You know that we like to make fun of Twilight around here. It’s one of our favorite pastimes, actually, which should tell you something about the kind of wild lives we lead. So when the whole Fifty Shades phenomenon started, you can imagine the eye rolling, the groaning, the number of times we threw “OMG, you do know that book is Twilight fanfic, right? RIGHT?” at unsuspecting readers who just wanted to talk about how hot Christian Grey is. (BTW, if you choose to take this approach yourself, be prepared to explain what fanfic is and then get called a nerd.)
Finally, we all decided that we should probably read the thing before we could totally commit ourselves to mocking it. So we got a copy of it (don’t ask). And then NOT ONE of these other people on this blog even opened it up except me. I suffered alone, and complained about it a lot. Because Oh. My. God. I’m going to go ahead and tell you that if you’ve never read Fifty Shade of Grey and would like to make fun of it, you go right ahead. I give you permission. In fact, I only made it through about 100 pages of it* and I STILL give you permission. All of you.
Except, of course, these fools here at RR. They are never allowed to complain about anything ever again.
So here, for your amusement and so that you can talk to your friends who are obsessed with this book, is a chapter by chapter breakdown of… well, of the chapters I got through before I started skimming and then deleted the damn thing off my Kindle before it infested my Hunger Games ebooks with terrible smut and even more terrible writing. I’m not going to go into too much of the plot because I think we’ve all been inundated with the plot of these books enough over the past year, but more my general thoughts as I worked my way through this masterpiece of modern literature. If you want the plot, let me allow Pam and Clark from The Office sum it up for you.
Let’s do this, people.
Chapter 1 – In which we meet Anastasia Steele and other people with equally stupid names.
Good gosh, this girl is insipid. It’s the first chapter and I already hate everyone here.
Chapter 2 – In which there’s some adoring gazing and some completely off the charts jealousy for people who just met, not unlike another book series that has NOTHING to do with this one.
The end of this chapter is the point where I was walking around my office shaking my Kindle and asking random people why I was reading this book when it is so poorly written. My coworkers decided I had an unusual amount of anger toward a book.
Chapter 3 – In which Ana is almost taken out by a bike. Sadly, almost is the key word there.
There’s a lot of talk in this chapter about tea and coffee and the fact that Ana doesn’t like coffee but Christian Grey asked her to go get coffee and maybe she’ll just have tea and it’ll be fine but what it if isn’t and she’s actually supposed to drink coffee on a coffee date and OMG. Then there’s a photo shoot. Guess who looks hot. Can you guess? Can you??
Also, Ana is almost run over by a guy on a bike and everyone acts like she was nearly taken out by a city bus. So far, that’s been my favorite part of the story.
Chapter 4 – In which Ana gets her drink on and Christian does not treat her like a child, except one of those is totally not true.
It took me four chapters for the lightbulb to go off in my head that E.L. James is English, and that is why everyone keeps saying “quite” and “a bit.” I nearly spit my drink out at the unintentional hilarity when Christian said, “I’m glad I was here. I shudder to think what could have happened to you.” I then spent the rest of the day repeating it to anyone within earshot. “I’m glad I was here. I shudder to think what could have happened to that unanswered email.” “I’m glad I was here. I shudder to think what could have happened to that poor uneaten cupcake.” It’s really a gem of a line that applies to a multitude of situations. Try it out yourself! Also, there are like fifteen costume changes in this one chapter and we have to go through every. Single. One. NO ONE CARES WHAT EVERYONE IS WEARING.
This is, by the way, the chapter where Ana goes out for drinks with her friends and then one of them, out of the blue, kinda starts to assault in the parking lot before Christian swoops in and saves the day. Of course.
Chapter 5 – In which Christian calls himself a Dark Knight. I can’t even.
Blah blah blah, Ana is hungover. Blah blah blah, Christian smells good and also lectures her about drinking like she’s his 14 year old daughter, only way more creepy, because of the violently throwing up/passing out after a few margaritas and also because of the aforementioned sorta assault. Ana, you should probably do an overhaul of all the people in your life because they are ALL TERRIBLE.
There’s a lot of stupid things like, “OMG, he remembers how I like my tea!” (Hint: It’s just some English Breakfast with the bag out. It’s actually just the way tea is usually served if it’s in a bag, but what do I know? It obviously means true love 4eva.)
We also get the first mention of the written consent form, though he does make out with her some without written consent because he just can’t help himself. (Ana, btw, has about the same allure as Bella, and Christian is even less interesting than Edward, so… match made in heaven.) Oh, and Christian has a thing about not leaving food on your plate. Like… issues. I’m sure that won’t come up later.
Chapter 6 – In which we finally get to the damn point of the “novel.”
They fly to Seattle to go on a date. The point of this chapter seems to be to let everyone know that Christian a) owns his own helicopter and b) flies his own helicopter. Oh, until we get to the end and then he pulls out the contract and shows her the sex room. ‘Cause nothing says first date like a kinky dungeon and paperwork.
Chapter 7 – In which I almost throw the book across the room because OMG THE CONTRACT.
You guys, I don’t get it. I really don’t. (BTW, I just had this conversation out loud with my coworker, so it’s fresh in my mind.) Let’s suspend our disbelief for a minute and pretend that it is perfectly feasible that someone who is about to graduate from college has never found anyone attractive. I’m not talking about experience. I’m not talking about being a virgin. SHE HAS NEVER FOUND ANYONE ATTRACTIVE. How is this possible? What is happening? Is this a world where Ryan Gosling doesn’t exist?? So okay, we’re going to put that aside and pretend that it’s true. How to do you go from THAT to ‘oh, sex chamber, sure, that seems feasible?’ IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. (And please don’t even come at me with her seeming unsure about the whole thing because unless I missed the part where she is backed out the door with a fake smile plastered on her face while secretly dialing 911 on her cell phone, I don’t buy it.)
