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.
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?
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.