#21-23 A Review of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James

As a book  blogger I think it’s VERY important to stay abreast of books that are causing a ton of buzz in the literary world.  With Twitter and Facebook it’s now easier than ever to spread the word about a book or books that you think are a MUST read.  As I was skimming the web the other day I noticed a ton of people in my Twitter feed talking about a book entitled Fifty Shades of Grey.  I didn’t think much of it, until I read the following NY Times article (Here).  I highly suggest you read that article before continuing on to read my reviews of all three books.  This review WILL have spoilers, so if you are planning on reading the books consider yourself forewarned.  ALSO – this is unlike my other reviews – there will be lots of snarkiness.  At the end of my review I’ve put together, with the help of my friend Tasha who runs the blog Truth, Beauty, Freedom, & Books, the “Fifty Shades Trilogy drinking game” (Note: not to be played by those who can’t control their liquor or are under 21.  We are not responsible for anything that happens to you should you play along.)

So, where to begin? Oh yeah – the plot.  All three books are really one story (where book one ends, book two picks right back up, etc) about the relationship between Edward Cullen and Bella Swan….I mean Christian Grey and  Anastasia Steele.  Yes, this story has MANY similarities to the Twilight series, but more on that later (again, sorry for the length of this review!).

Book one (Fifty Shades of Grey) focuses on the beginning of Christian and Ana’s relationship.  Ana is introduced to Christian when she interviews him for an article that will be in her college’s newspaper.  There are obviously sparks between them, but it isn’t until Christian shows up at Ana’s job a few days later that things start picking up.  A drunken phone call from Ana one evening sparks Christian into action.  He picks her up and brings her back to his hotel room, where he cares for her until the morning.  Nothing happens between them, but Christian tells Ana he can’t stay away from her. “Then don’t,” says Ana (oh hey Twilight…. how ya doing).  Fast forward a bit: Christian takes Ana on a date to his apartment where he proceeds to tell her about his secret sexual lifestyle, domination/masochism.  Ana is completely overwhelmed with this secret, but wants Christian so much that she agrees to try it out for him.  (This is probably a good time to mention that Ana is a virgin.  So really, her agreeing to be submissive to Christian isn’t weird AT ALL.)  A contract is drawn up between the two (you know, the standard contract you sign before you sleep with someone, stating they have full control over you – your clothes, grooming habits, what you eat, etc) and their relationship begins.  It’s difficult for Ana to get used to their relationship and all of Christian’s rules.  Book one ends with Ana leaving Christian after a particularly rough beating.  She makes Christian realize that his lifestyle is extremely messed up, and the fact that he gets off on causing her pain isn’t right.

Book two (New Moon… I mean Fifty Shades Darker) begins with newly broken up Ana and Christian.  They’re both seriously lost and depressed without each other.  When they get together to attend an art show Christian tells Ana that he has a new proposal for her.  He needs her in his life and is willing to try a normal relationship with her if she’ll learn to trust him and help him deal with his own issues.  She agrees and the two begin anew.  They begin a whirlwind romance that is a hybrid of their two lives.  Christian begins taking her on dates and loving her, while Ana attempts to take small steps at “fixing” Christian and understanding his sexual preferences.  Fifty Shades Darker also takes on a plot similar to Eclipse.  Ana begins working at a small publishing house that Christian winds up buying.  Christian fires Ana’s boss when he finds out that he is sexually harassing her.   Ana’s boss begins a vendetta against Christian that continues into book three, Fifty Shades Freed.  The main plot piece to take away from Fifty Shades Darker is that Christian is trying to face the demons of his past with Ana’s help.

Fifty Shades Freed finds Ana and Christian on their honeymoon.  This is probably a good time to mention that Christian and Ana got married after being together for about 2 months. I know, I know – why am I surprised?  Isn’t this a common love story?  Girl finds WAY messed up boy, girl falls in love with boy, boy can’t love girl because of his past, girl loves boy anyway, boy beats girl, girl and boy have lots of sex, boy begins looking at his past, girl still loves boy, boy begins telling girl he loves her, girl and boy get married, boy and girl live happily ever after. Blah blah blah – sex scenes – blah blah – throw in some Breaking Dawn unwanted/surprise pregnancy plot points, a happy ending, and you have the Fifty Shades Trilogy!