And then the contract, OMG THE CONTRACT. Is this seriously what the women of the world find attractive? Am I missing something? Is there something wrong with me that I think this guy is a giant, controlling toolbag? I don’t get it. I haven’t even seen the WHOLE contract yet. I’m not sure I can take the whole contract without blowing a gasket. And I still hate everyone in this book.
Chapter 8 – In which finally, sexy-business. (And that’s what I’ll be calling in hence forth as it is always tied to a damn contract, like all the great love stories of our time.)
Oh, I forgot to mention in the last chapter (what with all the ranting) that Christian’s finds out that Ana’s a virgin and is not terribly happy about it. So he gets that taken care of in this chapter. And it’s… exactly what one would expect, based on the rest of the novel – poorly written and sort of awkward. And also completely insane because HAVE WE FORGOTTEN THE BDSM ROOM? But, you know, he’s hot. I wish there was more of an explanation for why she didn’t high-tail it out of there, but there’s really not.
Also, she wakes up at one point to find him sadly playing the piano all by his sad, mysterious, lonely self – a plot device that worked WAY better in Pretty Woman. Just sayin’.
Chapter 9 – In which Bossy McBosserpants bosses Ana around. And it just makes her love him more. Of course.
More telling her to eat everything on her plate like she’s five. Oh, and she can’t tell anyone anything about their relationship. I mean look, I get that if you’ve signed up to be a submissive, there’s a certain amount of being bossed around that comes with the deal. But… she hasn’t even agreed to anything yet! Ugh. He’s just a giant ass, as far as I’m concerned. Then more sexy-business STILL SANS CONTRACT. Which is apparently a first for Mr. Grey. I’d like to make this summary more interesting, but good gosh this is tedious. It’s all talky talky about absolutely nothing. Though Christian’s dialogue is so
stilted mysterious that his voice sounds like a robot voice in my head, kinda like when Kathy Griffin talks about Steve Wozniak. So there’s that, I guess.
This may be the chapter where she starts talking about her inner goddess, but women talking about their inner goddess tends makes me gag a little, so I tried to block those parts out of my mind. There is only one right way to talk about your inner goddess, and Friends already covered it.
Chapter 10 – In which I hate Christian Grey soooo much that… flames… flames, on the side of my face!
ACTUAL TEXT HERE, PEOPLE.
Context – Our young hero and heroine are walking out of his building discussing what Ana can and cannot tell her best friend about their sex life.
“The sooner I have your submission the better, and we can stop all this,” he murmurs.
“Stop all what?”
“You, defying me.” He reaches down and cups my chin and plants a swift, sweet kiss on my lips as the doors to the elevator open.
This. This right here. TTTTHHHIIISSSS. This is the reason that this book fills me with white hot rage and makes me want to throw things. All Christian Grey wants is for her to sign his damn contract so that he doesn’t actually have to deal with her. He’s a guy who made a lot of money at an early age and therefore has a lot of people doing exactly what he wants them to do, and he wants the same thing in a relationship. He wants to bark orders, have someone do his bidding, then go about his merry way, and he doesn’t want to have pesky things like other opinions, personalities, lives, etc. mucking up his nice little entitled life. He can blame his screwed up childhood all he wants. He can say that this is the only way he can connect with someone, but it’s all bullshit. He doesn’t want to connect with anyone. He wants a freaking sex toy with a pulse that he can control and shut up whenever he feels like it. And the fact that she not only stays with him but finds this “mysterious” side of him so attractive is absolutely mindblowing to me. The fact that women around the world are swooning over this guy is insanity! He is not mysterious! He is not attractive! He is not a poor, shattered man in need of the love of a good woman to redeem him! He’s a narcissistic, emotionally and physically abusive, power-hungry asshole, and the fact that this book is selling women on the idea that they can somehow change a man like this makes me see red!
I don’t even know what happened in the rest of the chapter. They ate or something. I don’t care. I hate them all.
Chapter 11 – In which I gave up.
Because you guys, it’s a contract. It’s pages and pages of A CONTRACT. And it’s about these people and their f-ed up relationship and I just can’t anymore.
I did manage to skim the rest of the book, enough to pick up on the general layout. From here on, the chapters seem to follow a pretty strict rhythm of long email chain (a plot device I’m not crazy about even in well written books), random exposition, sexy business. Lather, rinse, repeat, until we get to the inevitable point at which she asks him to push her boundaries, he does, and she bolts because she may in fact have realized how crazy town he is. Since there are two more books, I suspect that she’ll soon take another look at his abs and all will be forgiven, but it was a bit of a relief to see her walk away (well, er, limp away as the case may be) at the end of the book. Other than that, there was really nothing in my twenty minutes of skimming that made me remotely interested in reading the rest of the book.
I’ve read in several places that this still reads like the fanfic it started as, and I would agree to that, with the caveat that it reads like bad fanfic. I’ve read some really really good fanfic in my day, and this ain’t it. I don’t know how it was originally released, though I would imagine that it came out a chapter at a time. If so, that would probably make it slightly less redundant than reading it all in one sitting, as the mind tends to gloss over these sorts of things if there’s a couple of months between each chapter. But still.
It’s just bad, guys. I’m sorry. I know there are people out there who love these books, but I just don’t get it. It’s bad writing, it’s a bad message, and I can only imagine how much worse it gets as the story continues for OMG TWO MORE BOOKS OF THIS NONSENSE. Happily, imagining is all I will be doing, as I have no intention of ever picking up one of these books again.
*Resisting the urge to say I only made it through about 16.25 Shades of Grey. Except not really, since I’m typing it right down here like I’m David Foster Wallace or something. Oh math humor.