Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

24 March, 2012 Reviews 30 comments

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. JamesFifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Series: Fifty Shades #1
Published by Vintage on April 3rd 2012
Pages: 514
Genres: Adult, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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.

This book is intended for mature audiences.

I’m not sure what possessed me to pick up Fifty Shades of Grey. I thought I might genuinely like it before I started, but all I was left with was one hell of a mindfuck. Whatever it was that brought on this knee jerk purchase seems to have mercifully left me with enough common sense to say I will not be continuing on with this series.

Recently I discovered one of my favorite publishers, Random House, has picked up Fifty Shades of Grey and made this statement:

“An orig­i­nal work, and said to us that James had war­ranted the books were, indeed orig­i­nal. Mes­sitte added she was “aware of the nar­ra­tive that [50 SHADES] started as dif­fer­ently titled piece of fic­tion, but that they were and are two dis­tinctly sep­a­rate pieces of work.”

I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to call bull shit on that. Fifty Shades of Grey and Master of the Universe (the original fan fic) are essentially the same thing. The biggest difference being Edward and Bella’s name being replaced with Christian and Anastasia respectively. And I would know this because I have both and while I was reading, I would occasionally switch back and forth between the two without difficulty. I’d go through and give you examples myself, but other people have done it already here and here. So if you must read this book, do yourself a solid and find the fan fic online. You even get the second book too!

I know some people claim this has no similarities to Twilight and got dammit, I’m allergic to all the bull shit. Do I really need to point this all out? Because it looks pretty obvious to me. The mannerisms of the characters are exactly the same. They even say similar things the original characters say. The whole “dazzle” line and Edward asking Bella to trust him. Her mother being remarried with the same inability to maneuver her way around a kitchen. Bella is still trying to save Edward from himself due to his troubled past. Edward still stalks and controls Bella, only now he gets to hit her when she gets out of line.

*facepalm* Shall I beat them both? Yes?

I struggled to come up with a proper review for this book and couldn’t figure out why I was feeling rather uninspired to write one. And then I figured it out. I was left so disgusted by this book that I wanted to purge the memory of its existence from my mind. With a rusty nail. Every time I thought of the book my brain cells would go on strike, yelling obscenities at me.  Anyway, I thought Bella and Edward’s relationship couldn’t get anymore fucked up than Twilight. I stand corrected. If I were to describe FSoG in one sentence it would be this: Fifty Shades of Grey is like Twilight on steroids, high on ecstasy, in a dirty little corner. A very dirty corner. With badly written sex. Lots.


Fifty Shades of Grey tells the story of the beautiful (but of course she doesn’t know it), naive virgin, Anastasia Steal after she is suckered into interviewing the Greek god, Christian Grey. Of course, sparks fly and for some unknown reason he can’t seem to stay away from this incredibly, unremarkable girl.  Ana discovers Christian is into BDSM and desires her as his submissive fuck buddy.

There are a myriad of problems with this novel, many of which ironically can be found in Twilight. Never saw that one coming! Christian/Edward is still a controlling bastard, only now he hides behind his BDSM practices to camouflage his abusive tendencies. However, Ana doesn’t see it that way. She thinks of him as a broken person and it’s her duty to fix him. Even when he says things like this:

“I want to hurt you. But not beyond anything you couldn’t take.”

Can you believe she let’s him beat her after that? And please don’t even bother to tell me that it’s just BDSM. No, just fucking no. Ana is genuinely afraid of Christian and is never entirely comfortable with the “punishment” aspect of their relationship. But Christian just manipulates her with sex to continue the relationship. And that’s what really gets me. I just have a hard time believing a virgin would somehow become a sex goddess overnight, because that is exactly what happens. When she first is introduced to his kinky lifestyle and tells him she is a virgin he immediately tells her he needs to handle that “situation” before they could continue. What?! Since when is your virginity a “situation?” But, that’s not really the kicker. Oh, no, because that is when we are introduced to Ana’s two best friends. Everyone say hi to:

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos


Anna’s inner goddess, who always cheers her on when Christian wants sex or wants to punish her. She’s also quite annoying, doing back flips at the mention of anything sexual related. Simmer down. Where did she come from exactly? Ana is in her twenties and has never felt the urge to have sex with anyone until Christian comes along with his whips and chains?!

