Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Word of Mouth - Fifty Shades of Grey

Yep, this is the book the whole world seems to be tittering about. I too was caught up in all the hoopla and picked up a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. Let`s chat about it, shall we?
First off, I just want to preface my thoughts about this book by saying that what follows is in no way a slam against fan fiction. I love good fan fiction! Heck, I still write fan fiction even though I have a book of my own on the market. For those who didn`t know, this novel was originally a Twilight fan fiction that the author then reworked for reasons we all can figure out. What she failed to do, though, was to make the leading lady into an original character in terms of personality. Anastasia Steele is, for all intents and purposes, Bella Swan, but we`ll get into that in a bit.

Since I very rarely review books that I don`t like, this is new for me. I`ve decided to try to lay out what I didn`t like about the book and what I did like logically, perhaps discovering why, for me, this book was such a disappointment. To be honest, at first I thought I was having so much trouble finishing it because I had read such a phenomenal book beforehand. Anything would pale compared to ‘A Game of Thrones’, right?

That, it turned out, was not the case. The reason I had such trouble is because this is a poorly written book. Even the author has said so. Why is it selling a copy a minute according to a recent estimation? We`ll touch upon why I think it`s so popular down in the Sex/Romance section. Let`s get into some basics of what I assume a good book is made of, shall we?

One-Plot

50 Shades does not have one. Not really. Unless you call the ‘Will She or Won`t She’ question a plot. If it is, then we already know she will or the book will be darned short. So, we already are working on a deficit since a plotline is none existant BUT you don`t know this until you`re more than halfway through the novel. I kept looking for a plot, and waiting for a plot, but none ever surfaced. So, we have a zero for the plot.

Two-Sub-Plots

Every good book has at least one. 50 Shades does not. Since it has no plot how can it have a sub-plot? Another zero on what I think is a pretty basic rule of writing.

Three-Likeable Characters

For me, your protagonist should be someone the reader can easily identify with, embrace, cheer for and learn to love. I disliked Bella Swan greatly. Since Anastasia Steele displays every maddening character trait Bella Swan did, I found it impossible to warm to her. She is gratingly irritating. I ended up being so exasperated by this girl I wanted to throttle her.

Christian Grey, as our leading man, I found to be a controlling stalker. All his money and good looks and rumpled copper hair aside this man is about as warm as a viper in the winter. I know, I know. ‘But he`s troubled and had a bad childhood and was abused as a young man’ the lovers of the book are saying. Yes, he did, and that is sad and tragic but so did another Dom in another series and that male I fell in love with. (Yes I`m talking about you Vishous.*Winks saucily*)

The day a man thinks he can tell me what I am going to eat, or asks me about where I am in my menstrual cycle in order to dominate me is the day that man hits the road and takes his toys with him. For me, neither lead character was appealing so another zero has to be given.

Four-Basic Writing Skills/Mechanics

As I forced myself to read through this book I kept asking myself, and my husband and daughter, this question. ‘Has this woman no access to a writers group, beta readers or an editor?!’ I do not claim to be a grammar Nazi, and Lord knows my own book probably has many a flaw in it, but this novel is SO poorly written and SO crammed with frustrating mistakes in basic mechanics even I, the woman whose editor vowed to remove my apostrophe key from my laptop, could barely get past them.

Echoing (Using the same word or phrase repeatedly in a sentence, paragraph or page) is so prevalent in this book I nearly lost my mind. The term inner goddess is now emblazoned upon my brain, and not in a good way, either. This is just boggling to me. This is what we go over in writers groups. This is what we circle as mistakes so that our friends and fellow writers can change their manuscripts. It`s Writing 101 as far as I can see.

Lack of detail is glaring. There are pages and pages of nothing but dialog. Has the world stopped moving around them? And speaking of pages crammed with boredom, we have ten pages of a Dom/Submissive contract to read. Don`t we all just LOVE reading contracts in real life? Yeah, me either. I`m also not a huge fan of first person present, but that`s just a slight displeasure and if this were a better book, I would not have minded that at all. I could go on and on but I think you get the gist. Zero stars for mechanics.

