’ve been living under a rock.  This shit is fan fiction based on Twilight.)

So, at the beginning of this blog, Catherine made a comment about how we’d never review this book.  But, you know, I read it for the purpose of reviewing it, and hey, I’m reviewing it.

Someone, please hold my lunch.

If you haven’t heard anything about this book, please, crawl back into your cave and stay there.  You’re safe in your cave.  I promise.

I can’t save you if you keep reading.

Run away.

Now.

Quickly.

Why are you still here?

Haven’t you heard me yet?

RUN!!!

Really?  You’re sticking this out?

Okay, then.

I am no longer responsible for you if you stay.

So, I read the book.  And I took notes.  FOUR PAGES OF NOTES.  Then I decided that if I ranted and raved in this review even half as much as I do in person when somebody asks me what I thought… well, you’d be here longer than it took to write that drivel.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Ana, college chick, works at a hardware store in Portland/Seattle (the author doesn’t know the difference, why should I?), studies English, only reads old literature… oh, and doesn’t know how to check email and has never masturbated, let alone had sex.

Her roommate gets sick and sends Ana to do an interview in her place despite the fact that Ana isn’t a journalist and not smart enough to prepare for the interview – like, you know, read up on the guy on the internet or any- oh, wait.  She doesn’t know how to use the computer.  Wikipedia is clearly too difficult.  So she goes totally unprepared to her interview with Christian Grey, busy hating herself and thinking she’s a big fat loser, what with her blonde hair, blue eyes and all.  Oh, and as for that fat thing, she hates how skinny and hot her roommate is, but they share clothes so, uh…

Christian Grey on the other hand, is young, rich, and successful, so the list of responsible journalistic questions asked of him include insulting him at every question – is your success all luck?  Are you gay?  You know, that type of responsible journalism thing.   And then he falls for this useless fat ugly whatever thing that interviewed him.

Cause, you know, that totally happens in real life.    Jeez, I wonder who I could interview for this blog and end up in a bondage room with.

Oh, did I skip ahead?  Yeah, well.  That’s because there’s no substance to this book.

And more issues than Time Magazine.

So what do I have problems with?

  • The author can’t figure out the difference between Portland and Seattle and is there a mention of Vancouver for this American born/bred?  My best guess is Seattle, but I, as the reader, shouldn’t be guessing.  The author herself should know.
  • How the hell do you make it to 22-years-old, about to graduate from college, and can barely figure out how to hit the “ON” button on a laptop.  Email, are you kidding?!  What the hell?!
  • The writing is awful.  Aside from the first person present point of view (“I go and I see and I wait and… I vomit”) which I hate, it’s not even well written.  The thing about this POV is you either have to be good or you end up with a shitload of crappy, choppy sentences.  Yeah.  We’ve got those.  We’ve also got a ton of long, repetitive, run-on sentences.  Sentences that repeat words and colors and phrases and oh, dear God, kill me.  Please.  Because I can’t stand this!
  • Which brings me to my second argument about the writing, which is word choice.  Ana says things like “jeez” all the time.  Also, every combination of “good God” “good golly” etc.  I kept expecting a jeez god or a god jeez or something along those lines.  We get it already, James.  Your character is a clueless, stupid, innocent twit.  Wait, what?  That’s not what you want us to think?  You’ll get over it.  Cause that’s what you wrote and that’s what your editor pushed through.
  • Ana harps on everything – from her roommate and herself to every description every thought every whatever. Also, every guy she meets is cute, even though there’s no chance of a relationship with them.
  • Certain characters have names – like Roy, her father-like ex-step-father – but others, like her mother, don’t.  Not exactly a family therapist here, but if you love your ex-step-father like a father, you probably call him Dad.  And if what’s-her-name down in Georgia isn’t Mommy Dearest, you probably don’t call her that.  Just sayin’.
  • Oh, and she FUCKING MURMURS EVERY FUCKING TIME SHE TALKS.  (No, that didn’t bother me at all. </snerk>)  She doesn’t say, she doesn’t speak, she doesn’t yell (unless they’re in the bedroom) she fucking murmurs.
  • Million dollar words.  This here’s another pet peeve of mine.  When your character is a simple minded twit that uses words like “jeez” every time she opens her mouth, you don’t use fancy vocabulary for the rest of what you say.  Jeez.  I’m sorry, EL, but your character is a moron.  And honestly, people that use huge words when cute little tiny ones will do, end up sounding stupid.  I mean, I know our MC is a college-educated woman who can’t use a computer, but still.  [as a side note, several of the words that she throws around like popcorn in this book are so infrequently used that I needed a dictionary… I actually kept a list at one point of the bizarre choices of words she used]
  • She drinks every scene.  – no, I’m not anti-booze (I’m a card carrying member of the Tennessee Squire Association, thankyouverymuch), but I don’t see the point in drinking every time you go anywhere just because you can, and really, she drinks so much she should be sloshed.  What’s wrong with a glass of water once in a while?  Lemonade?  Iced tea?  Coffee?