And… Ana’s sub-conscious, who hides behind couches when it comes time for her beating. When it comes to Ana having sex with Christian, well, her sub-conscious only has one thing to say,

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

So after the “situation” is handled, Ana has to sign a “contract” agreeing to his sexual demands and also outlining things she won’t do. It was pretty pointless considering he still got what he wanted and she never signed the damn thing. He exploits her, stalks her and abuses her! She cries after sex. She is afraid of him being angry! Even when he is angry at something else, she thinks it’s her. Her reasoning for allowing him to hit her as his therapy is because she’s afraid to lose him. That is not a reason for agreeing to a BDSM lifestyle! In fact, that’s not even really “consent!” These quotes just scream domestic abuse to me:

“Please don’t be angry with me,” I whisper.

“Please don’t me,” I whisper, pleading.
His brow furrows, his eyes widening. He blinks twice.
“I don’t want you to spank me. Not here. Not now. Please don’t.”

Yeah, he’s a real catch, that one. Barf. No, excuse me. That’s not right. The barfing came when the little ass-wipe PULLED HER TAMPON OUT AND RAMMED HIMSELF INSIDE OF HER. OMFG. Yes, the caps were totally necessary because that was the most disgusting thing I have ever had the misfortune of reading. That is not sexy, that’s foul.

Whenever Ana thinks about leaving him, he comes over to her apartment unannounced pounds into her (literally) and her inner goddess does a fucking happy dance, forgetting her urge to kick his sick ass to the curb. They fight, they breakup. They kiss, they sex up.


Christian: “Do you still want me gone Ana?”

Inner goddess: *growl*

Sub-conscious: …

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Dance, puppet. Dance.

The writing is a shitty mess too. I mean, if I had to sit and read Ana saying “Holy, shit!” or “Holy, Fuck!” or “Oh, my!” one more time, I was going to lose it. I wanted to take my red pen and have at this “book” so badly. It was the little things like Ana’s roommate saying over and over, “You never cry Ana,” and what do we find Ana always doing? Crying. I’m not sure where the hell the plot was. *smacks forehead* How silly of me! Didn’t I mention this was a Twilight retelling? Why was I expecting a plot? And another example of poor writing: for these characters to be American, they sounded very British to me. They used phrases that Americans don’t use.

And now I’m trying to figure out why this book is so popular. Why do so many women love this book? I get the appeal of the bondage even though it’s not my usual cup of tea. Whips? Chains? Sounds exciting!


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Abuse? Not so much.

FML! Zero stars!

Eh, I’m off to read a good book now and possibly to bleach my brain.

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

30 Responses to “Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James”

  1. cyna

    Awesome review. Honestly, the whole fsnfi thing kid of bugged, because it seems sort of fishy, integrity-wise. I mean, if the characterization is pretty much the same, it seems a bit like cheating. Also, bdsm is like the last fucking thinga book with Twilight’s relationship dynamics needs. Yay, now Edward has an excuse to physically accost her now. SO HOT,
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  2. Lynn K

    LOL! I was staring at the rating and wondering if the page wasn’t loading properly because the stars remained a shade of grey (herp herp lame pun). I’ve heard/read about the whole MOTU=FSOG but I’ve never read the ‘original’ fanfic so I gave Fifty a try. Stopped around 5% because its just not my thing. :V
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  3. Keru Faye

    Sounds squicky and also, reworked Twilight fanfic? Definitely avoiding this one.

  4. Heidi

    Another brilliant review, Stephanie. I was curious about this book, just because everyone was raving about it, but I don’t like erotica. After reading your review, I am wondering what the hell people are enjoying about this series. I mean really?? S&M and the thing with the tampon oh gross! I am certainly glad I didn’t get pressured into this one! UGH!
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  5. Lexie B.

