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.
No laptop and email account in year 2011??? I find it hard to believe.
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.
Agreed on there being “much better erotica” out there… and FREE mind you!
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!
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..
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!!!!
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
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.
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.
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!
I so agree with you, jeez…. and for cheshiretrap: bet you’ve never been in love, try it, it’s good, it’s heaven…
Well, i love this trilogy with all my heart. My own opinion. i so much love this book! 😉
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…..
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.
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!
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!!
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
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.
The Hunger Games is brilliant. You have NO idea what you are talking about. THG is way better than either Twilight or 50 Shades.
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.
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.
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.
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.
hahahaha me too!
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)
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!
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!
and he doesn’t deserve your daughter!
and would you like your daughter to got hurt by Christian Grey? Stupid! Christian Grey should be excommunicated.
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?
Forced myself through 1st book. Have a FB page dedicated to 50 Shades haters. Yes, it’s the dumbing down of the Western World.
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….
On FEB– Valentine’s Day Special movie don’t miss the performance of Dakota johnson of 50 Shades of Grey 2015 Movie
Alright. So while reading some comments (that were actually
very entertaining) I felt the need to join the hundreds and thousands of people
who voiced their constructive opinion. I will not say anything that wasn’t
already said, but I really have to express my feelings about it.
I don’t like bashing people who accomplished something (I
will call it “accomplishment”, but only because it was sort of finished
and published… More than I can say about myself), so I will try to be as
honest and constructive in my criticism as I can.
I read books in my life. Some I loved, some I didn’t, some
were just boring . However, I never felt embarrassed reading a book… Until
I heard so much about the book. Even read a news article
which stated that FSoG was one of the most popular books in some prison. And now
I hear they are making a movie. Plus, the fact that there is BDSM in it. I’ve
always liked stuff like that. Can’t say I had too much real life experience,
but kink always made things more fun. We don’t have a lot of books about it
that went mainstream like that. So how could I pass on it?
I honestly had to fight through every page I read. Never struggled
so much with reading. The first thing I noticed was the “style” it
had… If I can call it that. I felt like my IQ was dropping with every
sentence. It really feels like it was written by a child. For some reason the
author is compelled to repeat herself on each page: the lip biting, the
blushing, etc. The “inner goddess” was plain stupid. I wanted to
choke myself each time this “goddess” danced salsa or drooled over
the guy. When they make the movie, will there be a special person who plays her
“inner goddess” and if they do, I sincerely hope they change it to an
“inner god” and let Morgan Freeman play the part. Seriously now,
These Goddess and Subconscious were mentioned so much, one has to wonder if the
girl actually hearing voices.
And why in the name
of all that is holy we need to be constantly reminded all the time that the guy
is hot. We get it, he is hot, he is super hot, he is hotter than the hottest
day in hell, just don’t say it every time you mention him.
Now, the characters. Well, I think I’ve seen much more
complex and believable characters in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. You know, the one
where the cat chases the mouse. Main characters in this book came straight out
of a fairytale. They are totally unreal and cardboard. The girl is 21 years
old, yet she never had sex nor had a boyfriend. Can I believe it? Sure. But the
fact that she never masturbated or never owned a computer… It would make
sense if she was Amish, but I don’t remember it was mentioned in the book.
Really, hard to believe that she never even felt the desire to have sex, yet
gave a perfect blowjob on her first go. In general, she is boring and stupid,
clumsy, ohhh and sooo annoying! The way she blushes every time he looks at her,
the way she keeps on almost fainting after every word he says to her. Another
thing is her insecurity. She constantly tells herself how she can’t be liked by
a man like Grey, though there’s a lineup of guys who would have given anything
to be with her. There is a reason women like men who are self-sufficient and confident.
I would say this goes for women too. A girl who always thinks she is ugly,
isn’t too sexy or attractive. I personally would have lost interest in her
after 5 minutes, even if she is a supermodel.
Now, Christian. Imagine the most perfect man alive… And
multiply it by 10. That’s Grey. He seems so perfect that the gods of Olympus
cry in envy and Prince Charming nervously smoking in the far corner. I mean, he
is handsome as a god, muscular like he was photoshoped, he can fly a chopper,
he plays piano better then Mozart and he is rich… I mean BILLIONAIRE rich! And
all that… Wait for it… At the age of 26! Ok, now let’s break it down. Can a
person fly an aircraft at 26? Yes. Can he play so well? Of course, if he
started around 10 years old or something.
But a freaking billionaire? Seriously? You can be. If you invented
Google, or Facebook… Or I don’t know, a time machine. But that’s not the
case. I don’t think even Christian himself knows what he is doing in his
I get why the author wanted to make him THAT rich. He
supposed to be this prince of the universe type, and well, millionaire just
isn’t rich enough. However, if you insist on that, at least make him like 40-45
years old. Men can still look attractive at that age, no? Overall the character
really gives an impression of a huge arrogant asshole, the way he treats people
around him. I guess that was the idea, but it sure doesn’t add to his sympathy
score. Just in comparison to give few examples of likable arrogant assholes:
Hank Moody and Dr. House. Christian Grey, however, comes across simply as a
real douche, begging for a bitchslap.
The whole dominance was also very unbelievable. If you are
this strict and controlling alpha male, just stick to it. Grey, on the other
hand, is all over the place. He tries to be dominant, yet he is very caring and
protective at the same time. As a result, I couldn’t stop facepalming myself
every time he was showing his dominance. Felt like he was just trying too hard,
and still not very successful.
When Ana tried to kiss him for the first time, he said
something like “I’m not the one you need” or “I’m too dangerous
for you”… Captain mysterious! Of course, she felt rejected and
depressed, so she had to cry herself to sleep for the next few days. However,
just when she began to feel better, he reminds her of himself by sending a very
expensive gift. Seriously dude? You just turned her down, told her to forget
you and yet you keep coming back? My logic really took a beating right there.