So fast forward all this stuff.  After a few choice encounters where she happens to randomly run into Christian Grey (like at the hardware store where he buys zip ties and drop cloths), several meetings where her knees go weak, including a photo shoot of Christian Grey, etc., they end up doing a few things like dinner… and each other.

And the sex scenes are awful.  Because, here, ladies and gentlemen, is how every damn one of them works.

  1. Declare that you (the gent) will not do anything that shows any sort of actually caring about the woman you’re with.
  2. Demand she put her arms over her head.
  3. Do her like you’re her rapist.

Seriously, how bad is the sex life of a normal middle aged wife that they find that sexy?  Is it hot because it’s not missionary-style on Saturday night?  Grey’s not the husband and he’s not grunting till he’s done and rolls away?  What the hell?

50shadesabused

And as the book progresses and she does more and more of this even though she hates it, I seriously have to question Ana.  How bad is her self-esteem (and how clueless is she about sex) that she thinks she has to give in to the total control and domination from her man to get any?  How warped and twisted and – fucked up – are you to think that you don’t deserve any better?

As the story goes along, we learn a few more things about Mr. Grey.  He’s “fifty shades of fucked-up” (which is why I said that in the previous line – in Ana’s case, Mr. Fifty Shades becomes her new nickname for her boyfriend), and this includes his first time being with his babysitter, several (it felt like several million) discussions about the bondage contract she won’t sign, and the most agonizingly annoying scene in which she can’t believe she’s so naughty because she goes to dinner with his parents… without underwear.  (Poll women between the age of 18 and 30, and I bet within a dozen of them, someone will admit to having not worn underwear at some point in the past two weeks.)

ARGH!!!!!

You know, I’m gonna stop because, really, I just want to vomit.

Here’s the thing that pisses me off so much about this book.  Ana is a naïve, clueless, moronic twit (have I said that yet?).  And she somehow got into this relationship with a controlling freak.  Now, maybe, just maybe, if she had had several relationships, been a bit older, had a fucking clue, I wouldn’t be so upset.  But to have a main character that doesn’t even touch herself, who can’t refer to her girl parts – the word is not “down there” the word is “vagina” – thinks of her inner goddess or whatever other bullshit words she uses on herself… she is not equipped enough to be with this man.

And really, the author most certainly shows us this herself.

As the relationship progresses, and we see such uber-creepy behavior as Grey finding out where Ana lives because he has her cell phone tracked, demanding she get a new car because he doesn’t like the one she has, etc., and they discuss the contract to death, we learn a couple safe words (and they’re incredibly stupid safe words), get to watch her dream of sex toys and get them (I can never look at riding crops the same way), and eventually get to “the” scene.  I’d call it the climax, but really, slapping her twice gets this girl off, so using the word climax no longer has any meaning at this point.

