By now everyone is sick to death of hearing about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E. L. James. Well, too bad. Look, it took me awhile to get through all 1664 pages total-in-trilogy of this…. um… literaryyy… work?
When I updated my Goodreads page, the review I gave Fifty Shades of Grey was short and to the point:
“The sex is great, and the writing sucks. Make your choice.”
Eleven words to summarize 1664 pages. I stand by that initial review, but in case you haven’t had the time in your life to read the three books, I’ll enlighten you on what you’ve been missing.
Spoiler alert: if you haven’t read the books, and are legitimately worried about “finding out what happens” in this review, stop reading here, I guess. But dude, trust me, I’m probably doing you a favor by sparing you around 1663 pages worth of reading time. For the love of God, read something else. Anything else.
Here are 11 Things You Didn’t Miss If You Didn’t Read Fifty Shades of Grey:
1. Suspense. Besides the weakly crafted “cliffhangers” between books (ooh! Someone’s out to get one of the main characters!), any reader with an eighth grade diploma could see nothing particularly interesting is ever really going to happen in the ‘plot.’ (No. Eighth graders shouldn’t read it. Duh.)
2. Plot. There isn’t one. If you’re a fan of books where nothing really happens except repeated, poorly written sex scenes, this trilogy is for you.
3. Feminism. Though it’s so tempting, I am not going to launch a bra-burning 70s feminist rant here, but the issue of feminism with regards to the books is best summarized in the article “Anti Feminist Ideals in Fifty Shades of Grey” by Marina DelVecchio in which she observes the perpetuation of the following feminine myths: The Virgin vs. the Deviant, A Woman’s Love Can Change Men, and The Female Submissive.
Let’s just put it this way, folks. Gloria Steinem is probably tired of rolling her eyes every time she hears about this trilogy.
4. Theme. Other than the alleged BDSM nature of the book, there is no real thread that ties the story together other than sex.
5. Reality. Helicopters, real estate, luxury cars, endless wardrobes… these books are a playground for the rich. You won’t find any pesky grocery budgeting or checkbook balancing herein.
6. Self respect. Between sex scenes, both characters, Christian and Anastasia, are horrifically insecure and spend all three books being paranoid they are not good enough for one another.
7. Dialogue. It’s awful. The characters say the same things to each other over and over and over again.
8. Role Models. Do you really want your daughter to see you reading this book or hear you chatting it up with your friends? In a Huffington Post article by Dani Klein Modisett on the topic, she asks,
“How do you teach young American females to love themselves enough not to confuse yearning for some unattainable, controlling, inconsistent man/boy with a shaggy mane of hair he's constantly running his hands through, who makes you bite your lip and the "deepest, darkest part" of you "clench in the most delicious fashion" every time you see him, with real, meaningful, and yes, sometimes boring, love?”
9. Narration. Anastasia Steele, the 24-year-old virgin heroine of the book, is a one-dimensional character who overuses phrases like “Oh my” so many times it makes your teeth hurt. Her “inner Goddess” and “subconscious” become “characters” you wish would come to life so you could punch them in the babymaker. Really? She needs a hobby that doesn’t involve obsessing over how to be the perfect woman for “her man.”
10. Editing. What should have happened here is that the three books should’ve been edited down to one. With good editing, one book would have been enough and could potentially have been a perfectly fine read. The story being dragged out unnecessarily over the course of three books? Had everything to do with selling three books instead of one (see also: Twilight, Hunger Games).
11. A Variety of Sex Scenes. If the book is going to be #1-2-AND-3 on The New York Times bestseller list with a reputation as a book about sex, the sex should be fabulous, yes? And some of it is. Especially the first few times we read the same exact sex scene. But Ana referring to her vagina (the word is never once used in three books) as her “sex” or, even more teenishly, as “down THERE!”? And saying “he found his release” after every single orgasm (another unpopular Fifty Shades word)? It really gets boring. Even for the actual real-world bondage fans, there are only a few mildly “tie-me-up” scenes. All in all, the sex is hot, but it’s more often repetitive and eventually even vanilla.
All of this is probably too much information, right? Chances are, what you’ve been hearing from your friends (and a really hilarious Saturday Night Live skit) is that the books are hot.
In summary, I’m sticking with my original eleven-word review: “The sex is great, and the writing sucks. Make your choice.”
—Mary McCarthy blogs at pajamasandcoffee.com.