Friday, June 8, 2012

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey 
Author: E.L. James
Series:Fifty Shades #1
Pages: 514
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: May 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance/Erotica/BDSM
Source: Library

When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time. The unworldly, innocent Ana is shocked to realize she wants this man, and when he warns her to keep her distance it only makes her more desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her - but on his own terms. Shocked yet thrilled by Grey's singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success – his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving adoptive family – Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a passionate, physical and daring affair, Ana learns more about her own dark desires, as well as the Christian Grey hidden away from public scrutiny.Can their relationship transcend physical passion? Will Ana find it in herself to submit to the self-indulgent Master? And if she does, will she still love what she finds?

My Review:
The world is exploding with 50 Shades of Grey fever. Even my mom, who hasn't read a book for literally 35 years, wanted to read it until I told her it was about BDSM. Which then led to one of the most awkward conversations of my life because my mom didn't know what BDSM was and I was left trying to explain that some people sexual tastes run towards canes, whips, nipple clamps, and electricity...I'm not really sure if all the hype is deserved. On one hand, I really enjoyed the depth of the characters and the heat of the sex scenes. On the other...I've read WAY kinkier things. I don't get why America is all up in a frenzy about this particular book, especially when there are kinkier, darker, and hotter books out there. Plus...I guess I'm just not into the pain and dominance part of this series. 

Right before I started reading 50 Shades, I found out that it was originally Twilight fan fiction and that kind of threw me. I typically hate fan fiction. Most of it is unmitigated crap...usually disturbing crap when characters end up banging their siblings or acting completely out of character than the actual books where the characters are featured. But apparently 50 Shades has evolved past it's fan-fiction phase and has become it's own entity and I still wanted to see why everyone loved this book. It could be that it was so similar to Twilight. From the setting in a West-coast town to the adopted family and older brother (Elliot as opposed to Emmett...but still) There is a  LOT of Twilight there and since the majority of readers have probably read Twilight it could just be a comfort thing. I found the similarities enough to be distracting, but not so much that I couldn't at least try to enjoy the book for what it was. It wasn't too hard most times...Bella didn't have to bargain with Edward not to chain her to the ceiling and hit her with canes. 

Christian Grey is DEFINITELY worth the hype. I mean...I am in no way a submissive bed or otherwise...but I would still probably let Christian tie me up and do unspeakable things to me in his Red Room of Pain. He's got this charisma about him. He's in control, he know what he wants, and he's willing to do what it takes to get what he wants. He pays for extravagant gifts, whisks Ana away from the average life she's known and shows her the rich and royal side of things. It's easy to see how Ana is overwhelmed by him and his success and power. I am almost overwhelmed by him and I'm only reading about the guy second hand.

Alright...back to the kinkyness. I read Laurell K. Hamilton. She's got the market in explicit and even cringe-worthy sex scenes. She pretty much ruined me because as kinky as something is...chances are, something Laurell wrote is worse. She's got orgies, she's got BDSM, she's got voyeurism, she's even got sex with tentacle creatures...but at the same time, you don't go away from her book feeling like you KNOW how to have sex like her characters do. I think that's the fundamental difference in between her kinks and the kinks in 50 shades of Grey. It's almost like FSOG is an instruction manual into BDSM. There's nothing TOO shocking, other than the actual acts of being punished, and it was rather tame for the huge uproar that has been going on about how crazy it is.I really enjoyed getting to know the why and the how of something that previously...kind of just confused me and turned me off.

This book has taken a lot of flack for being sexist or degrading towards women. I can definitely see those critic's point because in BDSM...that's exactly what happens to the submissive in a Sub-Dom relationship. The Sub is the Dom's do with what they will. I argue that the book isn't sexist just because it is the woman who is the sub and the man who is the Dom. The book goes into detail of when Christian was the Sub to "Mrs. Robinson". I also really liked how Ana wasn't just willing to bend over backwards to please Christian. She is willing to do some Sub stuff sexually, but for the most part she wants a relationship. She makes Christian bend when he hasn't done so for 15 other women. I thought that smacked of the "soul mate" cliche, but it really did work. Who knows why an inexperienced college student just flat out does it for a 30 year-old dominant with a caning fetish...but who are we to judge?

As for the Sex Contract...yeah...was NOT feeling that so much. It just made sex seem so cheap. I mean...come on...Here's a sex contract, it holds you to all kinds of controlling, domineering, and degrading practices. Oh, and it's for your benefit and my it will actually help you understand sex better or something. Right...I was so turned off by it and actually intimidated by it that I almost stopped reading. If a guy ever THOUGHT to put what I was expected to do for him sexually in a contract, he would expect to find that contract stuffed up his ass with one of his butt plugs. 
So. All In All...what did I think? I thought that there was a lot more than just erotica or BDSM. There is an actual emotionally charged plot that really explores the dynamics of being dominant and submissive, and the characters had a lot of depth to them. I actually wasn't expecting as much depth because of the fan-fiction origins so I really liked that. Still...I'm not into the hitting and punishment. Maybe I like my sex a little to vanilla for Christian Grey...but I'm not afraid to admit that some of the punishment freaked me out. It wasn't too so kinky it would haunt my nightmares...but it wasn't exactly my cup of tea. At the same time I really connected with Ana. Maybe it was because she's just graduated like me..or that she's a Literature major...but I really liked her, and her relationship with those around her. I haven't stopped thinking about the story and the plot since I finished the book. If I don't get my hands on book 2 soon I'm probably going to freak out and start caning people myself...


  1. Hahaha!!! If you loved book 1, book 2 will freaking make you go nuts, especially chapter 13. Lets just say I put my book down and stared at it with an angry face for a full 5 minutes while I let off steam and angry shrieks. I loved the BDSM in this book. Becides the belt incident at the end, It made me a bit curious. I'm not saying i'm going to waltz into a BDSM place and demand to be sexed by a Dom, but if I ran into a christian Grey, I may just ask for a sneak peek ;)

  2. This was one of the best reviews I've read in a long time. Even though I have yet to read the book with SOOOO many people talking about it and telling me in explicit detail scenes from it I feel like I have. Still am not sold on reading it myself though just cause of the whole twilight comparison.

  3. I agree with Kristin. This review actually made me want to read the book. I know there's a TON of hype about it, but I really didn't care before because I just figured the book was going to be juvenile coming from a fan fiction writer.

  4. With all the hype I am so skeptical. I have read a lot of reviews, but yours is the first that says OK maybe I will read it.

  5. Okay, so I just can't do it. I know that, at 30 years old, I should be one of the ones jumping all over the series. But I just can't. I get embarrassed when I read a mild sex scene and I am all alone in the house. One day I may try this out, but not now. I do appreciate the fan base that it has generated though. That is pretty incredible! Oh, and I don't know what I would do if my mom read this book, or asked me questions about what it is about. Ugh!