50 Shades of Grey – Book Review


Never one to resist the hype of a good read, or rather the claim of “Mommy Porn,” I downloaded EL James’ 50 Shades of Grey, anticipating an entertaining page-turner, a modern-day love affair (I pictured my grandma’s collection of old romance novels, taking place in the now, equipped with texting and instant messages). Having no further background than the porno reference, I was stunned – shocked – at what waited in the pages before me. Not because of the explicit sex scenes, but rather the terribly underdeveloped protagonist, the unrealistic storyline – and above all else, the bitterly disappointing message this novel sends to all women about the value of love within a relationship.

Please stop meow if you don’t want anything about the plot revealed.

The novel opens with protagonist, Anastasia Steele, stepping in for her BFF, Katherine Kavanaugh, to interview wealthy and powerful “multi-bagillionaire,” Christian Grey, for an article for the school newspaper. Ana and Kate are both graduating in a few short weeks and Christian Grey is scheduled to deliver the commencement address. Anastasia shows up for the interview and the picture of a young woman completely unsure of herself, uncomfortable in her own skin, is painted. Clumsy and naive, Ana literally face plants into Grey’s office. He is amused (naturally) and gives Ana a stare down that makes her “flush crimson” – which she will literally do about 200 more times in the novel. Grey seems to be intrigued with Miss Steele, which she cannot seem to fathom, so awkwardly leaves his office, her mind completely consumed with him in the process.
Their interaction doesn’t stop there. Kate insists that Mr. Grey meet them the following week for an original photo shoot for the article, which Anastasia arranges in a hotel room somewhere near campus – Grey is already there on business. After the shoot Grey asks her to join him for coffee. This is when we start to get a glimpse into the background of both characters. At only 27 years old, Grey is portrayed as someone well beyond his years. I don’t know any 27 year old – let alone a 35-year-old – who could play in the same arena as this man. Ana is everything that we despise about Twilight heroine Bella Swan – painfully aware of her shortcomings, juxtaposed as a very immature, inexperienced girl and a woman with a thesaurus vocabulary and a moderately smart mouth. Christian’s interest in Ana is building, as depicted by his “wicked grin” and cool stare (if you drink every time the author uses “wicked grin” and “flushed crimson” you will be blackout-drunk by Chapter 4). Ana is like putty in his hands. He seals her fate when she drunk dials him from the bar later that week (real professional, Ana!) and then playfully hangs up on him. He of course has the ability to track her phone, shows up at the bar, and holds back her hair while she pukes her guts out. Why did she get so drunk? Oh, because she had never drank before.

Ana wakes up the next morning in his hotel room – fully clothed – and he asks to see her again under better circumstances. The tension is building. In the following pages, we see a relationship develop, as the wealthy Christian showers her with gifts, such as a laptop and an Audi, as well as his signature lack of emotional availability. Eventually, amid warnings about his own dark secrets, Christian Grey tells Ana who he really is – a sexual deviant who likes to dominate his women into submission – literally. He wants Ana to be his sexual slave, locked under his thumb, required to sign a contract (unenforceable by law), that locks her into a set of rules. The breaking of said rules, according to the contract, is punishable by time in his “Playroom” or mini torture chamber – nothing life threatening, though. Along with this reveal, he asks her to sign an NDA, no doubt to preserve his professional reputation.

And then it’s time for Ana’s big reveal. She is a virgin.

The plot thickens.

Let us now pause to assess the situation: First of all, Ana manages to graduate college without ever being drunk, ever having sex, and without owning a laptop. The last point is what concerns me the most. When Christian buys her a top of the line MacBook, she refers to it as the “mean machine.” Are you kidding me? We have a girl – a virgin – tampering with a guy who wants to get his rocks off by beating the crap out of her – and she is okay with this – but then she refers to a laptop as a mean machine and to Christian as a multi-bagillionaire. Who is this idiot?

Moving on.

The contract has a list of rules that Ana will be required to follow. She must workout, eat regularly, maintain her health and hygiene, wear the clothing he provides, obey his every request, and spend every weekend with him for a period of three months. She also is forbidden to touch Christian or make eye contact with him. The contract is negotiable, so she opts to change the mandated number of workouts from four-times per week to three. This is completely logical, I mean what normal girls wants to touch or make eye contact with her lover anyway?

