Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Have you heard about Fifty Shades of Grey? It has apparently sold millions of copies and is soon to be made into a movie, but I’ll be honest – I hadn’t heard of the book. In fact, I only found out about it because I saw an article on Entertainment Weekly saying it was a pop culture phenomenon, apparently sweeping the nation. Clearly, my little corner of the nation remains unswept, as I had no clue as to the existence of such a “phenomenon.”

If only I had remained blissfully unaware. But, I figured, everyone’s reading this book – time to see what all the fuss is about, right? I wish I hadn’t.

This book is appalling. That’s a bold statement, right? But it bothered me on so many levels (for a good summary of these levels, check out this article from Vulture. Pretty accurate, I’d say). I don’t know what I found more disturbing – how flat-out awful the book was, or the how so many people seem to love it. Honestly, I’m fairly sure it’s the latter, but I’m in a much better position to judge the book itself so I’ll try to stick with that.

The most obvious problem is that the writing is terrible. This book started out as fan fiction (and, more specifically, Twilight fan fiction – which should have deterred me, I know), and it’s clear it was not subjected to a particularly rigorous editing process. The repetitive word choices and corny dialogue are terribly distracting. This compilation of its most ridiculous lines is great, but I’ll also add this one to the mix: “I take a moment to admire the pretty. Oh my, he’s hot in leather.” Seriously? If you speak like this, we are no longer friends. Also, if anyone I knew ever referred to her “inner goddess,” I would slap her.

Perhaps you could forgive the less-than-stellar writing if the plot and characters were solid. But the book fails there too – particularly with the characters, who are surely some of the most awful people you will encounter in a novel, ever.

Anastasia has no personality and no interests outside of Christian (oh, wait – every now and then, she makes a super obvious reference to British literature. Oh, Ana, you smart!). Seriously, you might think a girl who was graduating from college would have a lot going on – she’d be nervous about moving into the “real world,” excited about moving to a new city, and concerned about finding a job and generally figuring out where her life was going. But Ana? Nope, she doesn’t appear to care about any of this – she spends 100% of her time obsessing over Christian. Because, you know, he looks good in leather.

Christian, at least, is given some nuance – there are hints of why he might be the way he is (and the way he is, for the record? Incredibly controlling. Like, track-the-location-of-your-phone-and-follow-you-to-a-random-bar-controlling). In my opinion, however, his past isn’t enough to make me forgive his present, though it does make it somewhat more understandable. NB: It also mildly disturbs me that women seem to see Christian as some sort of romantic hero, who they could fix with their love. Nope, he’s just an asshole – you can’t change him.

I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoyed this book (because it does kinda suck you in; it’s a page-turner), but I really don’t understand the appeal of the series. I was so angered by the first book that I cannot imagine purchasing the next two (similarly to how I read the first Twilight novel and immediately vowed “never again!”). I googled the last two books and read summaries, so now I know what happens, and that’s plenty for me.

The whole thing sort of makes me sad for our culture in general – is this what women are looking for in a relationship? Are these the type of people we really aspire to be? Do people truly believe that people act and talk like this in the real world? And, most importantly, since when did Twilight fan fiction become legitimately publishable?

P.S. My recommendation? Skip the book and watch this video instead. Ellen is the best.

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