Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
Length: 362 pages
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.
While I can see many of the elements that have made this novel popular among the masses, there were too many negatives for me to continue reading. I got slightly over half-way before I finally gave up—and I wasn't even reading. I was listening to the audiobook. I thought the readers were pretty good (although I was surprised there was more than one) despite making some choices that I thought were odd (although may have fit with the book).
For anyone interested, I'd recommend picking it up at the library (most libraries have hard copies, ebooks, and audiobooks). Overall, it uses many of the same ploys that Twilight did while amping up the sex. I found the plot to be weak, Ana to be even weaker, and much of the sex allure to be awkward, although this could mainly stem from Ana's narration.
My main impetus for reading this book was the massive amounts of "It does BDSM wrong" that I heard. Sadly, at 56% through the book, the amount of BDSM is minimal (light bondage, sir-calling, and the beginnings of orgasm denial). So I can't even report on that. It makes me sad, since that was the main reason I borrowed the book from the library!
I went in with low expectations, so it was surprising that instead of achieving them (because they were so low), the story's first chapter proves to be horrifically obnoxious and constructs a flimsy premise. Ana meets Christian because she's interviewing him for the school paper. Now, she doesn't work for the school paper (in fact, shows no inclination toward journalism), but her roommate (editor of the school paper) is a super journalist major who has harassed Christian into giving this interview. Sadly she came down with the flu, so can't do it!
Ignoring the fact that her friend Kat didn't seem nearly sick enough to beg out of a once in a lifetime opportunity (which seems kind of vital, but hey, I pass on huge opportunities because of the sniffles all the time)--I'm sorry, where was I? Oh yes, so Kat can't make it, so she asked Ana to go, despite Ana's protests, lack of experience, and excuses (she has work and finals coming up, and a paper to write? I can't remember). Despite the fact that Ana is totally unqualified and Kat would know other, more-qualified people (like the rest of the school paper staff or the incoming school paper editor), Kat has badgered Ana into going. Completely reasonable. Or not. Whichever.
In addition, Ana does not make a good first impression as she complains that her friend got the flu (how dare she!) and later complains about how gorgeous Kat is with all her curves (unlike Ana who is skinny and pale). Bella had similar complaints about her own appearances, but she came across less bitchy, especially since Ana borrows Kat's clothes multiple times in the book, so they obviously can't be that different in size.
That minor issue aside, Christian is of course immediately drawn to Ana (for reasons I can't fathom) and Ana to him, at least physically. She doesn't like him, think he's self-centered, bossy, and cold. But he's the first guy to get her blood pumping, so she acts like an idiot (at least mentally) every time she sees him. He stalks her (like ya do) until she is overwhelmed and agrees to go on a date. Or something. Paperwork may have been involved.
By this part, Christian hasn't done much to really bother me. Okay, the stalking was a bit weird, but I can definitely understand it, considering the book's origins. But the stalking is the worst thing he's done by this point. He tells Ana repeatedly that he doesn't have girlfriends, just casual fucks, and that she's too innocent for him and she should stay away. Of course, he has no self control and can't seem to stay away from her. Kind of a hypocrite.
There is a lot of mystery to Christian, and I'm not sure how much is explained, but it was the most interesting part for me. He has food issues, touch issues, and was in a BDSM relationship very early in life with an older woman. I'm interested in him psychologically. I'm not saying he does things right later in the book, but he's fairly honest with Ana (as far as I can tell), and besides being a stalker, he's kind of fun.
Ana, on the other hand, has a huge double standard (aka, “why does Christian get upset about answering personal questions?” that Ana was just complaining about having to answer), has lived in a bubble for the past 21 years (which I find ridiculously implausible), and just makes me want to smack her upside the head. Hard. (To which she'd respond, "Oh my, oh shit, or oh fuck" depending on the level of sex involved.) She's Bella, made more virginal and somewhat dumber. Finally, my biggest issue is when she walks out on Christian after they've finished discussing the roles of a Submissive, and she's thinking about how she doesn't want to do it, and how dare he, and he did warn her, after all.
And then she thinks about what he said ("I've never known anything but this). And she thinks "Well, I've never known anything but this too" (although she hasn't really even begun to know) and so makes the grand conclusion that they "can learn new ways together."
AKA, I am going to change him and teach him to love.
Oh, and I forgot to mention she has multiple personality disorder. She has "An Inner Goddess," "A Conscience," and herself. These each have very different thoughts and feelings on things, individual reactions, and unique personalities. Don't get me started. She might want to get that checked out.
For people without delicate palates (aka, well-written isn't necessary in books) and those who have no experience with sexy sex and BDSM, this may be an enjoyable read. I can't really recommend it aside from loaning it out from the library.