Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: "Fifty Shades of Grey"

"Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James
First published in 2011
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

I was excited to read "Fifty Shades of Grey" because it's not all that often that a book makes national news for weeks on end. We have the Big Three of course -- "Harry Potter," "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" -- but those are all in YA genre. "Fifty Shades of Grey," which probably falls under the category of erotica, is decidedly not!

Anastasia Steele meets mega-rich, mega-attractive young CEO Christian Grey when she goes to interview him for her college newspaper as a favor to her best friend. Virginal, innocent, beautiful-but-doesn't-know-it Ana and powerful, intimidating, sexy, intense Christian feel an instant attraction to each other, and though Christian warns Ana that he's not the right man for her they can't seem to keep away from each other. But Ana soon discovers that Christian is not as perfect as he seems; haunted by a very rough upbringing, he has a cart full of emotional baggage and a deep need for control, and thus he favors Dominant/submissive sexual relationships. (The title comes from a line in which Christian admits to Ana that he's "fifty shades of fucked up" emotionally.)

So affected is she by Christian's presence and unwilling to lose him, Ana agrees to test the waters of Christian's singular sexual preferences. But Christian is also pulled to Ana like he's never be pulled to anyone, and he finds himself agreeing to Ana's pleas for "more" -- more of a normal romantic boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, which is something Christina's never had before. They compromise and embark on a passionate affair with lots of firsts for both of them in all aspects of their relationship, and -- of course -- plenty of juicy sex scenes. They're insatiable for each other, both physically and emotionally.

I heard so many varying opinions before I picked up the book, from friends, from patrons at the library where I work, from the media. I actually went in thinking I wasn't going to like it because I'd been told the writing was abysmal, and as a former copy editor I have a heck of a hard time reading books that are poorly written. The "Fifty Shades" trilogy actually started off as "Twilight" fan fiction and it seemed entirely plausible that a horribly written piece could become so famous just because of all the erotic sex scenes. But I was impressed -- the writing was hardly perfect and was very repetitive at times, and I was mildly annoyed by the constant perspective provided by Ana's personified "inner goddess" and "subconscious" -- but for a first-time author who had no real intention of publishing her work initially, it was not bad at all.

"Fifty Shades" is definitely not for everyone, and I can easily see how some might be offended by the incessant use of the f-word and the BDSM sex scenes (though I'm pretty sure they're BDSM-lite), put off by the fact that it's loosely based on the storyline of "Twilight," become annoyed with the writing or find themselves unable to indentify with Ana. But I think you're more likely to enjoy it than hate it, even if it's not your most favorite book ever. Something that irked me about "Fifty Shades of Grey" was that it ended abruptly, without a resolution to the problem (yes, there's actually a bit of a plot among the sex scenes!). While that got on my nerves, it also ensures that I'll pick up the second book, "Fifty Shades Darker"!

Apparently they're making a movie out of "Fifty Shades of Grey," which somewhat baffles me... it'll be hard to convey the erotic nature of the book even in a very R-rated movie. (Although that brings to mind the fridge scene from "9 1/2 Weeks," which was a total turn on without showing any actual sex; and incidentally, who knew Mickey Rourke used to be so dang hot?!) A quick Google search turned up a gazillion results about the movie, but what caught my eye was a blurb about casting Kristen Stewart as Ana. I know she's not the best-loved actress ever and she already plays the inspiration for Ana in "Twilight," but I think she'd be perfect for the role. I actually pictured her as Ana in my head when I was reading the book because I knew Ana was somewhat based on Bella, and because real-life Kristen Stewart has the super-awkward-but-lovable personality of Ana/Bella. As for Christian's character, it's all about his hair. And how sexy the man looks in a suit... and a gray tie.

Happy reading!

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