While the contract is still a matter of discussion, Christian and Anastasia consummate their relationship. Surprise! She has five orgasms the first time. And then dons her hair in pigtails and dances around his kitchen, Risky Business style, while preparing him breakfast. Of course it didn’t make a difference that he had punished her with a spanking. Spoiler alert! Virgins dig that stuff.

In the last 25% of the book, the relationship between the two grows stronger, but more confusing. Ana becomes a bit more believable as James gets her stride in character development and it turns out the Christian has a bit of a soul (gasp!). The most charming and realistic banter between the characters takes place during playful email exchanges, however, the actual dialogue between characters is unrealistic, with the regular use of the words “ill,” “pleased,” and “shall.” For a modern-day romance, the language is flawed and more advanced readers will become impatient with the constant reuse of adjectives and the periodic use of thesaurus synonyms that stick out like a sore thumb. I mean, I would tell my boyfriend that he beguiled me if he asked if he could whip me with a riding crop, too.

The larger issue that this novel presents is that women should never be comfortable offering their bodies to a man that makes it clear he is emotionally incapable of love and perfectly willing to implement capital punishment for eye rolling. Grey is a quintessential predator, Ana his prey, and the plot insinuates that, for the sake of eroticism, this is acceptable. Only at the very end does Ana come to terms with her fate. The final four pages do convince readers to continue with the next book in the trilogy. Mission accomplished, James! However, if they continue remotely in the same fashion as the first, they will leave much to be desired – beyond, of course, a story laced with Mommy Porn.

50 Shades of Grey supposedly started off as fan fiction, based on the Twilight series. While James had every opportunity to create a stronger, more emotionally developed protagonist, she created a world to which the boundaries of sexual delinquency, love, and relationships are blurred beyond distinction. While Twilight is flawed in its writing style, at least the story line paints a picture of loving and committed relationships – something that is completely butchered in 50 Shades of Grey. Being the curious little bird that I am, I will keep reading and will drink again to a wicked storyline that had me flushing crimson on the subway – fingers crossed it isn’t a disappointment, but at least I know what to expect.




  • Lily

    No laptop and email account in year 2011??? I find it hard to believe.

  • Taryn

    Having read this insight on 50 shades of grey, I must agree. The author seems to favor the use of “Inner goddess” And there is no story line or plot behind it. The way I see it in simple terms is that Anastasia, is a young naive girl who fell for millionaire, and surprise surprise when he casually tells her he enjoys tying girls up and enforcing pain upon them. Not only is this somewhat sick (No offense to any submissive/dominant people out there.) but I find it humiliating to females all over, especially how Mr. Grey has a somewhat Bi Polar personality. I find it annoying how he changes from “Casual and humorous.” to “Horny and sadistic” within seconds. As far as I can tell his character is unstable and I found it a waste of my time. Also, Anastasia’s naive, idiotic willingness for such treatment I find is a disgrace to women everywhere, and I can’t help but think that personally, If some STRANGER told me he wanted to control me sexually and inflict pain on me, I would call the cops if I didn’t strangle him first.

    The only good critisism I can offer is that it was unique, and despite it’s horrible plot managed to keep me interested for the first thousand pages or so.

  • Jojo

    Agreed on there being “much better erotica” out there… and FREE mind you!

  • 50shadesofhatred

    that was awesome and so true., i have a sister and a friend who keeps on pushing me to read the books, they even bought the trilogy just to make me read because i told them that i won’t waste my time to read it through the pdf file they have., i started reading, i admit that the start caught me but the latter parts were just too much., damn that blackberry whatsoever, everything just don’t make sense, how could she have made three books of disappointment., it’s so ridiculous how people are fawning over it., not that it’s my business but it’s still a waste of time and a wreck in real novels, and how could they even consider making a movie out of it? and to think that every time my sister would compare men she sees to christian grey is just too annoying., like “christian would have this and that and so on and so forth~” it’s just too much., and the point about his awesome riches is just true, it’s damn unrealistic to make a character that rich! he could be rich, yes. but as rich as christian grey is too absurd.,

    just to make it short, I HATE THAT TRILOGY AND IT’S NOT WORTH TO BUY a 15.95 DOLLAR PER BOOK WITH PAGES THAT ARE JUST FILLED WITH KINKY FUCKERY!

