I’m all for trying new things, especially when it comes to books. Never read a horror story? I’ll read one. Never finished an autobiography? I’ll finish one. Never wrote a poem? I’ll … well, you get the picture.
But it will be a cold, cold day in Hell before I read E.L. James’ “hit” bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey. And even if the Devil himself knocks on my door to tell me that things downstairs are getting a bit chilly, I still won’t read that trilogy — and here’s why.
It started off as a Twilight Fanfiction story.
Let me explain. First of all, I like fanfiction; it is my guilty pleasure. When I finish a series (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, other lesser-known books, and so forth), I am filled with that awful void. “This is it. Finished. Nothing new to come…” I hate that feeling, which is why I originally turned to fanfiction. However, I am fussy with what I read. If I am going to read a Fanfiction story (in any genre), it must demonstrate accurate grammar, sophisticated writing and semi-professional story development. If I can’t see these things in Chapter One, I’m gone.
Now, my affection for Twilight has diminished over the ages, but once upon a time, while I was awaiting the release of the fourth and final book (don’t bother, Past Jess. Just do not bother), I searched for a good fanfiction story in its category.
I found none.
Instead, I discovered truckloads of smut. As a basic definition, “smut” is obscene, sexually explicit, erotic fiction, which may or may not have a visible plotline. This is the world from which Fifty Shades of Grey sprung. E.L. James wrote a fanfiction about Edward and Bella and, after it proved popular, morphed it into her own series.
I will repeat — I like fanfiction. The fact that James started off as a fanfiction author does not bother me. I am, however, greatly bothered by the thought of reading a pornographic story that burst from the loins of a Twilight smut fandom.
Lack of plot.
I like a story I can sink my teeth into. I like to stay awake until 3am because I physically cannot put the book down. I like thinking, “Just one more page,” and then finding I’ve finished the book in one sitting.
My understanding of Grey’s plotline is this: ignorant young student falls for a controlling playboy with too much money and too much time on his hands, and thus the pair indulge his kinky fetishes involving whips and chains.
I’ve also gathered that the storyline cycles through a basic system of “discuss an issue, argue over the issue, break-up, get back together, BDSM, discuss an issue…”
Sorry James, but you’re going to need more than that to entice me.
The Writing Quality is Poor.
Life’s too short to read bad books. When I read, I expect the best. There should not be excessive exclamations points; there must not be an endless stream of spelling mistakes; I will not stand for obvious plotholes. Now, granted, I understand that the grammar of Grey is fairly competent. However, this seems to be where the compliments end. Her two American characters speak with all the colloqialisms of a British pair, and James fails to portray any sense of nuance, metaphor or consistency. Overall, the development seems childish and the characters unlikeable.
A painful read if I’ve ever heard one.
I’ll admit — I fear the backlash I may receive for this post. Everywhere I turn, it seems people are falling in love with Fifty Shades of Grey, its sequels and its movie deal. Sometimes I feel like the last person fighting for survival during a zombie apocalypse, in which all the zombies have discovered the kinky joys of bondage and safe words. But mostly, I expect abashment because I speak from no personal experience, and instead I am taking the word of other critics who have taken the time to plunder through the minefield. “Give it a chance!” people say. “You’ll love it!” people say.
No. No, I shan’t, and no, I won’t.
I apologise to those fans who I’ve offended, and to those bookworms who are affronted by my refusal to read the thing. But I will never read Fifty Shades of Grey, and to explain why, I will say two words more:
I’ll put the pretty bow on this package of hateful ranting, and leave you all with some, uh… “passionate” book review quotes. Enjoy.
– Love The Bad Guy
“…why did this infuriate me so? … [It] was because the way in which the clichés and elements of genre romance were deployed served to reveal a troubling and repugnant worldview. … The artless way in which they were written simply laid bare the problems, exposing a terrible underlying ideology. Whether James realizes it or not, intended it or not, she has written a book whose ultimate message is this: the only people who deserve love are those who are perfect and normal. Redemption is nothing more than learning that you were always already chosen, always already perfect.”
— Angela T., DearAuthor.com (Full review here)
“To give any credit, publicly, to this book as either well-written (even its author, E.L. James, has admitted the writing is bad) or redeeming in any way feels irresponsible and wrong to me … [The] feminist in me was clawing to get out as I read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” If S&M is your thing, be my guest. If vapid books are your thing, to each their own. If it helps awaken your bedroom imagination, so be it. But let’s not tout this book as anything other than the big step backwards that it is.”
— Whitney Frink, NBC (Full review here)
“Firstly, and I can’t believe anyone would argue otherwise, “50 Shades of Grey” is pornography, plain and simple. There could be no other use for it. The narrative is comprised of 9 or 10 lengthy yet well-paced sex scenes tied together with some mindless, almost purposefully banal filler about Anastasia Steele’s college life. I think I remember Christian Grey playing a piano in one scene. That happened right? I don’t know, I was extremely anxious and uncomfortable the whole time. But this is exactly why this book matters. It manages, miraculously, to be at once pornographic and deeply unappealing to men – it is a kind of pornography that attracts only women, and thus far it is selling off the charts.”
— Frank Santo, New York Daily News (Full review here)