Fifty Shades of Grey is a lot like Twilight, in that it’s the story of an archetypal insecure, socially-awkward but obviously attractive young woman who pursues an abusive relationship with a dangerously controlling but über-handsome young man. This, of course, isn’t surprising as Fifty Shades of Grey started out as a Twilight fanfic named Masters of the Universe.
The story starts out with Anastasia—not Bella Swan—Steel who, in some bizarre reality, helps a flu-ridden friend out by attending their really important interview that they couldn’t, for some unknown reason, reschedule for a more convenient time. It’s at this interview that she meets super-rich and oh my gosh so handsome Christian—not Edward Cullen—Grey. Several chapters later and after a date with Mr Grey, our wonderfully naive protagonist enters into a sort-of BDSM relationship with Christian. Seemingly overnight she goes from a 21-year-old virgin who has never even masturbated (weakly explained by mentioning she is a Christian) to a sex goddess. The story then focuses on Anastasia trying to change a broken man—and by broken, I mean a sociopathic, abusive, megalomaniac that refers to someone being a virgin as an ‘issue.’
Aside from it being padded out with more purple prose than a Shakespeare poem on steroids, the first thing you notice is the amount tropes the author has used. Anastasia is introduced to her audience in the very first chapter as a stereotypical ‘drama queen’ and a template ‘clutz,’ whom, within the first three or four pages has already encountered the ‘all blondes are evil’ trope and established the very beginning of a typical ‘inter-class romance.’ It is a quick and easy read, to be sure, but the author relies far too heavily on repetition and lots and lots of unrealistic dialogue such as ‘holy cow’ and ‘holy Moses.’ In fact there is so much repetition that it would probably make an excellent drinking game. There is also a frequent reference to something called an ‘inner goddess’ and how her subconscious speaks to her repeatedly—of course your subconscious, by very definition, cannot speak to you, hence the ‘sub’ in conscious.
It’s not that the writing is necessarily so awful it makes your eyes bleed. It’s that it doesn’t feel like it has been approved by a non-blind, completely sober and/or qualified editor. Forget inner goddess, your inner red pen will be screaming inside your head from the moment you open the first page, breathe in that lovely, lovely new book scent, and read the line ‘I scowl at myself with frustration in the mirror.’
Whips, chains, sex—it is easy to see why 50 Shades of Grey is so incredibly popular at the moment; it managed to shine a light on an otherwise taboo yet kinky world. Naturally anything taboo, or viral, or made into a blockbuster movie warrants a curious look. However, dark romance is one thing and 50 Shades of Grey is really something else entirely. Read it at your own peril. You have been warned.