Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"50 Shades of Grey" by E. L. James

I asked my then boyfriend (now husband) for "50 Shades of Grey" for my birthday when it first came out in 2011. Originally a Twilight fanfic, the book was the talk of my workplace and I was super eager to see what all the buzz was about.  I started reading it the night I got it.  And I finished it almost three years later.

Summary:  To help out her roommate, college senior Anastasia Steele finds herself interviewing the extraordinarily handsome and elusive CEO Christian Grey for her college newspaper.  Armed with a list of prepared questions, Ana stutters her way through the interview and doesn't give Mr. Grey another thought....until he propositions her in a way that both excites and terrifies her.  Will the innocent Ana take Mr. Grey up on his outrageous offer to change her entire life with the signing of a contract?

A Like/Loathe Response:  I had a really hard time looking past the terrible writing style for the first half of this book.  The dialogue was awkward (and I don't think it was intentional), the grammar sketchy and the overuse of commas drove me totally nuts...which is slightly shocking as I LOVE commas.  In fact, the writing was so bad I put the book down half way through and didn't pick it up for another three years.  But then three years rolled by and when I did pick it up, I was able to begin where I left off---right around the time Ana first pondered the (preposterous) contract Christian Grey proposed.  (Can we stop here for a second and recognize that the sole point of the contact was shock value for the reader?  It would have been much more interesting to find out the naughty details of Christian's sex life via dialogue or even action.  The contract was a cop-out by the author...an easy way to make the reader gasp and blush by the sheer volume of words.)

I found the second half of the book much more appealing than the first.  The characters had been established and I no longer had to read the boring and somewhat clumsy sections of the book that served no other purpose than to get the reader to the second half.  The second half of "50 Shades of Grey" had moments of honest to goodness humor, followed by dramatic but interesting emotional interludes, followed by scandalous sex scenes that aren't all that scandalous to anyone who's watched Cinemax after 10 pm or gone to a public school.  The characters personalities developed for better or worse, Ana learned some new tricks, and the book was much more fast paced.

What I Liked:  I thought the best parts of the book were the funny and flirty e-mails shared between Ana and Christian.  The emails felt like the most natural dialog in the book and showed the more interesting sides of both characters.

What Drove Me Nuts:  SO MUCH DRAMA.  It was exhausting and totally unnecessary.  Also, the writing.  And also some of the "sexy" scenes weren't all that sexy.

"Twilight" vs. "50 Shades":  My favorite part of reading "50 Shades of Grey" was comparing it to "Twilight."  Overall, I feel that "50 Shades of Grey" and "Twilight" are relatively equally matched, even though "Twilight" is much better written.  Although there were really only two, I thought the main characters in "50 Shades of Grey" were much more interesting than those in "Twilight" and the author didn't hide the fact that the entire point of the book was to find out whether Ana submits to Christian or not - there were no random action scenes thrown in at the end to give a plot to the book outside of the main characters' relationship.

Ana vs. Bella:  While both Anastasia Steele and Bella Swan are both naive and annoying in an almost dangerous way, I found that Ana actually had a personality that made me want to root for her.  Sure Ana doesn't always seem to know who she is, but at least she has a little self esteem.  She understands that she has some worth and treats Christian like an equal outside the bedroom.  It took four books for Bella to understand that she was worth something outside of her relationship to Edward (and I'm still convinced I didn't just make that up to make myself feel better reading the series.)  E. L. James gave her heroine a bit of backbone and that made her much more appealing to me, reading as an adult woman.

Now, this doesn't mean that I'm a member of the Bella-hater fan club.  I fully recognize that as a high school student with raging hormones and an unstable home life, it makes perfect sense for Bella to latch onto the steady and overwhelming feelings she has for Edward.  I even think Stephanie Meyer crafted Bella in an incredibly clever way in which teen girls and young women can easily imagine themselves in Bella's shoes. I'm just saying that as an adult, it makes me less irritated to read about an adult woman acting stupid than a teenager.  At least the adult understands that her actions will have life altering consequences.

Rating:  I'd give this book a chance, but I'd borrow it from a friend.  If you go into it with lower expectations and an open mind, you might not find yourself as let down as I initially was.

Will I Watch the Movie?:  Yes, when it's on Netflix instant, in the privacy of my own home, possibly with some franzia to help get me through it.

Also Read By This Author:  Nothing, but I'll borrow the next segment from my sister to see what happens next.

Reviewed By:  Tami

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