(CONTEXT: I asked on Instagram in my stories in a poll if I should read Fifty Shades of Grey since I never had – and things BLEW UP.)
Rating: 3 STARS
Wow. I honestly thought reading Pride and Prejudice this year would be my literary accomplishment, but nope. This was it. The one I tore through in less than half a day and had more conversations about and read more articles about and tore apart for analysis. For the record, P&P was NOT my favorite book ever and while I’m glad I read it as a cultural touchstone, that’s about all I can say for it. And knock. it. off., judgy Judy – I’m not saying Grey has better writing or anything, I’m saying it’s the one that caused me to dig deep into cultural perceptions and feelings of outrage about a book. You tell me not to read a book (as over 1000 people did on Instagram, btw) and I need to know why. Everyone swoons over P&P and dangles it as the best thing on earth, but not one person ever told me not to read it. I have authority issues – telling me not to read Fifty Shades of Grey is BAIT.
I’ll start by detailing why people told me not to read the book, and will then share my thoughts on those issues. Because how else does one analyze a middling kinky book that’s almost a decade old? 99% of the romances I read get reviews from me like this: “sweet story, fun location, fierce female and dominant male, steam level of 3 – will continue the series!” For me to devote this much time to a book is ONLY because of the extreme hate and vitriol people threw at me when I asked if I should read it. It blew me away. And I’m a librarian – tell me a book should be banned and I will RISE UP.
POINT 1: THE WRITING IS ATROCIOUS – IT’S THE WORST THING EVER WRITTEN
You guys. I have read so so so much worse. I’m a teacher, for one thing. Second, you should SEE some of the writing available on NetGalley and Kindle Unlimited. Self-publishing is a thing and I’ve read so many amazing books that have been self-published, but to say THIS book is the worst writing ever published is simply an untruth. Wattpad is a thing too, and before you go and burn me at the stake for saying a harsh word about Wattpad, the same holds true there as in a lot of self-publishing and advance review copies – NOT. ENOUGH. EDITING. And even books that HAVE been edited still end up horrendous. So there’s that. For me, the writing was about 2.5/5 with the emails being my very favorite part of the book. Maybe why people are so mad about the writing is because the book got so much hype and they expected better? Fair enough. I’ll say this: I went into it with an expectation of ZERO, so maybe that helped me.
POINT 2: IT’S A WASTE OF YOUR LIFE
HA! You obviously have no idea of who I am and how I spend my time. Ripping apart a novel is pretty much what I live for. And I believe no reading experience is a waste of time because I always read with a purpose. In this case, the purpose was to see why people are so horribly mad about the book. I solved the mystery! Another purpose was to be entertained. Achieved!
POINT 3: IT’S ANTI-FEMINIST AND A PROBLEMATIC PORTRAYAL OF BDSM
First of all, let’s all just stop defining feminism by YOUR definition of it, and second of all, I didn’t even actually know what BDSM stood for before doing some research. So there’s that. Regarding feminism, sigh. I can’t really go there without having to defend the romance genre as a whole. So I won’t. Regarding portrayal of BDSM, you’re right. It appears that the BDSM community is NOT happy with how the books and movies (which I haven’t seen) portray this type of activity. This article from the Atlantic lays their claims out perfectly: “Consent Isn’t Enough: The Troubling Sex of Fifty Shades”. There’s even a video! For this one, I’ll go back to point 2 and my purpose for reading not being to learn about BDSM and how to apply it to my real life. There is concern about rape culture too, and I get that. I get all of it, you guys. I think the biggest issue here is that the books and movies are SO POPULAR which bring them to the masses. This isn’t the first book with BDSM written, it’s just that most people haven’t heard of or even want to read the others. They can fly under the radar without mainstream analysis. For more on WHY they got so popular, see this blog post from back at the beginning from a trusted romance source.
POINT 4: BUT THE LAPTOP
I’m with you here. I’m with you. The book is set in 2011 and Ana acted like the laptop was a spaceship. That was kind of hilarious. And ridiculous.
POINT 5: IT’S UNREALISTIC
I’m almost rolling on the floor laughing, friends. Or am I rolling my eyes??? (GASP! No, Ana, don’t roll your eyes!) Again with the fact that you have no idea what I usually read, I guess. I read so much romance and let’s just say that if I wanted realistic I would NOT read romance. As a 38-year-old happily married mother of three, why would I want realistic romance? It would read like this: *So she yelled “I love you! Drive safe! I probably won’t see you tonight since I’ll be in bed before you’re home from work” as she ran out the door in the morning, spilling coffee all over herself. He didn’t hear her because he was already starting to do the dishes.*
I don’t want REALITY. I’m guessing the people annoyed with this factor were far outside of their comfort zone in even picking this book up? I think that’s the crux of the whole issue here. It got SO hyped that so many people read it who normally never would have. And people feel like they were tricked into it? See article linked above.
POINT 6: ONLY READ IT IF YOU HATE WOMEN AND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE**
RED! RED! Simmer down, Susan. That’s just uncalled for and this book obviously isn’t for you. Stop trying to ban it from the world. I’ll read for me, you read for you. Peace.
**(for real, someone actually messaged me those exact words!)
I’m so glad I finally read this book, and I’m starting on book 2 today because the ending of book 1 was horrible – I hate unresolved endings and I simply can’t leave this alone without finding out more. Overall this was a 3 star read for me because while there was so much wrong with it, I couldn’t put it down. It was fantasy that was originally written as fan fiction and I read it as such – some books simply are what they are. I was highly entertained and actually not nearly as scandalized as I thought I’d be. I thought I’d be locked in the Red Room of Pain for the entire book enduring the worst of the worst. I mean, Ana goes to work and graduates from college and hangs out with her roommate and goes running and visiting her mom and goes for a glider ride. Ho hum.
Do I recommend this book? If you want to see what all the excitement is about, sure! If you already know for sure that reading about kink is NOT FOR YOU and it would offend you, then don’t. If you think it would make you a horrible feminist to admit you’ve read it, then sure, stay away. But sometimes knowing thine enemy has its upside. Read or don’t read, just know that you can’t scare me off by telling me not to read a book.
If you’re wanting to build a mega-TBR for 2019, here are some suggested places to start:
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