Pardon the interruption, but… being stalked, tracked, or otherwise controlled is not ever the sign of a healthy relationship.  If you or somebody you know is in a relationship like this, please leave and find somewhere safe to go.  If you don’t feel that you can leave safely, call the police and they will help you.  Abuse is never okay, and you don’t need to be a victim to be in a healthy relationship. There are resources out there, and it’s NOT something glamorous.  

Ana/Bella (because let’s remember, this was based on fan fic, and she’s really just the tortured soul Bella in a new name) has at this point decided that she wants to know what the extent of Grey’s abuse, er, I mean spanking, is.  So she tells him to go  all the way.

And while she’s crying about how awful it is, she has her only moment of light where she decides that it scares the shit out of her and she should leave.  So after it’s done, she breaks it off with him.  End book.

And even this, I need to bitch about.  Because if you already forgot, about a paragraph and a half ago, I pointed out that they had safe words.  Which she doesn’t use.  At all.  And then she’s all “I can’t believe you hurt me like that” and pouts for a while.  Wait a damn minute.  She’s entered into an agreement (even though the contract never got signed) that she would do this sort of stuff, but she has a safe word so that it can’t get out of hand, and then because she’s too stupid to use it, she gets to play the victim?  I don’t think so.

Another side note.  Consensual BDSM happens all over the world.  It does not look like this.  And it is not about being hurt or abused, it’s about control and trust.  There is absolutely no trust anywhere in this book.  The author should be ashamed at writing this shit.

If I tell you to stop, I damn well expect you to stop.  But if I don’t say anything, then it’s safe to assume for whatever reason I want you to keep going.  It’s sorta like… going to a bar and seeing someone drinking across the room and assuming they’re at least 21 (or whatever the legal drinking age is where you are).  So really, all we learned through this book is that Ana needs therapy – not only to see why she thinks so lowly of herself but also to figure out why she has the sexual development of a thirteen-year-old.

Really, I think it’s irresponsible on the writer’s end.  We’re in an age where women (no matter how young or old) are increasingly having body issues.  (Just today, a friend of mine posted a link to Hardee’s new commercial paired with a conversation about how he can’t convince his 16-yr-old daughter that there’s nothing wrong with the way she looks.  For the record, she’s adorable and fairly skinny.)  Date rape cases are rising.  So what did this asshat author do?  She wrote a book where the main character thinks that nothing about herself is okay, is too emotionally stunted to deal with herself in any way, and then made her think that she had to be abused to be cared for.  Note that I’m not saying ‘loved’ because, you know, that doesn’t actually happen at any point in this book.

I thought the worst part was that there were two more books in this series, but no.

Somebody is writing fan-fic.  About this.  A fan-fic.  About Twilight.  And the longer this book is in print, and the more copies that sell, the more people who are going to take this crap and write their own.  And really, one was bad, it being a trilogy should have been the end of it.  But I picture a library full of this shit, and well… *shudders*  Also, even better, when the fan-fic about this was announced, EL James demanded her lawyers issue a statement to the next author saying “You just don’t steal other people’s ideas”  – um…

Can I give a negative pages rating?  Please?

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Katherine Coble
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 10:13:55

    I’m not wearing underwear now!!

    I didn’t think that meant naughty. I thought it meant “I don’t like wearing underwear.”

    Reply

  2. Mandi M. Lynch, author
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 18:17:07

    LOL! In the case of the book, apparently it’s the naughtiest thing you can do in public. In the case of anyone I know who doesn’t wear them, it means either “I don’t like wearing underwear” or “pantie lines suck”

    Reply

  3. Alicia B.
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 00:40:45

    Victoria’s Secret underwear feels like second skin. Semi-annual sales. You should try them.

    Reply

  4. Alicia B.
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 00:41:12

    Oh, moderation? I wonder now if you will post my rant?

    Reply

  5. Alicia B.
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 00:52:28

    As an end to my argument with you on this story, I have taken it upon myself to write my own notes while re-reading the 50 Shades trilogy answering many of your own questions and concerns.

    As we meet our main character, Ana, she is on her way to interview a very important person in the business world, who is also a major benefactor for the agricultural department of the university she attends, Washington State University. She does this as a favour to her roommate and best friend Kate.

