E.L. James wrote "Fifty Shades of Grey" to be the grown-up version of Edward and Bella's romance from the Young Adult series, "Twilight." Remember Stefanie Meyer's books featuring Edward, the vampire, and his teenage bride, Bella, who gives birth to a half human/half vampire child? Well, that story is actually much more likely to happen in real life than the things that happen in "Fifty Shades of Grey." This "Erotic Romance Novel" features 27 year-old billionaire CEO, Christian Grey, and 22 year-old college student, Anastasia Steele, who is a virgin until he introduces her not only to sex but to his wonderful world of S&M.
Christian and Ana meet when she interviews him for her college newspaper. Almost immediately, they realize they can't keep their hands off each other, and although she says she'd be perfectly satisfied with what he calls "vanilla sex," he has some serious control issues wherein she can't touch him without his permission, and he wants them to become involved in a Dominant/Submissive relationship where she must sign a contract agreeing to all his demands. Throughout the entire book, she still isn't sure if she wants to sign this contract which contains clauses such as: "The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times," and "The Submissive will not drink to excess, smoke, take recreational drugs, or put herself in any unnecessary danger." It also allows him to dictate what she wears, eats, how often she goes to the gym, and that she must stay at his house every Friday through Sunday. So Ana is really confused about whether or not she wants to sign this contract. If it were me, the choice would be easy. I would have signed the contract, no problem, and then have shown up at his house drunk and with greasy hair the very next Friday.
From a writer's point of view, this book is sometimes painful to read. The characters are supposed to be from Seattle, Washington, yet the British author has not made any effort to try and make them speak any differently from the way she does. Less than four pages into the book, a character says: "Olivia, please fetch Miss Steele a glass of water;" the word "Lovely" is used FAR too many times; and the only word she thinks we use here in America is "Jeez," because she has Anastasia say it about 200 times. She also obviously based some of Anastasia's speech on Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz because every time Christian wants to introduce her to a new and possibly scary sex act, she says, "Oh, my," as in: "Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!" She also has the poor habit of constantly describing Christian's finger as his "long index finger" which immediately brings to mind the long, glowing finger of E.T., the Extraterrestrial. But by far, the worst of all is Anastasia's continually telling us readers: "I do as I'm told." By the seventh time, I felt like saying: Stop doing as you're told for this control freak, Anastasia, please! Just grow some, OK?
So why have these books become the phenomenon that they are? Because EL James has created a hot leading man with a sultry teasing voice who knows how to do "things," so to speak. That's why. The women who love these books are willing to ignore the lack of literary prowess for the imaginary world of Christian's sexual prowess. EL may not be able to write a literary novel, but she sure knows how to write a good sex scene.
I think most of the criticism of this book is because people aren't taking it for what it is: an entirely fictional, could-never-happen-in-this-lifetime, x-rated romance novel. If you start the book realizing you are not supposed to take it on its word but, rather, realize you are reading a fictitious story with fictitious characters and are NOT supposed to go out looking for a real Christian Grey, you will take the parts that you like for what they're worth and realize you are on an amusement park ride. This book is NOT a novel, you are not supposed to learn any of life's great truths from it, and it is not now, not EVER, supposed to be taken as a book that you should try and emulate any of your future or current romances on!
The problem I had with whether or not to read this book was all the S&M stuff. I've seen way too many episodes of the TV show "Medium" (which often has psychos tying up women and bounding their hands above their heads) to be comfortable with Christian doing that type of stuff to Ana, but then I realized something: Although EL James may not realize it, she has actually made a social statement because instead of continuing to have women fear these images and to look at them as something to get upset about, she has taken them back from the men who have always controlled them and has claimed them as her own. Similar to how African-Americans have taken back the "N" word, and how Mel Brooks claims "The Producers" was written because he wanted Hitler to be funny as opposed to scary in order to take back his power. Again, I don't know if EL James knew she was doing this, but the women who read these books will now have a completely different way of looking at these images and can claim them as their own.
Overall, I liked "Fifty Shades of Grey." There is an actual plot to it, although it is mostly a book to get turned on to. For at least three quarters of the bookThis book is about two nymphomaniacs who have sex way more often than a person without the nymphomania disorder ever would. Not only do most people not want to have sex that often, they also don't want to read about it that often either. "The man is insatiable, or maybe all men are like him. I have no idea, no one to compare him to," Anastasia says. No, Anastasia, all men are not like Christian, and that's exactly the way we'd like to keep them!
An afterthought: There are movies being planned for the "Fifty Shades" series as we speak, and my pick for the actor to play Christian would be Christian Bale, but 10 years ago. It's not going happen, he is no longer 27. But again, similar to the way I've enjoyed the majority of this book, I'm willing to embrace the unreality of the situation!