So, Fifty Shades of Grey. If you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard about it. Read any poster on the subway and you see the words “mommy porn” and claims that it makes people around the world “hot and bothered”. So what’s all the rage about?
This novel, or series I should say, was originally a Twilight fanfiction. When it was eventually picked up for publication, as an e-book at first I believe, most of the details were changed (Bella became Ana Steele and Edward became Christian Grey). There’s nothing supernatural about the story, but that hasn’t stopped it from being a wicked success, and topping book charts around the world.
The back cover reads:
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants he too–but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success–his multinational business, his vast wealth, his loving family–Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embark on a daring, passionate physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.
Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.
Now, do not even get me started on anything that claims it will “stay with me forever.”
THE FIRST 10 PARAGRAPHS — REVIEW
To get straight to the point, I was dismayed from the very first sentence.
I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. (Pg 3, Paragraph 1)
This just infuriates me to the verge of tears. Already, several things become apparent. Number one, this screams, “Oh dear god I’m not totally perfect my life sucks!” which I just can’t stand. I understand that yes, sometimes we look in the mirror and are not always happy by what we see, but really, this just feels melodramatic and overused. Number two, I absolutely despise when a character describes what they look like by staring into the mirror (this just marks the author as lazy–what, couldn’t think of a more subtle way to do it? Its blunt, tactless, and almost always sounds like an info-dump, which are almost never fun to read). And number three, the entire book is opened by this line that could literally be from anywhere (picture a “first line quiz” on Goodreads. This line appears. Where is it from? Why would I care? Can you imagine, just for a moment, if your favourite novel opened with nothing but a description of the main character? “Uncle Vernon furrowed his brow at his reflection in the rear view mirror.” Ooh yes, very exciting).
Basically, the entire first paragraph is complete nonsense. Here, see for yourself (minus the first line):
Damn my hair–it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi-presentable. (Pg 3, Paragraph 1)
So, who is Katherine? That was the first thing that threw me–don’t name drop like that in the first paragraph and not clarify right away! Because the name means nothing to me, the main character being upset with her carries no weight. For all I know, it could be the hobo who lives across the street. Can you see how the context of this entire paragraph changes with that possibility in mind?
Next, when Anastasia chants “I must not sleep with it wet,” over and over again to remind herself not to, well, sleep with her hair wet, I was annoyed, not amused. I mean, really, this is what she’s doing the very first time readers meet her? This is what is going to pull us into her life? This is what’s going to make me want to continue reading, to see what’s going on? This is going to make me care?
She then goes on to mention final exams, that she has blue eyes too big for her face (why are big eyes always considered ugly?), that she’s pale (of course she is–no one can just be a normal white-skinned person), and is a brown-haired girl (oh really, I thought she was a red-haired boy. I mean really, you had to clarify?).
For the beginning of a series that’s made millions of dollars, you’d think it would start on a more riveting foot, don’t you think? So far, I have been bombarded with useless information that does not suck me into the story, and I already realize the author writes like an amateur. I don’t say that to be mean, just that its something very obvious to me. Its like the difference between picking up a novel written by a nine year old and reading Tolkien–the difference, to me, is that glaring. And Ana? She has no self-confidence and obviously finds taming her hair a very big ‘ordeal’ that puts starving children in Africa to shame.
Carrying on, in the second paragraph, Ana mentions that Kate (her roommate!), is ill, thus she cannot attend an interview she had scheduled for that day with,
…some mega-industrialist tycoon I’ve never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for and one essay to finish, and I’m supposed to be working this afternoon, but no–today I have to drive 165 miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. ” (Pg 3, Paragraph 2)
This actually makes me a little upset. So, Ana has all this really important work to do for school, and she has to work, but she has to give all that up for an interview that…really isn’t all that important? So Kate doesn’t get to talk to this guy–its for an extracurricular activity, so is it really such a big loss? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, not like Ana’s schoolwork. Why doesn’t Kate have the decency to ask someone who actually has time to do this? Why her friend, who really can’t? Its selfish.
This is then followed by a quick exchange between Kate and Ana, where Kate begs Ana to go do this interview because it’s really important to her and she can’t reschedule (so sad…also, redundant). Ana then comments that she’s sympathetic to her friend because,
Even ill she looks gamine and gorgeous, strawberry blond hair in place and green eyes bright, although now runny and rimmed. I ignore my pang of unwelcome sympathy. (Pg 3-4, Paragraph 4)
The way this is written, its like Ana only agrees to do this for Kate because Kate is beautiful. Also, note how Kate is described as “gamine and gorgeous” whereas Ana described herself as hopefully semi-presentable. A red flag went up immediately. Pretty much, I can already tell Ana is going to complain throughout the book about how much better at everything in life her roommate is than her, because when a main character says she is ugly and her friend beautiful, you know that this kind of relationship is coming.
Also, I couldn’t help but note, especially after my earlier comments of Kate being selfish, that Ana is quite selfless.
“Of course I’ll go, Kate.” (Pg 4, Paragraph 5)
“You should go to back to bed. Would you like some NyQuil or Tylenol?” (Pg 4, Paragraph 5)
“Get back to bed. I made you some soup to heat up later.” (Pg 4, Paragraph 9)
Only for you, Kate, would I do this. (Pg 4, Paragraph 9)
This actually kind of surprised me, because usually in novels like this the main character has no personality whatsoever, and is a complete Mary Sue. Having feelings = somewhat human. That definitely counts for something.
So, along this train of thought, did Ana complain? Yeah. Was it justified? Yeah. Did she still care enough to agree and try to take care of her sick friend? Yeah! So Ana might not be perfect, but I’m only two pages into his book and already I’ve identified Kate as a horrible friend. Why would I like her?
My point is further proven here:
“I know nothing about him,” I murmur, trying and failing to suppress my rising panic.
“The questions will see you through. Go. Its a long drive, I don’t want you to be late.” (Pg 4, Paragraph 8)
Wait, so Ana is going out her way to bail out Kate’s sorry behind and she doesn’t even get a two second bio on the super-ultra-important guy she’s going to be interviewing? That’s just idiotic! What kind of journalist is Kate, sending Ana on this interview without even briefing her? Was it really too much to give your friend–who I must remind you is going out of her way to help you out when she really can’t afford to–a little bit of much deserved help? Obviously so, it seems.
Please stop to think about this. Kate has begged Ana to interview this guy for her because its really important to her. And then she doesn’t even tell Ana anything about him. This is supposed to be a smart move how…?
Gosh, this is such a set-up. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume this was done so Ana could look like a fool in front of a really hot, mysterious man, only to have that end up intirguing him…oh wait…
But then we get this gem.
“Good luck. And thanks, Ana–as usual, you’re my life saver.” (Pg 4, Paragraph 10)
Awww. Doesn’t that just make everything better?
FINAL VERDICT: 1 BAR.
I’m bored, frustrated, a touch angry, and deeply disappointed. This has failed to impress me on any level. Based strictly on the first ten paragraphs of this book, I would not continue. Even reading past the first paragraph was a little much.