    From the very beginning of the story, Christian is enamoured with Ana, so much so, that he has a background check done on her and even goes so far as to later trace her phone to find her. Weird? Yes. But after thinking about it, I realized, many people do a background check on others. Hell, the internet is filled with information that one would think is private, left for the whole world to see. I was actually quite upset at the amount of information on the internet about myself after doing a search. But alas, its all quite public and available, and really, I am guilty myself of searching others online. You should be too, because really, you should know what you are getting into if you want more than a passing relationship with another person.

    However, throughout the story we see many times the obsessive personality of a man who is used to getting his way and is used to never hearing the word “No”. He comes off as a control freak because really, he is one.

    While I know that you have had many pieces published in the literary world. We all have to get our start somewhere. E L James had twilight, I had Harry Potter. The inspiration to write is very soothing to the soul, regardless of where its beginnings were.

    As to geography, the book has been very clear as to where Ana works. She works at Clayton’s. A hardware store in Portland.

    By the way, Ana is a brunette with blue eyes.

    As I go through the book, I easily come to the conclusion that Ana must have been Asexual. Why? No guy has ever “done it” for her, she’s never really been interested in having a boyfriend; she keeps to herself and has never really had sexual arousal. And like some Asexual’s, she has tried in the past (having been kissed twice) and wasn’t really into it.

    You’re right, she doesn’t prepare for the interview, but she didn’t have much time either so she just uses what is prepared for her.

    While I’m sure there are many prepared and good journalist out there, there are also many who are not. These questions really don’t surprise me.
    I have never once seen an issue where the author doesn’t know the difference between Portland, OR, where Ana works, Vancouver, WA, where Ana lives, and Seattle, WA where Ana moves to near the end of the book.

    As far as being technologically inclined, I can totally sympathise with Ana. I am 30 something, married to an ex mechanical engineer now turned IT guy, who has patiently explained computer basics to me a thousand times over and I still can’t figure it out. And this is on a desktop. I am not ashamed to admit this. I don’t own a smartphone and can’t really figure out my husbands. I use the computer for research and to write papers. I do however think its dumb for a story to take place in 2011 and email to be sent for basic chit chat. That is what texting is for. Perhaps the author did it to fill up more space in her book?

    I agree totally that the writing is atrocious at best. It took me 12 chapters before the headache went away.

    Ana does harp on everything. She is an over analyser, over emotional, over dramatic, a worrier, has more patience than should be allowed, and is full of a dozen other emotions. She is also very stubborn, however I do not believe that Ana is a clueless, stupid twit. In fact, about 2/3rds into the book I realize that Ana is a young version of me. How I think, how I feel, how I analyse, how I used to behave. And many don’t realize this because over the years I have been forced to put up a different part of my personality outside of those I let really know me. I don’t know if it was the author’s intention but I found myself wondering if Ana is in fact a Virgo, because the traits are very strong. I later find out in the second or third part of the trilogy, I don’t remember which, that she is in fact a Virgo, her birthday being a day before mine. How interesting.

    It is actually not that unheard of to call a step-parent that you love by either Mom/Dad, name, or interchangeably. Ana does both, usually referring to her father as Ray when she describes what is going on or about him, and referring to him as “Dad” in person. A lot of blended families do this as well. It’s not a rule but it’s also not far from the exception. My family is a good example of this. No need for family therapy in that respect.

    Ana’s mother’s name is Carla by the way.

    The murmuring! The muttering! Please make it STOP!

    Million Dollar Words: Hrmmm, as stated above, I think the author channelled a perfect Virgo, whether intentional or not. On a regular day to day basis, I use a mixture of big words and “cute little tiny ones”. I don’t believe this has bearing on the intelligence of a person and it shouldn’t make a person appear stupid for doing so.

    Drinking—
    I don’t know many 21 year olds that drink very little. However, in the first book out the 21 times she drinks alcohol, she only gets drunk twice. Most of the time, with the exception visiting her mom in Georgia, she has a glass or two of wine. Three at Christian’s family dinner. She drinks tea (if you can call it that), water, and orange juice 13 times in the book.

