Fifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James (Review)

Summary: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 her, 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 businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately 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.

Rating: 2.5/5

Review: OKAY, I have so much to say about this book, I’m a little overwhelmed by it. I am always extremely intrigued by any book that seems to capture a large audience out of nowhere. I was even more interested when I found out this was an erotic novel for women BY a woman that was attracting so much media attention. Given my personal interest set, I had nothing but positive hopes for Fifty Shades. I love open discussions about sex and I want nothing more than to support a book that is offering women an easy way to discuss their sexuality and preferences with not only their significant others, but their friends.

To begin with the positives, many of the sex scenes and some of the erotic conversation throughout the book did push my buttons, in a good way. I have a thing for overtly masculine, hyper-confident stern men in business attire - SO, I was certainly willing to be forgiving here. In particular, I enjoyed the idea of Mr. Grey wearing the tie he used on Anastasia to the graduation in front of everyone. Good imagery. Some of Mr. Grey’s dialogue was sexy in a sort of ridiculous, fantasy-porno kind of way, which I’m willing to take. I know a lot of people complained about the way the sex scenes were written, and while it certainly could have been better (no denying that), they weren’t the worst. Ideally, a porn company can hire Mrs. James and have her simply come up with some sexy scenarios and they’ll make a hot video out of it. That’s about all I want from her though. If I could have chosen a hot actor, picked some ideas out of her horny imagination, and had them film them I would have been more than satisfied. Unfortunately, a WHOLE LOTTA CRAZY comes with this shit.

I am generally a lot more forgiving of characterization, as well as the politics and health of the relationships involved in a story if it simply an erotic novel that is not intended to reflect any sort of social or personal commentary. If I were to pick up a sexy pirate romance novel, in which the Governor’s daughter is stolen and whisked away on some sex-crazed pirate ship in which she discovers her ~dark side~ and sucks a lot of dicks. SURE, that isn’t a realistic depiction of anything in real life, nor is it any sort of event I would support in reality, but if it is presented to me wrapped up as a ridiculous fantasy to which I’m supposed to get some sexy images and rub one out to, fine okay. I don’t mind that. I’m not wasting my time dissecting it - it was someone’s erotic idea that is being shared with others, and I have no issue with that as long as it is made quite clear that the entire plot is a sex fueled fantasy. Fifty Shades did not make it at all clear to me that this was the intention, and herein lies a lot of my issues (forgetting the godawful writing for a moment).

I felt as though much of what they were going for was intended to have that tone, and yet they wanted to create characters that were beyond one-dimensional sex objects. Creating multi-dimensional erotic characters and stories is certainly a noble task, but one that needs to be treated very delicately when dealing with a sensitive topic such as BDSM. By including much of their backstory, as well as the tenants of BDSM (or at least trying to) and writing up a contract in which they are able to create a safe word and hard/soft limits - you have just taken us AWAY from the world of unregulated sexual fantasy. While it would be terrific to see a novel that presents this world and these concepts in a healthy and realistic manner, while also including some hot sex scenes - Fifty Shades is NOT that book.

Anastasia is an awful character. It is beyond me WHY the decision would have been made to make her as sexually inexperienced as possible. Not only is it unrealistic to imply that she is a 21/22 year old virgin who hasn’t so much as been groped or had oral sex throughout college, we are also supposed to believe that she is NEVER attracted to anyone and has not masturbated her entire life. I mean… what? WHY? If I’m reading this book from the perspective of a female who wants to “imagine” herself at the hands of Mr. Grey - would I not want Anastasia to be fucking EXCITED and basically begging to get spanked? I don’t want my character to be hesitant about her pleasure, I want her to need it and love it. There’s still plenty of room for drama and emotional uncertainty to explore in making the jump from rough sex to permanent submissive to someone - there is really no need to create such a large gap.

Christian in some ways was interesting to me, and had his sexy moments - but a lot of his actions were way borderline creepy and inappropriate. His stalking was unforgivable and weird. I don’t think anyone in an actual BDSM relationship would condone any of that. The fact that he doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with being in a very impressionable position of authority and convincing some extremely inexperienced virgin to come and be his submissive is a little worrying to me. I think most experienced dominants could recognize the problematic aspects of that dynamic. If he’s as gorgeous and amazing at sex as we’re supposed to believe, I’m extremely confident there are hundreds of hot ladies who’d love to be dominated by him, so it seems really unrealistic and unnecessary that he’s so desperate for this girl.

