Let me tell you a secret: If something is hyped big enough and loud enough, my curiosity will eventually get the best of me. This is how I happened to be in possession of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy this past weekend.
On the off chance that you haven’t heard of the monster phenom that is this book series, I’ll fill you in. The author of Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, is E. L. James. Apparently, Ms. James is a huge fan of both the Twilight series and erotica, and created Fifty Shades of Grey while imagining what would happen if Edward and Bella…you know…did it.
She originally wrote the stories and distributed them for free on Twilight Fan-Fic pages on the internet, then pulled them from the forums and offered the book for sale from an independent print-on-demand service, and then came the dream of all authors – she was “discovered” by the big publishing houses around the world which has now put her books in the brick-and-mortar stores. And oh yeah, there was a bidding war over the movie rights to her books a couple of weeks ago, where they were sold for the bargain price of $5 million dollars.
Because I am obsessed with pop culture and all of its workings, I’ve known about Fifty Shades of Grey for quite awhile now, but it wasn’t until it made the cover of my favourite magazine that I knew I resistance was futile. I just had to know what could possibly be so great about Twilight-inspired fiction.
Well, it turns out that I still don’t know what’s so great about Fifty Shades of Grey, or its sequels, but I do have some opinions. The books aren’t good. They just aren’t. If any (all) of you thought Stephanie Meyer‘s writing was bad, let me introduce you to E.L. James.
Having read all four Twilight books not once but three times, you’d probably think I’m a Twi-hard. I’m not really, but I do admit that Twilight has an inexplicable hold over me, I think it’s because I love all things vampire. Sadly, Fifty Shades of Grey is completely void of vampires. The Edward character is Christian and instead of being a vampire, he’s a “monster” because he likes to be the dominant in BDSM relationships. The Bella character is Anastasia (Ana) and is a sweet virginal young thing who quickly falls under Christian’s spell. The rest of the book is about them having sex. Lots of sex. *Yawn* more sex. Oh, and then they fall in love. This isn’t a spoiler, by the way, the direction of the story is in flashing neon a few pages in.
Fifty Shades of Grey is the first in the series and it’s sort of, kind of, okay-ish, assuming that you can ignore the fact that Ana’s inner dialogue consists almost entirely of “Holy crap, I just did something stupid!” and “Oh my, he’s sooooo sexy.”. Ana is consumed by Christian’s eyes in the book and often describes them as “hooded” or “dark” or looking at her with a “cloudy gaze”…um? The last one makes me think of cataracts.
But wait! There’s more. E. L. James, in an obvious but confusing effort to copy the Twilight formula, has all of the action take place in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. This would be fine except throughout the first book, her young American characters talk as though they are displaced Brits. How many Americans “ring” people or wear singlets or talk about their “diverting evenings”? Not very many.
The repetitive descriptions get a little less in Fifty Shades Darker and even better in Fifty Shades Freed, however the story continued on repeat: Christian and Ana get together, they’re happy, have sex, become unsure about the other for some reason, fight, get back together. Snore. By the end, even the sex scenes weren’t enough to keep me interested and I found myself skipping along wondering if the story would ever pick up. It didn’t.
Why is the world aflutter about Fifty Shades of Grey? I don’t know. Even when I was willing to drink the Kool-Aid I wasn’t able to see the attraction.
Final Verdict: Fifty Shades of Grey C, Fifty Shades Darker C+, Fifty Shades Freed C-