This book gets: ♥♥♥ out of 5
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James – So, I know generally this is a blog about young adult literature, but considering the history of Fifty Shades of Grey, I felt it was appropriate to post my review here. There are undoubtedly dozens of has-been Twilight readers like myself who picked up this book purely out of curiosity, and ended up entwined in James’s mortal coil.
I want to preface everything I say here with this: James’s Fifty Shades series is the fast food of books. It is the breaded french fry of books. It is that perfect combination of salt, fat, and sugar that the body is designed to crave, even though you know it’s not so good for your health–and you feel a little sick to your stomach afterwards.
That said, I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it far more than I should have, considering the quality of the storytelling. Safe to say, not much happens in the first book, or the whole series for that matter–it is, primarily, a romantic drama, where nothing outside the sex and mutual cooing really seems to matter to the plot. I can probably sum up the synopsis for you in one sentence: Anastasia Steele is a hum-drum literature student who, by sheer happenstance, winds up in the talons of gorgeous billionaire Christian Grey. (Oh, and she falls for him, and he for her. Hard. I’m sure you’re surprised.)
There it is. That’s the story. Add some obvious re-casting of Twilight characters, like Christian’s handsome brother Elliot (see: Emmett), Ana’s Mexican-American photographer pal José (see: Jacob), throw in some BDSM, and you’ve essentially got a handle on Fifty Shades. It is repetitive at best, but only because James doesn’t seem genuinely interested in any other aspects of the characters’ lives outside this nuclear relationship.
And yet, I’m going to give it a three-out-of-five rating. Why? Because it’s smart. James knows her audience, and she plays to it with honest and relentless abandon. The dialogue is rife with clever quips; Anastasia’s inner monologue is imaginative and for once, not distracting from the story; and for all its adverb-rich prose and predictability, (“I wear a face-splitting grin as I gaze longingly up into his wide, tortured eyes”) I rarely found myself bored with the ups and downs of the plot.
In fact, I couldn’t put it down. There, in a nutshell, is why I give Fifty Shades of Grey a favorable review: it is simply unputdownable. You will groan at the tropes and roll your eyes at the same re-hashed sex scene, but in the end, I dare you to start this book and not finish it. Just remember before you pick it up, Twilight fan, that you will be exposed to a few hundred pages of all the missing scenes from Bella and Edward’s story, with a couple whips and paddles thrown in, before you really get to the good stuff. (James’s brush-off treatment of the Jacobesque José is, in my opinion, one of the larger disappointments.)
Oh, and don’t forget: Fifty Shades of Grey has been picked up by Universal’s FOCUS studio for a hefty sum of $5 million. And James has reserved the dominatrix role in approving or vetoing casting, costumes, and more. How do you see an erotic novel playing out on the big screen while maintaining an R-rating?