Full disclosure: while I didn’t like this book, I did read all the way through it, and might read the sequel, you know, for science. (Update 2/21/13: Yeah, no. I got through like 5 pages of the sequel. No. Update 08/18/2017: So I actually read the sequel eventually, maybe in 2015?. It wasn’t the absolute worst. I think I intended to read the third but haven’t yet.)
I’d planned to skip out on this one, but predictably, even I couldn’t escape the hype. The reasons I didn’t want to read this book were mostly because I didn’t know anything about it, and because it’s an “erotic” fiction/romance novel. I won’t deny I’ve delved into this genre before, but as comfortable as I am admitting I read Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris, I don’t want my degree in English Literature taken away from me before the signature dries…
When I learned about it, my confusion deepened. Twilight fan fiction? Pass. I liked the Twilight series, for all of its flaws. I will defend it, cherish it, go see all of the terrible movies. But a BDSM bald-faced fic/rip-off? LOLWUT.
Long story short, I ended up reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
Read it, they said.
It will be fun, they said.
Twilight + SEX, they said.
I got through it without being bored, but outside of that, “they” need to expand their tastes. As the internet has been ranting (for what, a year now?) there is better smut on the internet. Written by somebody who actually understands how BDSM, virgins, and mental problems work. For crying out loud!
Issues (outside of the blatant intellectual property violations)include, but are not limited to:
E.L. James chose to write a book with ONE person of color specified in it (Unless Leandra was too and I just missed it? Idk). She chose to include multiple references to character appearance and background. Therefore, she also chose to make Jacob-I mean José, an incredibly stereotyped Mexicano, spicy Latin non-entity.
I didn’t like how he was written, but I don’t want to get into it because in order to not stick my foot in my mouth I would need to dredge up a decent amount of research about the linguistic habits of first generation Americans bilingual in Spanish and English and how often they actually slip into Spanglish while assaulting their friends…
He is supposed to be Ana’s good friend of 4 years? Really? And suddenly after four years of devoted friendship he becomes pushy and can’t take “no” for an answer? Whatever, E.L. James.
2) The Britishisms.
The only explanation I will accept for what is obviously the oversight of a very lazy and/or inept editor is that Ana may or may not be an Anglophile and an unreliable narrator, given her love of Brit lit, and misquotes everyone around her with very colloquial, region specific British English.
Ana (and ostensibly, everyone else in the book) is American. E.L. James is British. If you are going to write a narrative with an American narrator it is kind of imperative you understand the differences in speech. Brits (and Ana) put bacon “under the grill.” Americans put bacon ON the grill (range, stove?), usually in a pan, so you don’t start a grease fire. This deviation in culinary descriptives happened at some point across the Atlantic, and while Americans can appreciably understand that homegirl is making bacon, they are definitely going to raise an eyebrow at the unfamiliar terminology (which probably is more to do with different cooking implements than actual bacon location, but whatev).
In the same strain: Americans use the word crap as a noun, usually, not an adjective. It is rare to hear an American twenty-something say she’s watching “crap TV” or that she is “crap at [verb].”
I will not go into the dialogue and things because I’m sure someone else has already addressed it exhaustively.
3. The sex was not exceptionally written.
So there was sex. Cool. Was it exciting? Not really. What kept me reading was waiting to see if this girl was going to come to her senses and realize she is in an abusive relationship and get the eff out!
Also, I know everyone is different, but I find it very hard to believe that a virgin can just magically be good at sex (especially with zero prior experience with her body or the male body at all) and feel no residual soreness. Not impossible, but, still. Unlikely.
4. Finally, the avoidance of the word VAGINA.
COME ON. This book is an erotic take on Twilight. Y U NO SAY VAGINA? I remember reading someone who had counted up the number of times the words “down there” are used…in italics…it was a lot. Sure, she says clitoris, okay. But what’s wrong with vagina? I’m tired of hearing about your “sex.”
Also, unrelated, I got creeped out early in with the usage of “Miss Steele.” It just feels creepy older man lecherous. Maybe this is another cultural thing? As far as I’m aware, most Americans, even very well raised polite ones, default to the informal first name when introducing themselves to acquaintances. Maybe not at job interviews, or press interviews, but the honorific is dropped pretty quickly once a relationship is established.
Anyway, TL;DR Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t that terrible, but it’s not good either. You’re not missing out on anything. Go about your lives, people.