  • odz

    I believe this book underwent an editorial process..if the author uses a narrow collection of vocabulary, the editor should have seen that..let’s blame him/her..

  • Jacqueline Rojas

    hahaha I love your comment…i have not read the book, but I sure won’t know that i had read all the reviews. Damn people sure as hell need to get educated and learn about true authors!!!!

  • chill everyone

    Relax people – it’s fiction and a bit of escapism – get a grip everyone…cannot believe people get so work up over a fictional piece of writing

  • http://twitter.com/catsnake jesse meenaghan

    sounds like a real piece of crap book that stupid people buy up like gold. i guess it’s in nowadays to make garbage, create a buzz, and get super rich with no talent.

  • http://twitter.com/catsnake jesse meenaghan

    Awesome!!! Perfectly stated and I100% agree. This “new” crop or generation of people are stupid as a block of wood and love the worst garbage made these days so what happens? of course, it just inspires people to make more bad shit. we’re in a downward trend in society and don’t see any improvements unless we cut down the number of retarded people.

  • Phoebe

    I love the books, I so love the story, It feels sooo good to be in love. I had fun reading the books, gave me a happy feeling. So people, just quit thinking, take the story as it is, it’s a feel good read.
    I hate it that the story had to finish, I hope the author continues the story of Christian and Ana. I;m just as excited to find out.
    And just so you know, i read them 3 times already and i want to read them still, because I can!

  • phoebe

    I so agree with you, jeez…. and for cheshiretrap: bet you’ve never been in love, try it, it’s good, it’s heaven…

  • rhobrightside

    Well, i love this trilogy with all my heart. My own opinion. i so much love this book! ;)

  • phoebe

    sour graping? Heart broken? C’mon guys, think less and feel more, life’s not that bad…….just a feel good read, be in love, it’s good, it’s healthy, won’t give you a coronary…..

  • youareridiculous

    Would everybody hate this book if the main characters were aliens? I’m thinking in terms of two, E.T.-esque aliens tumultuously entangled in a violent love affair. …Most likely the answer is no. Having aliens as main characters would ensure this unimaginable story line stay in the fictional realm. Get a grip people. You hate this book so much, but why? When have you all met people like Ana and Christian in real life that would make you raise concerns about this book’s affects on young women? Are we not allowed to define fictions in our own terms, such as E.L. James did? And to a previous comment, people who read this book for entertainment purposes actually DO have their own love life and get “shagged” on a regular basis. I’m glad, as a 27 year old female in a wonderful relationship, I still know the most elementary definitions of real and fake. Open your minds and shut your mouths.

  • Caroloo

    Thank you, thank you for this review. I thought I was the only woman in the world who found this really stupid book completely juvenile and so off-the-mark with this obviously 14 year old heroine and pedophile protagonist. After reading about a third of the book I could only see her dressed in a cheerleader outfit with an outsized lollipop near her mouth.
    While my friends, my sisters, were drooling, I was repulsed. And that was before there was any sex at all!

  • CC

    Wow! this is the fourth negative comment I read and its stops HERE!! For the most part this book is FICTION!!!!! All of these negative replies are obviously coming from either old dried up women who never get sex, or from jealous women you have never been made love to like a women should ,be made love to. Lastly and the most obvious from men who only make love the “Vanilla” way and think thats enough for his partner. I had a partner for 10 years who made love to me the way a man should…..like Cristian!! So get off your high horses people and cut it out with your negative and repetitive replys, I’m sorry you have boring sex lives and feel a need to vent your frustrations on E. L. Woods 50 Shades websites, I think young men and women reading these books will actually learn and grow to making better love with each other buy learning what I call the sensual Christian moves, to learn to give an take in a relationship, hence creating better lives for familys and friends!! About the s and m and bondage in this book frankly it turned me on but personally my choice is not to engage in it. Remember we alll have a CHOICE and its our own decision in life to what we want!!