Five- Romance/Sex

Now we`re getting into the meat and potato’s of things! This is why everyone is whispering about 50 Shades behind their hands. It does include BDSM. But in all honesty, the BDSM isn`t all that racy, at least I didn`t think it was. J. R. Ward writes MUCH better sensual scenes. I would put Vishous and Jane in that bathroom scene from ‘Lover Unbound’ up against any naughty encounter in this book and it would blow it away. The sex scenes are mediocre at best. There are way hotter books out there, and even those who live and practice BDSM have been quoted as saying this is not at all how their world really works. So, if you`re buying the novel to get a naughty peek into the realm of whips, chains and riding crops you might be led astray.

The romance is passable. What we have is the older man trying to lure the younger woman into his dark world while all the while telling her how bad he is for her. It`s pretty routine, and very Edward and Bella. There are moments when you feel the two connecting, but the overall feeling of creeper just kills that soft bud of love about to blossom in my humble. When Anastasia asks for time alone with her mother to think about signing that ten page contract, who shows up not three days later but Christian? Do I find that endearing? No, I find that obsessive and unsettling. Maybe a half star for a couple tender moments.

Six-Believability

I understand that this is fiction and that we have to sometimes suspend disbelief. When you`re hopping around in a world filled with vampires, werewolves, ghosts, ghouls, and Greek gods in your goat barn, you can`t cling to reality real tightly. I`m all for fantasy and fiction….there`s a but coming here, you know it, right? Good call. BUT the characters have to act in a believable manner to make the shift from reality to fantasy/fiction seem flawless and sincere.

I can believe that a woman graduating collage has never had sex with a man. It`s a rare thing in this day and age but okay, I`m onboard. That she has never masturbated? I have a hard time swallowing that one. That she would sign on to become this man`s sexual submissive her first time out the sexual gate I do not buy. Sorry. Nope. No way. Maybe I`m just an old goatherder but this virginal girl (and I use the term girl because when you read her inner thoughts you think a thirteen year old is telling the tale) leaping into this dark lifestyle just does not compute for me. What the Sam Hill did her mother teach her in her formative teen years?

And let’s not forget Mr. Grey. Why would a Dom with fifteen (I think that`s the number. Someone correct me if I`m wrong) submissives in his past take a virgin to his side? Would he even want that in his life or in his Red Room of Pain? Seriously, would he? I ask because what I know about the BDSM lifestyle would fill a thimble, but, this seems way out of the ballpark to me.

Sure, I can see the attraction being there….maybe….. if he can get past her falling on her face and using the terms ‘Oh Dear’ and ‘Oh My’ and ‘Jeez’ and referring to her vagina as ‘Down There’ or uttering the famous ‘Argh’ when he takes her virginity. Excuse me for a moment, won`t you? *Head falls to desk numerous times* I`m better now. Another zero, sorry fans!

Seven-Character Development

Here is where the book grabs one star in my review. We do see some growth from Christian Grey. At the end the man is willing to forgo some of his staunch rules, such as no sleeping in his bed or dictating every morsel of food that his new squeeze eats. He is finally seeing that he cares for the girl (Again girl not young woman. See above for explanation of terminology) he has brought into this disturbing, dysfunctional world of his.

Anastasia is still needy, immature, self-conscious, confused, unable to stand up for herself and generally mealy-mouthed unless she`s talking to the man via email, but at least Christian shows some development. One star for Christian and his progression!

This spark of evolution and warmth is the only thing that got me through the last one hundred pages. Is it enough to make me go buy the other two books in the series? Absolutely not. I just did not get invested enough in either of them to care what happens next. I think I know what happens. I read the Twilight books and can guess. Bella….I mean Anastasia, finds her true love with this control-freak of a man or some variant of that.

As a Para/Rom and Rom/Com reader and writer I applaud that HEA that may come for these two very sad individuals. I just am not willing to plunk down over thirty bucks for two more books of such low caliber.

For those who adore these novels I am happy for you. There is nothing like finding a series of books that move you. I wish you fans continued joy with Christian and Anastasia, I just won`t be along for the ride.

3 comments:

small farm girl said...

Reading it now. I think I see what your saying. Lol

V.L. Locey said...

It was not my favorite book, SFG.

HilyBee said...

After hearing about the lack of character development and plots from several people AND the sexual intensity in this novel, I will not be joining the crowd reading this. I work in a Books-A-Million store and we can't keep this series on the shelf!