I thought I'd post my review of Fifty Shades of Gray today. The reason is that this book is getting tons of press and accolades and I totally disagree! So if any of you plan to read this book - and please, it's not for teens!!! - maybe my review will give you insight before you decide to buy the book...
Review: Fifty Shades of Gray (I gave it 3 out of 5 stars)
Thank God I'm done with this book!! Where to begin this review? Hmmm... There's so many reviews, so much hype, and so many accolades, that my opinion about this book doesn't matter much... but since I have such a strong opinion, I've decided to share it anyway.
This is not a book I'd recommend to many of people. Part of this is because of the strong BDSM theme. Part of this is because, while it's well-written (and it is), I found it too disturbing to recommend.
Let me state, for the record, that I am in no way prudish about subject matters or my choice of reads. While I didn't read reviews before I began this book (so the subject matter was surprising), I'm okay with how explicitly sexual the story was and had no issues with the racier passages taken out of the context of the age of the protagonist, believability, etc. which I'll explain below.
If you haven't read the book, note that there will be SPOILERS below and skip this review if you plan to read Shades...
Here are my issues with Fifty Shades of Gray (and some of them are personal, but that's the nature of reviews)...
The idea that a (beautiful) college graduate - that would make her about twenty - has never had a single sexual experience in her life (nor wanted one!!), is willing to throw herself into a non-traditional relationship with an older/insanely experienced man with such ease. I found this unbelievable on a basic level and that colored the entire story for me. In addition, the choice of a virgin for this story just felt like it was made purely to titillate.
The insanely creepy nature of Gray's overpowering control issues. The level of his insanity, too me, was so over the top and made him entirely undesirable as a love interest. The character of Gray lacked subtlety or any redeeming characteristics (beside money and a helicopter). Without a flawed but empathetic love interest, the story just didn't hold together for me and felt unbelievable on a basic level. If I don't care whether the girl gets the guy because the guy is so unredeemable, then I'm not hooked into a narrative about a girl getting the guy.
I love stories, even if I don't like or agree with specific characters and their actions. It's not like I thought Humber Humbert was a great guy who deserved twelve-year-old Dolores (Lolita). But that was a GREAT book! I love character development, journeys, impressive arcs. But for me, in the end, I was left with a feeling of manipulation and a high level of disgust for the story, which I think preys upon a sense of depravity I can't condone, even in a book.
I want to make clear when I say "depravity" that I'm not talking BDSM. I'm talking about a strange desire to see women degraded that pervades a lot of our society. Whether it's taking away women's right to choose how to govern their own bodies, watching violent pornography, or going to strip shows (and telling yourself that the gals there are doing what they want to do with their bodies when in fact a huge percentage of them were molested and abused as children). I've never considered myself a feminist, but in the end I can't support a book that felt like it took us gals down another notch.
*I realize some of you might disagree with the last sentence given the book's ending, but that ending didn't justify the degradation that preceded it and it's clear to me that things aren't over because, after all, there is a Book Two. And when I say "degradation" I also don't mean the specific "acts," I mean the reasons that Gray, as a character, would commit those acts, and a young girl's willingness to accept that type of treatment. Many of you might say this is exactly what made the story so interesting, but the author didn't delve into Ana's psyche and why she was willing to go down that road. The author focused much more on the BDSM - which felt like a cheap trick to hook readers with detailed sex scenes.
To summarize, I felt like this book took something from me instead of giving me the gift that always comes after reading a great story. I gave this book 3 stars because I can't fault the writing. But in the end, the premise was unbelievable and the outcome just made me sad, because there's a second book and I know where it's heading and that a lot of people will flock to read it...