    My only complaint about the sex scenes, are that they are too short. I also often wonder if it’s possible for a man to have that much stamina, being able to cum more than three times in a day, every day.

    Christian’s first time with Ana, he is gentle and giving. He does this twice more in the book. The rest of the time, it is hard fucking and it is amazing. At least in my opinion. And those who have experienced hard fucking know how awesome this is. After most of the sex scenes he embraces her, they linger for a while, it’s nice. And, oh, by the way, she likes it. Does she want more lovey dovey? Of course, but she likes the fucking too. Later in the next two books, there is definitely more of the lovey dovey sex but there is still the amazing kinky sex. She doesn’t hate the sex, she is over analysing her feelings about the sex in a complicated, lets feel out every emotion kind of way. It’s the way over analysers figure out how they really feel in the end before deciding on an emotion.

    I wouldn’t know how a rapist has sex with someone, and I hope you don’t either, so I wouldn’t assume that he does her like a rapist.

    Speaking of “fucking”, let’s get to the main topic of the book. BDSM. I am going to assume that anyone who reads this knows at least a little bit about it, or will at least go look it up. And I hope they really will look it up.

    Admittedly, I am not into the BDSM “scene”, or specifically into the D/S part of it. I’m sure stating that you want to hurt another person isn’t the point of that type of relationship, so I am sure that this is a problem for those who actually practise this lifestyle. But here are some things I did notice about the book.

    Safewords are safewords. It doesn’t matter what they are, the point is to have them and to use them if necessary. They discuss safe words 6 times in the book right before they do anything outside of “vanilla” sex. She is asked if she understands when to use them and she says yes. After every “scene” they talk, they communicate. Ana tells him how she feels and Christian tries to work on those areas. We see development as the stories go on in the trilogy. Some issues get worked on more quickly than others.

    The infamous scene where Ana storms out at the end of the book was because she never USED HER SAFEWORD. She knew about it. Discussed it. But she got caught up in emotion and didn’t think about it. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens.

    For all of Christian’s jealousy, obsessiveness, and bossiness from having been used to getting his own way until now, learning to adjust to a new lifestyle is hard but he does try. It seems in passing that he controls who she sees but he in fact relents and does let her see the people she wants to see, whether he likes it or not. Sometimes we all do this in a relationship.

    Christian gets rid of Ana’s VW Bug because while Ana has an attachment to it, the car is in fact a death trap and Ana quickly loves her new replacement even though she still fights the idea of receiving/accepting gifts from him.

    His behaviour to the objective eye can be overwhelming and brutish but as the reader can also see, he is slowly breaking from his shell. And he does this for her because we later find out how much he loves her.

    It is clear as the story moves on; especially into the trilogy that Christian has deep psychological issues that he does receive treatment for. Part of it is the obvious display of tension when Christian is touched or may be touched on certain areas of his body.

    Reply

    • Katherine Coble
      Jun 11, 2013 @ 20:24:06

      Look. All of your irrelevant trivia about Ana’s mother’s name and where she works will NOT change the fact that Christian is an abusive stalker and that she is abused.

      The BDSM is a feint–the book is a celebration of abusive, codependent relationships that uses ersatz BDSM as a dodge. Safe words or not, whether Ana “forgets or not, it isn’t a BDSM relationship.
      The balance of power between the high-powered executive with pots of money and the virgin in her early 20s who has never had an orgasm is too tilted for them to become consenting BDSM partners. The book glories in the paternalistic abuse while using “BDSM” the way a bully or a moron will say mean things and follow up with “ha! Just kidding!”

      Reply

  6. Mandi M. Lynch, author
    Jun 11, 2013 @ 20:22:45

    1. Nobody I have ever met has ever done or considered doing a background check on somebody they’ve dated or would like to date. It’s ridiculous and it’s a remarkable breach of trust. If any potential partner ever did, we’d be done. I have nothing to hide, unlike Christian Grey.

