Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

I ranted a while ago on my personal Facebook page about Fifty Shades of Grey. I noted that it wasn’t the sex scenes, rape undertones, or flawed nuances of a BDSM relationship that bothered me after becoming aware and attempting (read: struggling and failing) to read the first book in the series. I know that I am probably in the minority on that front, since many have been up-in-arms over those things since the book debuted a few years ago and the discussion has only rekindled with the launch of the film adaptation of the first book.

If you aren’t angry about the sex, then what is left to be angry about?, you might ask yourself upon hearing what already sounds like the beginning of a rant.

Oh, plenty.

I am not ashamed to admit that curiosity got the best of me in the same way it did when I read the first book in the Twilight series. I found a free PDF copy of Fifty Shades online a few months back and I thought I would check it out to see if it lived up to the hype of being a sexy, edgy love story. I have not seen the movie, which grossed over $90 million opening weekend and coincided with Valentine’s Day (hopefully some follow marketers made some serious bank for that genius timing…), but my hopes are bottom-of-the-barrel low after my brief experience with the book, which I’ll gladly hop on the haters train to nopeville to tell you about.

Although I am normally eager to support my local libraries and booksellers, I was very glad that I did not waste a trip or burn my hard-earned American currency to purchase something that would arguably be better to burn as kindle for a campfire over which s’mores could be made for more satisfaction. I seriously read the first two or three chapters of the book before I succumbed to the fact that, no, it was not going to improve. Yes, those typos were going to continue to present themselves for another 200-something pages and, no, I was not going to be able to ignore them. I quickly resorted to skimming over the rest of the book in an attempt to be a trooper, follow-through, and finish the damn thing as fast as humanely possible so I could justifiably make fun of how awful it was to read. Enraged from perpetually rolling my eyes so far back in my head and instinctively copy editing along the way, I managed to beat the odds and “finish” the whole story.

The book broke me — and not in a sexy sort-of way.

Reserved, wallflower of a girl meets attractive, mysterious boy. Boy is intrigued with girl and also happens to be an extremely wealthy 26-year-old. Looking at the Dot.Com boom of the 90s and the social media era of today (aside: some suggest that we might or might not be seeing a second Dot.Com bubble), I could sort-of buy the concept of a 26-year-old multimillionaire. It would be uncommon but not unrealistic. It was everything that I read on top of that which started my perpetual eye rolling. Successful and sexy despite serious mommy-daddy issues and sociopathic tendencies. A contract approach to an S&M relationship with someone who wasn’t sure if she preferred chocolate ice cream over vanilla, let alone being flogged with a leather or silicone strap. Descriptions like that trudged on and on, painful to read even when skimming instead of diving into the gory details.

Funny enough, one thing that got to me was this: where does savvy, young millionaire-man shop for his instruments of sexual deviance? Why, at a local mom and pop hardware store, of course. Young, rich, successful Mr. Grey goes out on his own and shops at a mom and pop hardware store for Duct tape and rope to use on his sexual partners. Even my grandma (rest in peace) knew that sex toys could be found in practically every city across America or online, if one could perform a basic Yellow Pages or internet search to find them. Instead, the author develops Mr. Grey in the image of a modern, albeit richer, Ted Bundy.

I’ll get off of the poor story line and character development to go back to the typos because there is a lot to hate on that subject. Fair notice: I might be a little obsessive compulsive when it comes to spell checking when I am writing emails, research assignments, and other things. It is, after all, a large part of my job to ensure that things are polished and ready to publish to larger audiences to sell a product or service. Just like routinely saving your work, it becomes second nature to periodically spell check, too, when you are writing something. Write a little, hit the key for spell check, repeat, and avoid looking like an imbecile.

Not for nothing, but how did the final draft go to press without some copyediting? Seriously. I am not talking about a few issues, either, like a stray character or a missing word in a sentence. Nobody, not once, read this book through in entirety in a Word (or equivalent application) document? Nobody saw little red and green squiggles under words and sentences, indicating misspellings and grammar errors? NOBODY hit F7 in Windows (or the equivalent on a Mac) to spell check before the book went to print?!

If you think that I am overreacting on this point, take this food for thought: this book has spent over 76 weeks on the New York Times best sellers list based on combined print and e-Book sales. 76. weeks. The other two books in the series are also on the list, with all three ranking in the top 15 as of this week. I am aware that being a best seller does not automatically mean that the book is considered a prized work of art, but it means something, right? People know about the series and have purchased it, or will as a result of the hype, and the author may call herself a “best seller” from here on out, a tremendous honor to have. The Fifty Shades series currently ranks with three books that were also made into movies — Still Alice, Wild, and Gone Girl. These three movies were nominated in various Oscars categories this past year, with at least one winning top accolades (Julienne Moore for Best Actress in Still Alice). With that comparison, it now seems criminal to think of these standing in the same Best Sellers category, at least in my eyes…

In all seriousness, though, the book might have been perfectly fine if not for the errors that, for me, deteriorated it to the status of a Harlequin Romance novel reject sitting on top of a trash pile. This book could have benefited from some serious polishing on all accounts — from story line to character development, editing, etc. The fact that this is a best selling novel in a series of best sellers, grossing millions of dollars in sales and standing with other works that were translated into Oscar- nominated or winning movies, makes the lack of polish much more offensive to me. Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that Kanye West will be storming the Oscars next year, no doubt demanding to know why 50 Shades wasn’t nominated for “Best Picture” because Beyonce’s song was featured in the trailer. I certainly won’t continue reading the series and I don’t plan on seeing the movie any time soon.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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2 thoughts on “Review: Fifty Shades of Grey”

  1. Nice Kanye joke there. As you might imagine, I’m not a fan of the content. I’ve also heard that people who are into BDSM decry that they’re not doing it right in the book. It’s pretty bad when you can’t get support from your comrades.

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