  • Nev

    so let me just say this much everyone is entitled to their own opinion you dont think the book is a good read then write your own. you think that is was not properly developed and whatever else have you then prove you can do it better since you have so much to say. as a 21 year old as much as i may not know about book writing i think it was a damn good read something to excite you and even give ideas as to spicing up ur sex life. so much bull i see written here like seriously

  • Skye

    Not liking this book does not mean women are either jealous or ‘dried up’. Any one with a good sex life are the ones that dislike this book. It’s a false portrayal of BDSM. The writing is appalling. Avid readers are usually spot on about this pile of crap book. Most of the glowing reviews are from people who start their review with, “I really don’t read but……” “I’m not a reader….” That should give us a clue. How reliable are those that never pick up a book? They have nothing to compare it to and wouldn’t know a good book if it slapped them in the face.Wait until they get a hold of some real erotic fiction….or a good story in general.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002814914170 Janell Elizabeth Meyer

    The Hunger Games is brilliant. You have NO idea what you are talking about. THG is way better than either Twilight or 50 Shades.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ann.mckenna.79 Ann McKenna

    I’m almost at end of book 2 and love it. Doesn;t mean I’d like to be treated as such but hey, it’s called using your imagination.

  • sara

    OMG my thoughts exactly!!! I read the first book and halfway through the second one hoping it would get better at some point, but I found myself hating Anastasia and all her inner voices sooo much I just couldn’t go on. It’s like she’s retarded or something. It’s definitely one of the worst books I’ve ever read. I’m worried about the fact that this kind of crap got published in the first place, and even moreso that it got so popular. The only explanation I can find is that those people who liked it had never read a book in their lives before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lesly.clarkematter Lesly Clarke-Matter

    More than your comments about this crappy book (and it is crappy) I like Lucy342, are more disturbed by your comment “by no means consider yourself a feminist”. Wow, with the War on Women raging around the world, you should be PROUD to call yourself a Feminist…it’s not a bad word you know…no matter how many men tell you it is. Just had to put in my 2 cents, it’s so disturbing to find women who disrespect their own gender. Wanting equality is NOT a bad thing, Ashley.

  • sara

    sadly, it’s seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. I live in Spain and EVERYONE’S read the book/s, everywhere else in Europe too. lot’s of my friends have read it as well and while all agree that it’s badly written, most of them have enjoyed it. I just can’t understand why. I’m now on a mission of recommending them other books with erotic twists so they can get a taste of something not-so-crappy. and I’m serious about it. it just makes me so angry that someone would make all this money off a job so badly done.

  • sara

    hahahaha me too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/maria.l.pena.169 Maria Lourdes Dela Pena

    I totally agree that ‘The Hunger Games’ is way far better than 50 shades.. ( can’t comment on Twilight,never read..just watched the films)

  • jkhkashd

    I believe this book should be stopped. This is dangerous. The reading material is not suitable for everyone. The content itself is harmful, dirty and disgusting. The author should be subconscious. I mean if you want to make a book best seller do it on a right thing, on a good story not like this. What’s wrong with these people going crazy about this book and the author also! Doing BDSM is so pathetic. How low life they have to do this. BDSM is not LOVE or ROMANCE that we all desire to have. Its like an act of violence! In short its so YUCKY!!! And I think there is something wrong with them psychologically if you’re in BDSM!

  • jkhkashd

    Kill this book. Of course if you’re parent this book is dangerous and no parents would want to date Christian Grey because he is psychologically unfit!

  • jkhkashd

    and he doesn’t deserve your daughter!

  • jkhkashd

    and would you like your daughter to got hurt by Christian Grey? Stupid! Christian Grey should be excommunicated.

  • Guest

    What I don’t understand is why did this book sell so many copies, when my book “Real Solutions to Children’s Health” has barely sold any copies. I would love to believe that humanity is more intelligent than what I am hearing. Why are books and movies like this so highly valued in our society? There is so much good in this world; why are people so attracted to the crap?

  • Dpmccarthy

    Forced myself through 1st book. Have a FB page dedicated to 50 Shades haters. Yes, it’s the dumbing down of the Western World.

  • juany

    so, after listening to the younger women at work go on and on about how good these books are….. I borrowed them…….hoping for something more steamy than a Harlequin… was disgusted about three chapters in….this is sick stuff………the author should be ashamed of herself… and the people who actually enjoy them need help….