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Thursday, August 15, 2013

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Book Review: The Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy - Oh yeah, We're going there

You typically get two types of reactions when Fifty Shades is brought up: 1. The eye-roll and scoff or 2. The swoon. After reading all three books, my reaction lands somewhere in the middle, but I lean closer towards the eye-roll.

In this post, I'm going to discuss what I believe makes these books worthy of both reactions. And please note before continuing, this post will have adult content and language (duh) as well as spoilers. If you haven't read the books by now, you probably aren't going to and you've probably heard all about them anyway.

Let's start where these stories started: Twilight.
If you didn't know, E L James originally wrote this saga as Twilight fan fiction. Now, I'm not a huge fan of fan fiction. I don't seek it out or read it. The book is enough for me. But having read the Twilight Saga before Fifty Shades, I actually think, as fan fiction, it's well done. Of course you have your obvious similarities; the characters look the same in both stories, she's unknowingly pretty and clumsy, he's unfathomably gorgeous and not to mention rich. The story lines are somewhat similar hitting several of the same milestones of unstoppable attraction, early marriage, and early pregnancy. The one most obvious thing that is missing are the vampires. The Fifty Shades universe does not include fantastical undead beings that glitter in the sunlight. And it is here where I believe James does a good job of translating the story from one world to the other. 
As a vampire, Edward Cullen is controlling, over-protective, and down-right creepy. But it's all OK because he's undead and dreamy. His human counter part, Christian Grey, is just as obsessive and controlling, but it's not OK. In fact James gives her character a reason for being this way, or as Mr. Grey puts it, "Fifty shades of fucked up." He suffers severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at an early age. When I realized this I thought, "Of course! Anyone as controlling as Edward Cullen must have had severe psychological trama!" Way to go E L.
I will also add that Anastasia Steele is a better female character than Bella Swan. She may be clumsy and hopelessly devoted to an overbearing billionaire with emotional issues, but she's stronger and ultimately more independent then Bella. She's not great, but she's better.

So as fan fiction, Fifty Shades is decent. As a stand alone trilogy, it's overall pretty bad. The writing is juvenile, the characters are predictable, and the story structure is pretty much missing all together. In the first book nothing happens. I mean they meet, they fall in love, and they have sex, a lot. But that's it. The biggest conflict Anastasia faces is whether or not she'll have sex with him with or without a BDSM theme. The sex they have is interesting at first, but then I find that it just becomes annoying. It seems like almost every ten pages they are having sex whether it's "kinky fuckery" or plain old "vanilla sex." And she's loving it. And I just got bored. Enough with your earth shattering orgasms already. 
The other two books are more of the same, with the same main conflict running throughout. It clear she's an untrained amateur, and that's OK for fan fiction, but not a multi-million dollar book franchise.

With the writing being so bad, how could it be so popular?? How is it a mulit-million dollar franchise that women of all ages swoon over??  I'll tell you why: It is 100% every woman's fantasy. Don't argue, it is. Christian Grey appeals to every primal desire and urge women have. 
  1. He's stunning. He is so good looking that I cannot create a mental image when he is described. He has every physical attribute that females are programed to want.
  2. He's rich and powerful. He has more money than I've ever heard of and it seems like every chapter there is a reveal of some new resource that he has at his dispense. He offers security.
  3. He's dominant. Women often take control of things because we feel like we have to. Christian Grey can take care of it all by himself. We can let go and enjoy being taken care of for a change.
  4. He's dynamite in the sack. There is no doubt that he will keep you unbelievably satisfied until the day you die.
  5. He's broken. And this is his most attractive quality. He needs you. He needs to be taken care of. Deep down, this hot, rich, sex machine needs you, the average woman, to fix him.
So now we know why the book is worthy of eye-rolls and swooning. But I'm going to take it one step further and discuss why this book is ground breaking.

It's the sex. Not how much they have, not how good they are at having it, but the good old BDSM "kinky fuckery" (as Christian likes to call it).  BDSM or Bondage and Discipline with Sadomasochism is taboo. Being tied up, using sex toys, and riding the edge of pleasure vs. pain are things that people don't like to talk about, and that makes it something even harder for people to do. Fifty Shades shows us that maybe it's not as weird and scary as we all thought. 
Because our main character is just as naive as the reader when it comes to such things, we are lead gradually into this world. James is able to describe how things like vibrators, floggers, and ben-wa balls feel in a way that makes them seem more welcoming. Your average woman probably doesn't use many nipple clamps, but after reading Fifty Shades, she might. Anastasia Steele, in her nervousness and apprehension, is so pleasantly surprised by how good these things make her feel, that it has made women who are so used to "vanilla sex" curious. It's telling the world these things exist to give you pleasure, they work, and that's not that weird or wrong. It's somewhat of a sexual revolution.

Who would have thought all of that could emerge from Twilight fan fiction?
Have you read Fifty Shades? What did you think? Experiment with anything afterwards? ;)

The Bottom Line

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed

Author: E L James

Genre: Romance

Recommendation:  Yes, if only for the experience

Best Reader Audience: Adult women and curious men

Final Rating: Two out of Five mugs of hot chocolate

Wanna get kinky? Follow the link below and your purchase will also support the Lone Book Club blog.


  1. I haven't read them yet. My ratio of audio books to "paper" books is about 10 audiobooks (while I'm driving) to 1 paper book -- and I have obligations to read various paper books I have agreed to blog about so it probably won't make it on the "paper" (or Kindle ...non audio) list for a while. And for many of the reasons you mentioned I am not sure I'm going for it as an audiobook -- although the image of me listening to some of these scenes at a stop light does make me chuckle at loud -- giving the motorist next to me a look of "if you only knew what is coming through my speakers right now". :-) :-) Glad you're blogging!!!!!!!

  2. Haha! That is quite a funny image. Yeah I don't recommend reading them unless you're curious and just want to find out what the heck everyone is going on about! But it is certainly an interesting reading experience.