Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1) by E. L. James

I decided it was time to indulge to my inner curiosity about the wildly popular series Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. After all, what kind of book reviewer would I be if I didn’t at least glance at the best seller list once in a while?

This book has been burning up the Amazon bestseller list and the NY Times….to mention I get asked a million times a week if I have read the book. From the other reviews I had read, it seems as though you either like the book or you hate it.

There is no denying that writing a book like the controversial Fifty Shades trilogy takes guts. This book was disturbing yet oddly intriguing. I had to wait a couple of days to digest that book, I want to give it a fair review, but I was so bothered by the content that I needed to think on it for a bit.

Anastasia Steele (Ana) gets tasked with interviewing billionaire, Christian Grey for her college newspaper when her friend falls ill. As luck would have it, Grey is good looking, sexy, witty, and rich….and a total control freak.

Ana tries desperately to get Grey out of her mind but she can’t….and clearly Grey can’t get Ana off is mind since he starts more or less stalking her from the first ‘hello’. The most they try to avoid each other–the more they want each other.

Grey is a mysterious man who has a dark history….an enigma that Ana wants desperately to figure out. Grey can’t help but be attracted to Ana’s whit and cleverness. They are like fire and gasoline. But soon the fire starts sucking the oxygen out of the relationship and they are left with the bare bones question: can their relationship survive or do they just want two different things?

Think Twilight with no vampires and lots of sex. This is a Twilight fan fiction book so if the plot sounds familiar then that is why.

Ana and Grey are physically attracted to each other but Grey makes it clear he wants nothing more from Ana than sex on his term. Lots of sex. 500 graphic pages worth.

I struggled with this book, after about 30% in, I didn’t know that I could finish it. The sex was so graphic that it was embarrassing and uncomfortable but I could look past it. What bothered me the most was the lack of plot and the characters.

Part of me really appreciated Ana’s character. She was so innocent and cute in the beginning. She could never get herself together around Grey which I could sympathize with…she was constantly tripping over her words and quite literally herself. She had such trouble articulating herself verbally, that I found a glimmer of pity for her….but I could never get past her insecurity.

Ana became a very hard character for me to read and hard for me to like. The whole “Grey is so hot and I am so not how could he ever find a girl like me attractive” thing was over done. I personally like a strong female heroine and she was not that….not even a little.

Throughout most of the book, Ana comes across as so unsure of herself and too innocent that when she tries to embrace her inner ‘goddess’ and independence I felt like it was a little too late and unbelievable. Ana’s attempts to convince the audience that she is independent is unconvincing even to the most obtuse reader. It would have been good to break up the constant “do I or don’t I” with a side story or perhaps an alternative POV.

I was also bothered by the classic cliche of “he’s messed up but maybe I can fix him”. Ana makes it clear she is willing to do ANYTHING to be with Grey…she is afraid of losing him and even though she struggles with the sexual lifestyle, she is willing to enter into something she is not totally ok with….sexually or personally and that bugged me as a woman.

He tells her up front that he doesn’t want anything more from her. He tells her up front about the life style and that he is more or less beyond fixable. Ana feels the need to justify and validate how and why Grey is the way that he is. She knew the emotional limitations of the relationship but went for it anyway….sacrificing her wants and needs for his. For me it bordered on degrading.

Throughout the book I kept waiting for the story to start. I half expected there to be some other side story at the very least, but about 40% in I gave up the ghost. Their relationship (and the sex) is center stage in this book which was a little disappointing. I was hoping for something to break it up a bit.

Linguistically, there was a lot of colloquial over usage…the phrases “holy crap” and the like were a little much after a while. For such a graphic book, the phrase “down there” felt elementary and ill fitting. The adjective choices and general use of them, were redundant.

With all that said, Fifty Shades did have its good points. I really enjoyed the email exchanges between the two. I thought this showcased Grey’s charming, irresistible wit and brought an intelligent banter to the book.

There is a tender, genuine, hidden quality about Grey that irresistibly sexy. I could appreciate the honesty of the emails as someone who also articulates them self better in writing…the written word often gets over looked as a superior quality in modern society. In the past, a man’s worth and attractiveness were measured by the quality of his written word….not so in modern society, but in the case of Grey, he was more than worthy of sexiness. I liked Grey immensely more than Ana. I liked that he had a fun playful side, but yet has the ability to be smart, confident, and mysterious. James nails the dark knight well.

When the book was over, I found myself musing about the next book….to read or not to read? I didn’t like the this book ended. It was too rushed and for me, it didn’t quite fit with what I thought the characters would do or were capable of. Oddly enough I want to know what happens now so I am debating about reading the second book.

I am struggling with a star rating for this book. Part of me wants to give it 2 stars for it’s lack of originality and weak heroine but yet part of me wants to give it 5 stars simply for the fact that someone (let alone a woman) would have the sheer guts to write a novel as daring as this. But at the end of the day, mechanics outweigh daring for me.

You have to read this novel with an open mind. I know a lot of people struggle with the sexual aspect of the novel (it was disturbing but oddly intriguing at the same time). Even though the sex dominates the book (no pun intended) I could deal if the story was more developed….that was the ultimate downfall of the novel. So much effort was put into the sex and the passion but not enough into the characters and plot.

On the flip side….the graphic-ness of the novel was such a shocker I think it eclipses the story and puts a lot of people off. The first 20% of the book starts out like a normal story with potentially likable characters and then suddenly launches into a graphic lifestyle. I think it takes readers by surprise and if the audience isn’t sure sure what to expect….one could easily be put off by the initial encounter and thus the remainder of the story.

Reader be warned! NC-17 is a grossly understated warning.

Challenge/Book Summary:

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

  • Kindle Edition, 552 pages
  • Published May 26th 2011 by The Writers Coffee Shop Publishing House (first published January 1st 2011)
  • ASIN B0052U59F4

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 2.50 out of 5 (a daring read but lacking the mechanics of a great read)

Genre: Contemporary Literature, erotica, romance

Memorable lines/quotes:

Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.

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7 Comments

  1. Leslie

     /  May 7, 2012

    You expressed my thoughts completely. Amazing!! I’m still debating on reading the 2nd book. For now I’ve chosen to take a break and started the Hunger Games instead. Very happy I did, cause they are wonderful!

    Reply
  2. Yuck. I appreciate your review; I had no intention of checking out before and now it’s on my “actively avoid” list – I HATE books with these sorts of cliches – cliche plot, cliche characters, cliche cliches… I have nothing against erotica if it’s interesting, but if that’s all there is – and then combine it with a weirdly Victorian language – yuck yuck yuck. Great review.

    Reply
  3. Tory

     /  May 8, 2012

    I agree with just about everything you said about this book, right down to the fact that the emails were one of the more entertaining parts. I gave it two stars; that being said, I definitely think you should plow through the second one. There is more action in that one. I just finished it last night. I’ve started just skimming over the sex scenes, which makes the book go faster. LOL

    Reply
  4. Great review! I had read the Amazon preview of this book, but didn’t really know what it was about.

    Reply
  5. Thanks for the comprehensive review. I had a feeling it was not going to have much of a story line, and have been avoiding all the hype.

    Reply
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