This book will teach me to read novels just because they're nominated on a 'best of' list.
Anastasia Steele (that's a mouthful) is a naïve college senior when she meets handsome richy-rich guy Christian Grey. Although he tells her to stay away from him, he keeps following her around. It's all cool, though, because she likes him! Then she discovers he has some Serious Issues that he likes to express via a BDSM lifestyle (it goes way beyond sex), and Anastasia spends the rest of the book hem-hawing over whether or not she wants to sign his insane contract that gives him the right to tell her what to eat, wear, and shave. Will these two crazy kids get together? More pertinently, DO I CARE?!?
I've heard this book described as being either love-it or hate-it, and I have to say I fall firmly into the latter category. At fist it seemed okay... ish. The writing was not great, and was a very awkward combination of first person viewpoint and simple present tense; but it was light and fun and mixed together secretary-billionaire category romance tropes with Twilight, both of which I love. That being said, even though I was entertained, I was a little bothered by the sense of geography--which can be described as shaky at best--and the fact that the American characters talked like extras from a Harry Potter movie. The author is British, and trust me, that and the fact that she has no ear for North American dialect is ABUNDANTLY obvious. Why didn't she just make her characters British? Damn if I know.
So I was already thinking this novel was a little cray-cray, and then the BDSM thing started.
I've read and liked novels with strong BDSM themes, but in those cases the sex felt integrated into the story and made sense for characters. The sex in this book is hot, no doubt, but in a porntastic way, and quite frankly I got bored with it pretty quickly. It has very little to do with the characters, especially Anastasia, who's not even a submissive and has no interest in BDSM at all--I think that's probably the most ridiculous part of this whole thing. I really wanted her to tell billionaire guy to fuck off, but knew she wouldn't because, one, it wouldn't be much of a book if she did; and two, she's a spineless idiot whose actions make no sense.
Plus, if you're thinking of trying this book because it's Twilight fan fiction, I strongly urge you not to do so. The details of the novel may be ripped out of Twilight--it's set in the Pacific Northwest, Anastasia has a flighty mother who's remarried and living in another state, her father is a monosyllabic sports fan, and she has two guys chasing after her (other than Christian): a boy-next-door-type who works with her in a hardware store owned by his family, and the 'ethnic' best friend, José, whose dad is her dad's friend--but those details have absolutely NOTHING to do with the plot, and the tone of this book is not in any way similar. In fact, judging by the amount of lip-biting that goes on, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that James has watched the movies more than she's read the books. Like many other elements of this novel, the Twilight aspect feels like a poorly hacked-on gimmick. It's not an homage to the Twilight series, that's for certain.
I don't know what I find more annoying/insulting about this book--the throw-away Hispanic character, the fact that it could be set in Rio de Janeiro and be the same story, the total lack of attempt on the part of the author to make her AMERICAN characters sound like actual Americans, that it made me want to projectile vomit on several occasions, that finishing it stole away FOUR DAYS of my life that I will never be able to get back, or that the author implies BDSM is good substitute for psychotherapy--but overall it was pretty annoying.
I do not recommend this novel. But if you want to read a book that contains little to no research, poor writing, no attempt at character development, a heroine who falls into every stupid Victorian trope that ever existed, and sex scenes that are little more than porn, then by all means have at it. I would like to thank the publisher for sending me a copy of the book to review, however! That was really nice of them.
Musical Notes: "Marry the Night," by Lady Gaga