I’m not even sure where I should begin my discussion of the trilogy.  (Serious thoughts first)  I’ve lately learned that these novels started out as Twilight fan-fiction.  This I think is where my problem begins.  When I first read the Twilight novels I really enjoyed them.  Did I think Bella was a really wimpy heroine? Yes.  Did I think that Edward was a creepy stalker?  Yes.  But something about the story just….worked.  It’s now been 3 to 4 years since I’ve read the series and honestly I don’t think I could do it again.  I look back and think, Bella is the WORST role model for girls.  She becomes addicted to Edward and unable to live without him, as evidenced in New Moon.  The Fifty Shades trilogy elicits the same kinds of problems.  Ana has NEVER been in a relationship pre-Christian, and Christian has never been in a dominant/submissive “entanglement” before.  She finds herself attracted to him and is thrust into this world of messed up shit because she wants his approval and his love.  I’m sorry but being terrified of your significant other is not a good sign of your relationship.  Yes, Christian has serious issues, but who doesn’t?  His character is honestly the only believable thing in the entire series.  He has good reason for being the way he is and treating those around him the way he does.  He needs someone kind and compassionate like Ana, but at what cost?  Ana literally fears being beaten by him.  His temper and his sexual preferences become so intertwined that Ana cannot tell when he’s turned on or angry.  There is literally a line in one of the books where Christian tells her, “I wanted to beat the shit out of you.”  Ah…true love.  Man I wish someone would say those words to me.  I guess this is the crux of what my biggest problem with the series is.  The entire relationship is 1,000% unhealthy.  The first two and a half books have Ana and Christian deal with every problem by just having sex. (I’m not kidding. It’s like every sixth page they are having sex.)  I’m not shy with books that have sex in them, but this was just freaky.  Direct quote from the book, “you should see what I can do with a cane or a cat.” A CAT?! WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!  Shit is cray cray.

Ok take the sex out of it, there were still 1,000 other weird things about the book.  Ana’s Spanish friend Jose – randomly popping in and out of the story blurting out Spanish phrases.  The weird expressions that are used – I know the author is British, so some of the expressions are expected to be a bit out-of-place, but they really just threw me off sometimes.

I really really really wanted to root for Ana and Christian, especially after you find out his whole back story, but part of me couldn’t condone the relationship with Ana being frightened of him a good percent of the time.  I’m not really sure how you go from being scared the guy is going to beat you to suddenly agreeing to marrying him.  BIZZARO.  Or maybe I’m the bizarre person here?  Maybe I’m the freak who doesn’t think stalking is hot?  AHHH.  This series elicited strong reactions from me, more so than anything I’ve read recently.  Sure there were some really great parts (Christian’s secret planning of Ana’s birthday party, the care he gives her after her accident, etc) of the trilogy, but unfortunately not enough to outweigh all the weird shit that was going on for me to give them great reviews.  I will 100% admit though that something drew me to them.  Will I ever re-read these novels?  Probably somewhere down the line because honestly they made me laugh SO MUCH.  Although I may have laughed a lot more due to the Twitter conversations Tasha and I had over the course of my reading the three books…..  However, there is no denying that they are a guilt pleasure for sure.

Regardless of everything I’ve said above – if you read these books know that there is some freaky shit going on and prepare yourself for it.  You may like them, you may hate them, but you WILL have an opinion when you finish.  I can 100% guarantee it.

Now, without further ado: The Fifty Shades of Grey Drinking Game!!  Here are the rules!  You must drink when the following occurs:

  • Every time Christian stalks Ana
  • Every time Jose says something in Spanish for no reason
  • Every time someone bites their lip
  • Every time there is sex
  • Every time Ana’s subconscious does backflips or is mentioned
  • Every time Ana calls Christian “Mr. Grey” or “Fifty”
  • Every time Ana doesn’t realized another man is attracted to her
  • Every time there is a Twilight similarity
  • Every time it seems weird Ana doesn’t know how to use basic technology
  • Every time Ana rolls her eyes and Christian wants to punish her for it
  • Every time Christian nitpicks Ana for not eating
  • Every time Christian says “What are you doing to me?’
  • Every time Ana thinks about leaving Christian
  • Every time “SHOUTY” capitals are used
  • Every time the phrase “laters baby” is used
  • Every time there are “sparks” in an elevator
  • Every time the unborn baby is called “Blip”
  • Every time Christian is totally overprotective
  • Every time “Mrs. Robinson” is mentioned
  • Every time  Ana says “Holy ____”
  • Every time the word “more” is used
  • Every time Ana says “crap” or “double crap”

If anyone out there has read/decides to read the trilogy I would LOVE to hear your thoughts.  Tasha’s review is here and is much funnier than mine!  Whether you opt out of reading this trilogy or not, read Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren instead. (Here’s my review)  It showcases what a true BDSM lifestyle is like when both partners are willing and trusting.  (It also doesn’t hurt that the book is written 1,000 times better than Fifty)

Trilogy Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

This is my seventh completed review for the Around The Stack In How Many Ways Challenge

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Knopf Doubleday (2011)
eBook: 384 pages
ISBN: 9781612130293

Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James
Knopf Doubleday (2011)
eBook: 394 pages
ISBN: 9781612130590

Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James
Knopf Doubleday (2012)
eBook: 451 pages
ISBN: 9781612130613