The guy in this story acts like a teenage girl.
Can’t say much about the sex – I could not force myself read
past one of the first sex scenes. Still I wasn’t impressed with the bits I have
read. Like I noted before, Ana’s change from a don’t-touch-me-I’m-a-virgin to a
sex pro was so rapid that it blew my mind… and not in a good way.
Someone said in the comments that we all might be subjects
in a social experiment of a sort. Thinking about it, I might see the sense in
that statement. Maybe this book was written for a sole purpose to test the
marketing system, because it’s all there is with this book – a successful and
brilliantly executed marketing. Perhaps, one day this will be included in a
marketing and business school textbook as an example of how to make millions
and millions of dollars out of used toilet paper.
In conclusion, I will say this. At one point I had a sudden
urge to write a small anti-fanfic episode for the book, in which Gray gets a
visit from a mob and gets his “pleasures” in his Red Room… only now as the
little sissy that he is. Say what you will, but it was kinda funny.
hahahahaha…. OMG! your comment is so funny, I laughed a lot, thanks :’D ..and I totally agree with you, I just read like the first 100 pages on a flight, and it was enough!! I also laughed a lot reading those pages.
You think that because you are a sub-intellectual automaton.
Wow, I could not agree with you more!! I seriously have never wanted to murder characters in a book before, and this series made me constantly wish for them both (but especially her) to have a real neck I could throttle or something! And as much as I hated it from almost the start, I’m one of those people who cannot quit something halfway through, so I made myself read all 3 books. I’m just SO glad she eventually dropped the whole “Inner Goddess” and “Subconscious” bullshit, because that was driving me crazy!
I think its an over glorified MB, very disappointed.
[…] some saucy tips they can use on a partner. Who knows. But as Chris Al-Aswad points out on his blog, James “created a world to which the boundaries of sexual delinquency, love, and […]
I can’t agree with you more. Seriously.
Most frustrating book ever.
I can’t believe how people dig this shit.
I don’t know how I managed to finish this book. The first thing i did when i read the glorious “the end”, was to search desperately for a negative review, to restore my faith in humanity. Thank you. Now I know I am not the only one who thinks this book is an insult to literature.
Fifty was a okay book in my opinion. I think it was over hyped because books like the Crossfire Series or the Masked Emotions Series is so much better than this.
I find it funny that I’m commenting on a book and a review from nearly 10 years ago. Full disclosure – I read all of the books, and I unfortunately saw the movies. I’ve even read 50 Shades Fan Fiction (don’t bother, it’s limited and much worse than the book). As a writer and avid reader, I’m trying to understand the appeal, Yet I bought it and read it and bought into the whole 50 Shades ecosystem.
First, I give James a lot of credit for getting such poorly written crud published, for capitalizing on it, getting movie rights, and even co-branding sex toys. The phenomenon brought an interesting public discourse not as much about relationships, but about the appeal of kinky se and fantasies frowned upon by social norms. It’s common for people to fantasize about submission, or about being swept off of their feet and validated for who they are and what they can offer. He’s hot and rich, and there’s that fantasy as well – being cared for and not having to worry about paying rent.
That said, I suppose my own fascination came from the series’ poor quality, as odd as that may sound. The characters are stilted and undeveloped, though they do grow and evolve as any character should. The dialog is horrid, there’s no way to put it kinder. As an American, it irritates me to no end when someone writes of a place and a culture that they have no knowledge of. I’ve been to the UK a few times, but I wouldn’t write a book set in London unless it were about an American in London – because I don’t have enough knowledge of the quirks of language and culture that are unique to every locale.
Little things beyond the “Holy cow!” inanity really bug me, to the point of stopping my reading. As you mention, the stilted language reads like a high school essay mixed with an online thesaurus. Some things that still annoy me to this day – Grey Enterprises Holdings is an idiotic name that you’d rarely see in the US. Enterprises are holdings. Or is he a mixed business leader and hedge fund/angel investor? I get the Harvard dropout, though that’s clearly a copy of Gates, Zuckerberg, and other entrepreneurs who left Harvard. Oddly, Grey never speaks of his time in college (note not “university” – college). Few details are shared about his billions – except that his first venture was in telecom, or that he employs tens of thousands of people? Really? What do the people at Grey House (House? Not just Grey, or The Grey Building?) do if it’s a holding company? Buffet runs a much larger holding company with about 20 employees. Beyond his business, there’s referring to one’s apartment or penthouse as the building name (I’ve never heard of such a thing), having parents who throw balls nearly every weekend, and never taking advantage of a bustling city’s cultural, culinary, or outdoor offerings. For a local billionaire businessman. Right.
Then Ana. Entirely implausible as you mention – the virginity perhaps, but never fooled around, never had a boyfriend, never had a laptop? Is amazed at an online library? Economically, she graduates from college but neither of her parents have money, but she graduated debt-free, with enough money to move to Seattle. And after working her way through school, she plans to just figure things out after graduation – no idea of a job, an industry, no contacts, but within days has interviews? With no experience, no internship. Despite her school being rather close to Seattle, only 2 of her friends live there?
Then there’s the craziness of getting promoted from admin assistant to acting editor within a few weeks, moving in and getting engaged in less than a month, and then a month or so later, getting married and getting pregnant. Sure.
I love writing fiction because I can suspend belief. But I feel some obligation, even in writing fantasy, to ground my characters and their behavior in some semblance of reality. Sorry to ramble nearly a decade later. I enjoyed your review, and wish I could better understand the appeal – even the appeal to myself. The only thing I’ve come up with is that the character traits, behaviors, growth, and general story line are so horrid, I feel that the characters themselves deserve better.