Friday, September 20, 2013

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (Fifty Shades #1)

Published 2012
Amazon | Goodreads

Genre: Romance / Erotica / BDSM

What the hell did I just read? 

I've never read a book that made me want to fling my e-reader across the room so bad. I've read erotica before, but Fifty Shades of Grey is like a five-hour porno with a boring, two-hour buildup.

Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan fiction, and it was originally based on Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. The novel will be made into a movie that will come out in 2014.


What I liked:
  • Email correspondence between Ana and Mr. Grey -- The emails were the funniest parts of the book, and did more to let the characters' personalities shine than their in-person conversations.  
What I didn't like: 

Ugh...where do I start?
  • The writing is awful -- I overlook minor flaws and oddities, but the writing here is noticeably bad on many levels. Now I know what those TAs were talking about when they warned us against using too many adverbs... 

    "He's my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle." Um. Okay.

    "And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain--probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells--comes the thought: He's here to see you.

    "My voice is too high, like I've got my finger trapped in a door or something." 

    "For a fraction of a second, he looks lost somehow, and the Earth shifts slightly on its axis, the tectonic plates sliding into a new position."
  • Too much filler-- After the beginning, the main bulk of the book becomes a series of chapters and conversations that do nothing to advance the story. Filler, filler, filler, sex, repeat. 

  • Ana is incredibly insecure even though she's been hit on by multiple guys, but that seems to be a good thing to Mr. Grey, who sees her timidity as a turn-on. She depends on Grey to appreciate herself as a sexual being--until he said so, she couldn't see herself as an attractive woman. She bites her lip and hangs her head throughout the entire book. Even Bella wasn't this pathetic. 

Her character bugs me a lot because she can't tell the difference between a romantic relationship and an abusive one. To be submissive she has to sacrifice her sense of self (if she even had any before) to serve him. What's horrifying is that she agrees to do so in order to hang on to him--because he's hot and commanding. 

  • Mr. Grey plays the piano and pampers Ana with expensive gifts and cars, just like Edward. He's also extremely clingy, stalkerish, and controlling, all of which are neon signs of an abusive mate. On top of that, he gets frequent mood swings. Ana's never sure when he's going to be happy or angry.
  • Flat plot-- The plot is about a controlling man and an insecure woman who meet and feel attracted to each other. They have a lot of sex, but the woman wants commitment and the man wants more submission.

    And that's it. Everything else is filler. All the other characters stay in the background as crudely cut cardboard characters, and whenever Ana rambles about them I find myself not caring. 

The sex scenes are extremely unrealistic, but most erotica is over the top, so I won't hold it against the book. The buildup and release are well-balanced. Some of the sex is a bit out there, like the infamous tampon scene, but I don't really care because some people do have sex on their periods. 

A big problem of this book is that it is a BDSM sex story trying to be a romance novel. The power dynamics that BDSM partners enjoy do not work outside of the bedroom in a healthy relationship. 

The dominant-submissive dynamic should be limited to sex, but it has been integrated into Ana and Mr. Grey's relationship as a whole. Ana has to obey and tiptoe around Grey to avoid punishment, but he can step all over her as long as he gives her "body-shattering" orgasms.
The romanticization of an abusive mate and a passive lover sends unhealthy and anti-feminist messages to readers about the ideal relationship.

My Rating:
This book was awful. It's now the #1 worst book that I have ever read. 

What I would eat while reading this book: 
  • Christian Grey-flavored popsicles
  • semen
  • grapes
For additional reading:

Thank you for reading! What did you think about Fifty Shades of Grey? 


  1. I couldnt even bring myself to post a review once I finished it.
    The other night my mom made a comment about the book saying she should read it to see what the hype was all about. I went into my closet and grabbed it. She about died laughing that I had actually read such "filth" then she asked where my review was.

    I honestly could not get past how BDSM cannot function outside of the bedroom. Why the author would think it could is beyond me.


    1. Hahahaha. Your mom is hilarious; does she read too? My mom would have done a hardcore censoring/purging of my personal library if she'd caught me reading it in high school. xD You should post a review of it. It'd be funny to hear your thoughts.

      It's a really unbalanced relationship that they have. o_O

    2. Oops! I meant, does she read for fun too?

  2. Wow, I'm amazed that you made it through the whole book. I DNF'd it at the 6th or 7th chapter. I probably should go back and read it if only so I can properly critique/bash it.

    "The power dynamics that BDSM partners enjoy do not work outside of the bedroom in a healthy relationship."

    BDSM is a very diverse community that is not only limited to the bedroom. Some BDSM relationships include sex and other don't. Someone also told me that in D/s relationships, it is sometimes said that the s has the power in the relationship because she/he is free to enjoy what is going on while the D has to ensure that they do not push beyond the s's limits.

    My main beef with this book is that it's published fanfiction and doesn't acknowledge that anywhere. I feel that the author made a serious breech of etiquette when she did that.

    My favorite review of Fifty Shades:

    1. You bring up a good point; those relationships do exist. Ana is delusional about the nature of the relationship. Although she signs a contract, she doesn't understand what she's really signing up for, thus opening herself up to the confusion that arises from the treatment she gets. Without true consent, that sort of treatment is abuse. Maybe not intentional abuse, but the sort of jerkhood that arises from a miscommunication between two people wanting very different things. Yes, she wants sex, but she also wants "vanilla" love from him, so she is willing to try to put up with his treatment in hopes of earning his love. She's a confused, silly character in general. <-- my interpretation of her mentality.

      My e-copy acknowledges that the book was published in an "eariler serialized version" online under her pseudonym, but doesn't acknowledge that it was Twilight fan fiction. Do you know if it has to do with a copyright issue, like if they openly state it was originally a Twilight fan fiction, then Meyer's publisher can sue James?

      Lazaraspaste's review is very eloquent and eye-opening; thanks for sharing it with me. The parts that stood out to me the most were the paragraphs comparing it to Twilight and pointing out the way Fifty Shades separates vanilla sex and BDSM into black-and-white categories.

    2. Bash party! I would love to hear your thoughts on the book too, but since you haven't finished it, any more would just be torture, unless you're into that. ;) And besides, by the time you reached chapter 7 you have the gist of 90% of the story, and therefore you qualify to join the bash party. You're better off reading something else.