    2. Ana had enough time to look the guy up. He was famous enough that he would have either had his own website or wiki page, probably both, and they would have been easy enough to find, even for an idiot like Ana. Not only that, the roommate should have already had research on him that she could have shared. Also, the roommate should have sent somebody else from the newspaper to do the interview, not Ana who couldn’t handle walking into the guy’s office.

    3. While all of us start somewhere, copying writing that is also crap and bragging about it doesn’t exactly make somebody a literary genius. James has managed to cash in on bored housewives who get laid once a month and can’t do anything but fantasize.

    4. Yes, he is a control freak. He also embodies EVERY SINGLE INDICATOR for an abusive relationship. This is more than making sure your company runs spic and span, this is a human being’s safety. In the real world, we tell every woman who is in a relationship like this to run like mad.

    5. Geography. Yeah, she establishes the hardware store as being in Portland. She also talks about the state of Washington – most specifically Seattle – like it’s five seconds away. In reality it’s about a three hour drive. So when they talk in the book with varying times to get from one to the other, they’re all wrong. Totally wrong. And the descriptions sound more like Vancouver than America. EL James had probably never step foot on this continent prior to publishing this book, and a good editor should have caught that.

    6. If Ana was Asexual, she wouldn’t be interested in sex with Christian Grey at all. That’s not something you can turn on and off at will.

    7. I oft wonder if Ana has a real speaking voice. The muttering never goes away. I’m glad it annoyed you too.

    8. Authors tend to use million dollar words to appear smarter. They’re not always used correctly and they often take more away from the book than they add to it.

    9. She drinks all the time, whether to drunk or not is irrelevant. I’m concerned why you know how many times she drinks Orange Juice. My regular group of friends have been drunk collectively in their lifetimes less than Ana was drunk in book 1. I am not kidding. I drink regularly, but I still hardly see the need to do it every time I’m somewhere that alcohol is an option for a beverage of choice.

    10. As for how much I know about BDSM, you’d be amazed. One of my friends is on the board of directors for both the national center for sexual freedom and the local bondage club. I have friends with dungeons in their spare bedrooms. All of them agree that the stuff that happens in this book is abuse, plain and simple. Even the ones who like the book.

    11. She didn’t use her safeword because she chose not to. Then she gets mad at her top for hurting her. This is not how the world of BDSM works. See point #10. It was her choice not to use the word, whether she got caught up or not (there were dozens of things she could have done to make it stop – like stop counting along with him, she was clearly able to speak). And yet, she blamed Christian for what he did. Let’s review. If you choose not to use the safeword or make any other sort of sign to your top, they won’t stop. [side note: saying things like ow usually get you hit harder] In general, it’s the job of the top to make sure the bottom isn’t in distress. Yes, it’s sometimes hard to say your safeword, I have been there and it wasn’t pretty. But once again, in Ana’s case SHE WAS CAPABLE OF SPEECH – remember, she was counting out the hits. Also, she had asked to see his limit and demanded he didn’t stop. He did exactly what she wanted him to do and she was pissed off about it.

    12. HE says her car is a death trap. Nobody else does. And since we’re never given a description of it fully, we can assume that it’s another device to control her. If he wanted to buy her a car just to buy her a car, he’d’ve had his assistant take her to a car dealership and pick one out. It’s quite controlling to say “I hate your car so you have to drive this one…”

    13. Oh, we can watch him change? So the lesson here is “please abuse me and I will change you before I’m done with you” – yeah, let’s teach that to impressionable women everywhere. *facepalm*

    14. You totally missed the point about the Twilight comment. Again, she’s pissed that other people are writing fan fic about her work. WHAT THE HELL DID SHE DO TO BEGIN WITH? She’d be nothing if she hadn’t stolen somebody else’s ideas and tweaked them.

    Reply

  7. Alicia B.
    Jul 08, 2013 @ 23:42:10

    Sigh* I am washing my hands of this issue with you.

    Reply

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