“Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James

Sometime in April, I ventured into my favorite Barnes & Noble to buy a Sparknotes guide to read along with my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. Who knew that I would succumb to peer-pressure and buy a much-talked-about novel? As I’ve mentioned before in my post on the Hunger Games, I usually do not like to purchase a much-talked-about novel because I believe most times people talk about it just to be a part of the hype and not because the book is great.

On this occasion, it was my curiosity that drew me to the simple display of books in the Shades of Grey series and to select the first one, Fifty Shades of Grey. I had been hearing of the book for quite some time. No, I never saw anyone openly reading it on the train, which I thought was queer at the time since it’s so popular; but I’d overheard many whispered conversations filled with curiosity for the book:

“Have you read Fifty Shades yet?”

“Yo, exactly how freaky does it get?”

Available on Amazon and in Barnes & Noble

On top of all these whispered conversations was the media. I read that it was banned from the Brevard county libraries in Florida and that it was filled with all sorts of BDSM scenes. I even watched a skit that Ellen DeGeneres did, acting as if she were auditioning to be one of the voices for the audiobook (it was hilarious). Furthermore, both my cousins called to see if I had started it yet because of the rave they’ve heard on it (in Jamaica and New York). At that point, I realized that I had to read it to know what the big deal was about. So that day in the bookstore, I succumbed to peer-pressure, gave into my curiosity, and bought Fifty Shades of Grey, the very raved about novel by E.L. James.

I like how the novel begins. Inexperienced Anastasia is thrust into unknown waters and must wade through the deep end while parrying with the dangerous Grey. Meaning, inexperienced (in all sense of the word) Anastasia has to interview Christian Grey because her roomie, Katherine Kavanagh, editor of the campus paper, is sick. So Anastasia does a favor for her roomie and interviews the very intimidating, very successful, but young, Christian Grey.

Apparently, Anastasia’s awkwardness during the interview left an impression on Christian. He shows up at her job, agrees to do a photo shoot for the school newspaper, and later asks Anastasia out for coffee. Obviously dude is interested. He tries to play it cool and act as if he isn’t. All the while, we can see the push and pull of emotions that flows between the characters. Anastasia is obviously interested in Christian and, though the novel is told from Anastasia’s point of view, it is easy to tell that Christian is hooked on her as well, even if Ana is not aware of that fact.

As the book progresses, we get to know Ana and Christian a bit more and become troubled by their relationship. After introducing Ana to his “Red Room of Pain,” we realize that Christian is a kinky motherfu!#%* but this, on top of the fact that he is very controlling, relishes in inflicting pain (or at least believes he does), does not like to be touched, and is afraid of being too affectionate makes us realize that Christian is also a troubled young man with a very murky past that haunts the clinical future that he’s trying to attain.

The bulk of the novel is about how Ana and Christian grow deeply attracted to each other, get used to the idea of Christian’s eclectic tastes in the boudoir, explore the boundaries of Ana’s innocence, and avoid the very real and threatening problems in their relationship. Basically, it is a simple “love” story with a few erotica moments thrown in. Really, it’s not as gritty and off the chains as people made it out to be.

Yes, the Red Room of Pain seems scary and is very off-putting – what with the whips, hand cuffs, paddles, and that thing that makes you hang from the ceiling – but it’s only used twice in the whole story and not even to the extremes that we are aware that Christian could take it because of his love and consideration for Anastasia. The extreme stuff are hinted at but not acted upon. Really, I think that the most extreme thing was when Christian gave Ana 6 hard slaps.

Overall, this novel was a disappointment and not entirely because of E.L. James. I think she did an okay job. A couple of things could use some work (more character development to make them believable, a more diverse set of expressions for Ana, and a bit more work on the plot….okay, the book needs a lot of work). But Fifty Shades was a disappointment because of the hullabaloo that people and the media raised about it.

The media, and people’s whispers, made me think that this was a really raunchy erotica and that by reading it, I would travel down a very dark rabbit hole and read about those obscene desires that the human race tries to smother with restrictions but such was not the case at all. Since it’s a best-seller, I also expected exemplary writing, strong characters, and an engaging plot that would push me towards the other books in the series, but that was absent as well.

So after reading, I came to the conclusion that the reason why it was so hyped is simply because it is an erotica that went mainstream and the more people became surprised by its somewhat mild contents, the more they discussed it, and the more the media ate it up and made even more people interested in speaking of it. Or, maybe it becomes very raunchy and gritty and well-written and actually uses the Red Room of Pain and shows Christian in his extreme in the other titles.

Although I didn’t find the story to be particularly interesting (really, the plot is almost nonexistent; it’s all about Ana admiring Christian, having orgasms, and saying “Oh my” on every single page), I was drawn to Christian. I find him to be an enigma of a character. The only reason why I kept reading is because I wanted to know his story. I wanted to know, like Ana, why he is the way he is. What happened in his past? Is he still being controlled by Mrs. Robinson? After all, he was her submissive since the age of 15 until he went to college, he does not think it wrong of her to make him a submissive, she is a partner in his company, and they speak regularly. He discusses his problems with her and respects her. Something seems very wrong there. But it’s the mystery of Christian that carries the novel. The other characters, including Ana, are poorly developed. It’s all about Ana being in lust with Christian and wondering if she can go through with his demands.

Speaking of Ana, she has to be one of the weakest, dumbest female characters I’ve ever encountered. I really hope that she develops into a stronger character in the other novels and finds something else to like about Christian other than his sexual prowess and the fact that he is gorgeous.  The way she thinks makes me pause. I think she needs some counseling.

She remains the same throughout the novel. Despite the new sexual experiences that she’s being introduced to, she does not change. Despite the fact that she lost her virginity and braved the Red Room of Pain, she does not change. Contrarily, this is why Christian is such an interesting character since he changes because of Ana’s proximity. It seems that though Ana is the narrator, it’s Christian who is the protagonist. She just provides a backdrop to further illuminate Christian’s personality and how much he develops.

I could not help being pissed off at this book. It is under developed and does not deserve all the promotion that it has gotten. This book just shows that word of mouth and media can cause a book to sell and remain on the best-seller lists. I absolutely refuse to read anymore of Ana’s thoughts. I just want someone to tell me what Christian’s story is; that’s all I’m curious about.

*** Just to make sure that I am not the only human being who thinks this is a very stupid novel, I clicked over to Amazon to see what other readers thought of the book and was glad to find that I am not alone! Yeah Amazon! Great for venting! ***

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