Saturday, April 27, 2013

50 Shades of Confusing

Yup, you read that title right folks, I'm going to be reviewing, you guessed it, the infamous 50 Shades of Grey.
Now, I know this book has been read and reviewed to death, but I picked it up recently (why oh why do I do these things to myself?) and I thought I'd put my 2¢ in. And well, here goes:


Fifty Shades of Grey
by E. L. James

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, I have very mixed feelings about this book. I'll admit that I picked it up because I was excited/eager to see just how terrible it was. And the first few chapter were indeed terrible. I decided that I was going to take notes, chapter by chapter and then analyze them later.
I made it to chapter 8.
Don't get me wrong, I read the whole thing, but I just couldn't get through 26 chapters of writing out: "Ana gasped again, does she have some sort of respiratory disorder?"

Maybe I should start at the beginning though?



Synopsis:
50 Shades of Grey is about a young girl named Ana Steele who meets and falls inexplicably in love with a rich (read: gazillionaire) single man named Christian Grey. Ana is not only a virgin, she has never been in a relationship before; she's never even been kissed. Christian meanwhile, is heavily into BDSM (as a dom) and wants Ana to enter into a 3 month commitment to be his full submissive, obeying him in every way. He makes it very clear to her that it is his way or the high-way. If Ana wants to have any kind of relationship with this sexy and intriguing man whom she's starting to fall for it has to be on his terms, and she has to sign a contract to do so.


At it's heart, 50 Shades claims to be a romance (and is apparently a "GoodReads Choice Awards Finalist for Best Romance"), and to a certain extent, I suppose it is. Ana & Christian certainly spend enough time dancing around each other, somehow being both coy and oblivious at the same time. So to me at least, that says 'crappy romance novel'.

But are we here to talk about the romance? No, we're here to talk about the sex, and I have to admit, it's HOT. Yes, I used caps-lock for that, it's HOT. Seriously. Despite that fact that the book as a whole is terribly written (more on that later) and the fact that the sex is deliriously implausible (ie. despite being a virgin and having admittedly rough-sex their first time, Ana has multiple orgasms from penetration alone), it's still pretty damn hot. It was enough to get me off (with the help of my ever-trusty Ina 2) several times throughout the course of the book. The last handful of scenes though felt somewhat repetitive  There are only so many times I can read "He flexes his hips, and I gasp, leaning forward..." before it gets a little old.

That actually brings me to the first thing that I strongly disliked about the book. But since I have several, let's go through the list one by one.

Point #1:
The book is repetitive as hell. Ana is constantly gasping, Christian's eyes are described as "smoldering grey" more times than I can count and every other phrase is either "Holy crap" or "Holy shit". Now, I don't mind swearing. I can drop F-Bombs with the worst of 'em, but be a little creative, please! And it's not just the swearing. Most of the dialogue in the book (and the descriptions, and Ana's inner-monologue, and pretty much everything else) is just as repetitive.

Point #2:
Christian is a big time stalker, and everyone seems to think it's sweet and romantic. He buys Ana a phone and a laptop so that he can be in constant contact with her and flies 2,500 miles to see her against her wishes. If one of my friends had a partner who was treating her like this, I'd advise her to get a restraining order. It's really not sweet or romantic, it's creepy and unsettling.

Point #3:
Ana is constantly gasping, squeaking and blushing at the slightest provocation. I can see that this is supposed to be cute and maybe even sexy, but I just find it really annoying. "Gasp, his hand brushed against mine!"*, "He looked at me! (blushing)"*

  • A subset of Point #3: Ana is a complete virgin when she and Christian meet, and she's completely "innocent" as well. To the point where she's never heard the term "vanilla sex" before. Apparently because of this, the things that seem to turn her on seem very strange to me. There's a part in the book where she gets turned on from using Christian's toothbrush because "it would be like having him in my mouth... I feel so naughty. It's such a thrill."

Point #4:
Ana lets absolutely everyone in her life boss her around. She flat out admits that she can't stand it when her roommate Kate tells her what to do, or tries to run her life. But not once does she stand up for herself and say "You know, I'm an adult and I can actually think for myself, thank you very much." This is yet another of her traits that is probably supposed to be endearing, but actually just ends up being bothersome.


I really wanted to say something about the BDSM aspect of the novel, but I just really don't feel qualified to. I am not in any way involved with that "scene", and therefore am not very knowledgeable about it. I'll admit to enjoying a little light bondage now and again, but I really don't get the appeal of a DOM/sub relationship. 
But even from my uninitiated perspective, I can see that the novel portrays a BDSM lifestyle in very mixed ways. 
To Christian, it's just a part of who he is. He is very accepting of that part of his personality; he is comfortable with what he wants out of a partner and is very adept at explaining it to new partners. He does not at all appear to be ashamed of his dominant tendencies.
Ana is a very different story. For most of the book she views Christian alternately as a saint and a monster. She doesn't understand why physically hurting a consenting partner would give him pleasure. She goes so far as to speculate that his "perversions" as she calls them, stem from childhood abuse. She claims that he is not normal, and goes so far as to call him a "fucked-up son of a bitch". 
I can see that this would send very mixed messages to readers wondering what BDSM is all about, and that's one of the things that really bothers me about this book.

Despite those points, and the fact that both the writing style and the two main characters bugged the shit out of me, I couldn't put this book down. I don't know what it was, (maybe the narrative sucked me in?) but I sat down and read this thing in about three sittings. That's fairly unusual for me, as I tend to take my time with novels. 

Like I said, the sex scenes were hot, and the main story line was actually pretty promising. Girl meets boy, girl falls in love but boy has baggage that she must over-come! It's not a bad story line, even though it's been used many times before. It was really just the execution that I found pretty lacking. 

Overall, I'm still not sure what I thought of this book (hence, the title of the post). Would I recommend this book to others? Uhhh... Meh. I was curious about 50 Shades, so I picked it up and read it. Now I know what it's about. If you want to do the same, you're more than welcome to it. I understand that's not exactly a glowing recommendation, but it's not intended to be. I didn't love this book, and thus I can't really tell people that they should run out and buy it. On the other hand, I didn't hate it either. So I'm not going to tell people to skip it. You're all adults (I hope), and are therefore allowed to make your own choices about reading material. 
If you do decide that you'd like to pick up a copy, you can get one from your local amazon.com, your local bookstore (support small businesses!) or even over at edenfantasys.


I feel a little bad about all this though. 
I'm a reviewer, and I'm supposed to give people helpful information so that they can decide if they want to spend hard earned money on a product. But in this case, I'm ambivalent. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. Didn't love it, didn't hate it. "Meh" just about sums up my feelings on this one.

On the other hand, I'm probably not going to be picking up the next two books anytime soon. Take from that what you will.




Okay, that's it for now. Come back later for more (less ambivalent?) reviews and a "special" post about the month of May!


Laters baby.


*These are not direct quotes, but rather examples drawn from many, many instances of similar lines in the book.

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