    I . . . just . . . I just don’t get it. I don’t get it. I don’t get how an erotic Twilight fanfic, showcasing a relationship even more abusive (to think that could even happen!) than Bella and Edward’s, becomes such a huge hit. Erotica is one thing; I get why people could enjoy that. Even BDSM erotica. But a book that contains nothing but a frighteningly unstable but glorified relationship, poor writing, and zero plot should have absolutely no appeal. I do not get it. Not the slightest bit.
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  6. elena

    I’ve been waiting for this review ever since your updates on GR! I only got to the bit where they had sex for the first time and couldn’t stand it anymore. It constantly amazes me how wildly popular this book is and how people don’t think it’s wrong that it came from a Twilight fanfic. You’re so right, the similarities are painfully obvious.

    ALSO YES to the British thing! My blogger partner said this about it, “Also American’s don’t “queue” anywhere WE STAND IN LINE MOTHERFUCKERS #rockflageagle” and “This author just threw in a “bloody” THIS BITCH AINT EVEN TRYING ANYMORE!!! No one from Seattle says BLOODY, COME ONNNNN” which I think sums it up.

    Even though this book is the absolute worst, I really enjoyed reading your review on it!
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  7. Ewa S-R

    Now I’m curious about this, mainly from a bookseller perspective – I’d love to know more about the readers who enjoy it, why, and how many of them just mentally treat it as an Edward/Bella fanfic made good, or whatever. There’s got to be a reason for its popularity. We’ve also had people coming in and asking for it by name and then adding “You know, the Twilight book” which is exactly how I’ve been thinking of it.
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    • Stephanie Sinclair

      I really think its popular mostly because of Twilight’s name being attached to it. If you read some of the glowing reviews, they are mostly from people who have never read erotica let alone BDSM. So from that standpoint, this book may be an amazing erotic read because they have nothing to compare it to. Just look at Twilight’s success. For many, including myself, it was their introduction into the YA paranormal genre. But read a few more books, noticeably better I might add, and you look back at Twilight and wonder WTF was wrong with you. Then, of course, you have the *actual* Twilight fans that are hungry to stay in that universe. It’s not difficult to see which character is who regardless of the name changes. Ana/Bella STILL reads like a 17 year old in FSoG and that added another layer of disgust for me because Christian/Edward reads like pedo-bear.

      This is why I take such a big issue with Random House calling this original. It is clearly marketed to Twilight fans because it’s a Twilight fan fiction and it will sell for that reason alone regardless of the content. They know exactly what they’re doing. Who are they fooling? Not me, that’s for sure.

  8. AJ

    Every time I hear about this book it just makes me ill.

    Now, I’m thoroughly appalled it’s going to be a movie –

    Why is it easier to be revolted when hack books are turned into movies than it is to be over the hack writing that makes up most screenplays? I guess it feels like rewarding bad writing instead of just accepting bad writing in its given medium.
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  9. Jami Gold

    Funny review! Yes, I don’t think I could read this without massive quantities of alcohol unless I approached it like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie. 🙂

    I’ve seen the first chapter because I went through that comparison file between FSoG and MotU, and the writing quality made me want to claw my eyes out. And then I saw the excerpts Jezebel had posted. One sentence from the excerpt had me laughing out loud: “Pulling off his boxer briefs, his erection springs free.” Hello, dangling (*ahem*) modifier! Did his erection have little hands to pull off those boxers? *snicker*

    Anyway, I had no plans to read FSoG anyway, just because of the ethics of the situation. I wrote a whole blog post about that issue. 🙂

  10. Christy@Handmade Jewelry

    I’m certainly not into BDSM tales, nonetheless need to say that I really loved this one. This was those types of books that keeps you glued to the pages; staying up reading into the morning hours. I found it to be really addicting which is really disturbing personally.

    How surprised I was to find out it was the closest thing to female erotica that I have read. But my interest in psychology kept me reading. After just thinking, this guy is “F’d UP!” I began to think of the possibilities of how he got that way. That made me keep reading on.

  11. Ellen M @ The Canon

    THANK YOU! So many of my friends/co-workers think this is a fabulous book. I put it down when the tampon scene ensued (it still icks me out). I didn’t know about the “close” relationship to other fan fiction…that really caught my eye. Thanks for the fascinating review & I agree with every word you said here.
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