When Anastasia tells him she is uncomfortable, he never accepts her answer - at one point even saying “If that is how you feel, do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them for me?” Yeah… that’s not normal or healthy regardless of what type of relationship you’re in. Ana’s constant whining that she isn’t allowed to “roll her eyes” but Christian is was bizarre and really communicated to me that she was not quite understanding the point of being a submissive and listening to what Christian says. If you are not sexually excited by that prospect alone and you feel the need to challenge this sort of thing -BITCH YOU DON’T WANT TO BE HERE SO YOU NEED TO LEAVE NOW. The entire ending in which she tells him she doesn’t enjoy being punished or spanked was really strange. And the fact that he AGREED to then hit her with the cane to “see” if she liked it was just … what what what. THAT ISN’T HOW CONSENSUAL BDSM WORKS AT ALL!!! If you want to attempt to present their relationship as such, don’t put completely fucked up shit in the book like that. And Ana being willing to be “hit” to use as an attempt to get more information out of Christian was really weird and unsexy as hell.

Aside from the incredibly problematic aspects outlined above (I could go on, but I won’t) some of the writing choices were just TOO bizarre. WHO THE FUCK IS THIS LADIES EDITOR? FIRE THEIR ASS JFC. How many times can the following be mentioned:

“he/she/it cocked their head”

oh my
“I’m doing [insert action] with Christian Grey!"

It was just too much. How could you feel comfortable repeating yourself that much?? And WHY is this bitch so technologically behind? She is a senior (English Major, no less) without a computer? AND, when she receives one - it is a Macbook Pro with 32g of RAM. That is just … I’m not sure if I can explain how ridiculous that is. Did the author just really want to hyperbolize how “RICH” Christian is or does she just not know how computers work? And why are these assholes always EMAILING OMFG. Can you not IM each other or something? Even when she gets a fucking Blackberry, instead of texting or BBMing they apparently still need to email. Was all of this just some clueless middle aged woman’s attempt at writing about technology - or just a really terribly executed way of characterizing Ana as an “old soul” or something. Either way it didn’t make sense. And why oh why did she refer to her computer as “the mean machine” EVERY. DAMN. TIME. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

C'mon Anastasia, get your shit together
And seriously someone needs to make her Inner Goddess and Subconscious go away. What an awful child-like writing device. And do we not understand what “subconscious” means? You can’t TALK to your subconscious and actively think about what it wants - that would mean it’s your regular consciousness.

And don’t get me started on his big reveal that culminated in the line “My mother was a crack-whore” as if that explains anything. wut.

Just Google James Deen. Shh.. we won't tell anyone. It'll help, I swear. You don't need Christian.

Final Thoughts: I don’t even know what to think. While I clearly hated or at least took issue with 95% of the story, some horrible trashy part of me enjoyed it on some level. I’ll probably end up reading the other two if only because I enjoy criticizing pop culture and I am really curious where this story ends up (and like I said, there are some gems in there in terms of sex).

The fact that I’m slightly invested may indicate some sort of talent, or perhaps it’s just a real character flaw on my part. The writing is bad, as is the depiction of BDSM so if you’re going in looking for either of those you will be disappointed. If you don’t care at all - maybe you’ll have some fun with it.

I’m primarily confused by everyone trying to claim that this book is at all “good” or “THE BEST”. I mean, guilty pleasure I’ll take - but it is by no means a good book. If you loved Fifty Shades simply because the concept was so original and shocking to you, I suggest you visit or watch a James Deen porn and investigate some other ways to satisfy these cravings. ;)


  1. Something that explains quite a bit plot/characterisation-wise: this book was originally a novel-length Twilight fanfiction! I found that quite illuminating, although I'm still not sure whether the writing is so awful because James was trying to emulate Meyer's style, or whether it's because anyone who enjoyed Twilight enough to write a fanfic was going to write like that by default (I'm an awful snob when it comes to Twilight).

    May I direct you to Highly enjoyable.

    1. I KNOW! I was doing some more research on the author and I thought it was just a joke because of how poorly it was written, but it turns out it's true haha. Some of her writing is clearly an attempt to copy Meyer, but I think it may have been even worse. Or perhaps Fifty Shades is much fresher in my memory than Twilight. And that tumblr is fantastic, I love it!