Sunday, August 3, 2014

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

Series: Fifty Shades Trilogy
Format: Paperback
Pages: 514
How I Got It: Borrowed
Rating: 3 Stars

                I’m going to be honest: I never intended to read these books. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews. Plus, I’m not a huge fan of Twilight and at its core this is based on those books.  But for better or worse these books have changed the world of books (especially romance) so I feel like I need to have read them. And I don’t want to be the person who makes fun of them without having to read them.
                A few disclaimers/warnings:
1)      This is going to be a long review. I have a crap-ton to say-both good and bad.
2)      The whole review will have spoilers because honestly that’s the only way I can review this book.
3)      I think the sexual content is a huge part of why this book gained such notoriety.  However, it’s not unique. I’ll get more into this later.
4)      I struggled to rate this books and if you’ve seen my Beautiful Disaster review I’ll say I had similar feelings about this as that.
5)      Finally, I plan on doing a written review after I read each book. And then once I’m done I want to do a video review of the whole series.
                Where do I begin?
                Let’s talk about Anastasia as a character and narrator. For a huge chunk of the book I was not a fan. To begin, I’m not the biggest fan of clumsy heroines. It always feels like an unnecessary characteristic. Plus, how did she trip all the time in flats, but seemed to wear heels with relative ease. Ana was also bland. She doesn’t have much in the way of personality. And she would get a backbone sometimes, but it always disappeared quickly. She got better after she went to Georgia and I’m hoping she gets better. I have to say this: I did not like the first person POV. I think Christian would make a better narrator. Or maybe a 3rd person narrator like a traditional romance.
                This goes with the narrator issue in some ways: there were some definite issues with the writing style and dialogue. I couldn’t help, but think the word choice was very British. Ms. James lives in Britain and I assume she is a native so I understand why it would happen. (That’s what an editor is there for). And I can appreciate British dialect (Sophie Kinsella is my favorite author and I’m no stranger to Regency romance) but it should only be in a British set story and/or British characters. But none of these characters are British.
                A lot of the language, especially the dialogue, seemed stiff. I’m not sure this is true, but the word choice seemed very formal and I’m not sure contractions were used very often. It just felt like no one actually speaks like this (especially twenty somethings) and it prevented me from getting fully immersed in the story.
                It’s time. Let’s talk about the fact that this started as Twilight fan fiction. I think the first half of the book really showed this. You have this plain girl who somehow has guys falling all over her. I still don’t understand this in any book. Jose is clearly the Jacob, but he really annoys me. He’s like Caleb on this season of Big Brother. And Christian’s sister reminds me of Alice. I really thought the Twilightness  would bother me, but she eventually made the story her own. When things stopped being so tied to Twilight I enjoyed it more. And I hope she continues to build her own story as the series continues.
                Now, let’s get to Christian. He’s definitely the more interesting and compelling character. I want to know more about his past and why he is the way he is. And I appreciate his honesty. There are times he could be more sensitive like when he finds out Ana is a virgin. But he knows who he is and at least appears not to be ashamed. He also has this subtle humor I liked. It came out in his e-mails especially-like the subject lines and his e-mail signatures. I hope we get more of that part of him and I would love to get some of his perspective. (Crosses fingers).
                I feel like I’ve been very negative and that’s not ending in this section. Ana is constantly talking about her “inner goddess” and her  “conscience”. I really didn’t like either internal voice. I found them annoying and childish. Plus, she basically slut shamed herself. I can’t stand slut shaming and it’s made even worse when it’s turned toward yourself. I completely get why she would question what she’s doing, but I hated when she called herself a ho. And I just don’t know why an author (especially a female one) would have a character do that. If you feel differently let me know.
                I’m starting to get exhausted, but I don’t want to cut this short. So, time for the sexy bits. I’ve read a few BDSM stories (contemporary and historical), but this was a whole new world. I actually really liked the contract and how much Christian and Ana talked about the lifestyle. We live in a world where this type of choice or fetish mocked and hidden away so I don’t know a lot. So these things were a great way to lay down some intense exposition. I would have liked some more off-page sex. Basically, I don’t need full descriptions every time the characters get it on. And they get it on an awful lot.
                Sometimes it felt like Christian was manipulating Ana. She would tell him she wasn’t comfortable with a certain act and then he’d be all “but will you just try. For me?” I don’t know if I’m reading too much into his behavior, but that’s how I see it. Admittedly, I feel like this partly because she’s never been in a relationship before and doesn’t completely know what to expect. As the book continues though he seems to be more accepting of her choices.
                Now, I want to discuss something I’ve seen floating around. And that’s the idea that this book and its content is demeaning to women. I’ve already voiced my issues with Ana’s character and won’t revisit them. But I don’t find the BDSM lifestyle demeaning to women. I figure if you are two consenting adults then good luck and God bless. And, overall, I didn’t feel like Ana was coerced or forced into her situation.
                Yeah, I see the end of this review. And that’s actually the last thing I want to discuss: the end. First, I thought Ana’s decision was very quick and I wish there was more development there. But I’m so glad she left. I’m not an idiot: they will probably get a happily ever after. But she does need time away from him to think about herself and what she wants out of life and a relationship. Hopefully, they stay apart for a decent amount of time. (In all honesty, I give it three chapters).
                Those are my thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey. Stay tuned for my reviews of the rest of the series, because I’ll be reading them soon.
                And I feel like I used parenthesis a little too much in this review but I’m too lazy to try and change it, so I apologize.

~Thanks for reading!

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