50 Shades of Grey—E.L. James


I went into this expecting to hate it, to be disgusted by the unhealthy relationship, to be completely turned off.

And guess what happened?

It was SO much worse than I could have ever anticipated! Although, honestly, a big part of that was the absolutely abysmal writing. I can find something redeeming in almost any book that I read, even if it's the tiniest thing. And to be fair, I've never published a book, so I feel slightly bad being so critical. But only slightly.

Instead of doing an actual review, I thought I'd just go through the notes that I made while reading through on my Kindle, with some omissions, because nobody has time for all of my thoughts. (Warning: Ahead be shouty capitals.) Here goes.


Page 4: Interstate 5? Nobody calls it that. If you're going to write a particularly regional book, maybe get the vernacular correct.

5: Four references to "sandstone" already.

7: "Double crap"?

8: "I feel an odd exhilarating shiver run through me." BAHAHAHA.

10: "If I were to decide I was no longer interested in the telecommunications business and sell, twenty thousand people would struggle to make their mortgage payments after a month or so." "My mouth drops open. I am staggered by his lack of humility." Lack of humility? Sounds like awareness, common sense, and thoughtfulness to me.

11: "But if you work so hard, what do you do to chill out?" She's an English major and this is how she talks?

13: Highlight squirm, search. 22 results in the book.

15: "Strange muscles deep in my belly clench suddenly." Your belly? Be a grown-up maybe.

16: "He really is very, very good-looking." Is this Zoolander? Can't think of any word other than very?

19: "Kate clamps a hand to her mouth." Clamps? Really? Also, her motivated, overachiever journalist roommate didn't think to have a bio for her?

21: "I work on my essay on Tess of the d'Urbervilles." A senior English major has an essay on Tess? Maybe James meant her thesis?

24: He just showed up where she worked! She never told him where she worked! STALKER ALERT! Would she have been quite so charmed if he wasn't "handsome"?

26: "...underused part of my brain—probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells—" WHAT?! WHY DID YOU PUT THIS IN HERE?

29: "I try to dismiss the unwelcome image of him without jeans." I feel like this encourages the idea that women should feel ashamed or feel like it's unnatural to be attracted to and/or fantasize about someone. Totally natural. Plus, not that we should always do something because other people are doing it, but men undress us with their eyes constantly.

31: "'Anastasia has it covered, Mr. Clayton. She's been very attentive.' His expression is impassive, but his words...it's like he's saying something else entirely. It's baffling." Oh my goodness! Subtext! You would think a senior English major would recognize that. You want to talk about your medulla oblongata, but you don't understand subtext?

34: "Ana, one of these days you'll say yes." Why are all of the men in her life super creepy?

37: "Grey's expression changes, too, as he appraises Jose." Is it not a huge flashing warning sign that he's already super possessive of you?

39: "Please, can you drive the photographer, his assistant, and Miss Kavanagh back home?" What an awkward, unnatural way of speaking.

42: "...small, round birch-veneer table..." I feel like James includes details like this because someone once told her good authors use adjectives. (Additional note, having finished the book: This kind of random detailing occurs throughout the remainder of the book. It's distracting and unnecessary, whereas some things that actually need some fleshing out are left bare bones...)

43: "You're a mystery, Miss Steele." She's really not.

44: "He is a control freak, there's no other explanation, and part of me is thinking maybe it would have been better if Kate had interviewed him. Two control freaks together. Plus, of course, she's almost blond—well, strawberry blond—like all the women in his office. And she's beautiful, my subconscious reminds me. I don't like the idea of Christian and Kate." More cutting down of fellow women, even her best friend. Somebody has some major self esteem issues.

47: "It's the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy. I'd like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books." Sounds like the most stereotypical, textbook English major ever. That's fine, I guess, but doesn't really make Anastasia a very nuanced person.

49: "Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I'm not the man for you." If you thought that, why did you stalk her?

61: "Do you make a habit of this kind of behavior?" It's actually none of your business.

62: "...tracked your cell phone, Anastasia."  THE FUCK?!

65: "...for a moment I'm tranquil and serene, enjoying the strange, unfamiliar surroundings. I have no idea where I am." Nobody has ever reacted this way to waking up in an unfamiliar place.

67: "And third, if I hadn't come to get you, you'd probably be waking up in the photographer's bed, and from what I can remember, you weren't overly enthused about him pressing his suit." In other words, good thing I'm a creepy stalker or you probably would've been date raped last night. A million thank yous, good sir knight!

72: "His tone is castigating." Was that your word-of-the-day on your calendar?

76: "What in heaven's name does that mean? He's never slept with anyone? He's a virgin? Somehow I doubt that." She's the biggest idiot.

80: "...outburst of passion that exploded in the elevator." The outburst exploded?

95: "My subconscious is staring at me in awe." And how is your subconscious doing anything? I think you need to check your dictionary for the definition of subconscious again.

105: "The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant excepting those activities that are outlines in hard limits." SHUT IT DOWN.

109: "...somnambulant..." Another word-of-the-day.

116: "His finger slips through the fine lace and slowly circles around me—there." Once again, be a grown up.

117: "'Aargh!' I cry as I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity." Sexy.

148: "Internet! I don't have access to a computer, only Kate's laptop, and I couldn't use the one at Clayton's, not for this sort of 'research' surely." She's made it all the way through undergrad without having access to a computer? Granted, probably not the kind of research that you'd want to do in the school library, but I'm flabbergasted that she doesn't have a laptop of her own.

159: "Flush." 112 RESULTS.

190: "Murmur" 197 RESULTS.

190: "I'm all deer/headlights, moth/flame, bird/snake." WHAT? WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?!

202: "...I feel a familiar stab of envy. Kate has found herself a normal man, and she looks so happy." How can you possibly be so unendingly jealous of a girl who you claim is your best friend? I guess your life is just one unhealthy relationship after another.

238: "There are more than four hundred to be given out, and it takes over an hour before I hear my name." Really? 400 degrees to give out, and it only takes an hour to get to the S's?

242: "Christian holds his hand out to me. 'Ana, baby,' he murmurs, and I nearly expire at the endearment." UGH.

256: "'I'll agree to the fisting, but I'd really like to claim your ass, Anastasia. But we'll wait for that. Besides, it's not something we can dive into.' He smirks at me. 'Your ass will need training.'" Charming.

269: "Because I'm fifty shades of fucked up, Anastasia." BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

284: An email exchange between Ana and Grey: "Dear Mr. Grey, I'm not sure I like you anyway, especially at the moment." "Why don't you like me?" ARE YOU 12?!

287: "'I don't want to change you. I'd like you to be courteous and to follow the set of rules I've given you and not defy me. Simple." THAT IS CHANGING HER!

288: "Priapic." Word-of-the-day number 47!

292: "Grin." 142 RESULTS.

305: "He'd probably like to beat seven shades of shit out of me." Poetic.

307: "Kate's dad has done us proud. The apartment is not large, but it's big enough, three bedrooms, and a large living space that looks out onto Pike Place Market itself. It's all solid wood floors and red brick, and the kitchen tops are smooth concrete, very utilitarian, very now. We both love that we will be in the heart of the city." #entitled
On a more real note, I live in the Seattle area and have looked extensively at apartments in the city and 1) a three bedroom apartment is pretty big, especially for two people, 2) an apartment that size that "looks out onto Pike Place Market" is going to run you pretty close to $4,000 a month. SO MUCH entitlement in this paragraph.

321: "Frown." 131 RESULTS.

354: Intense. 38 RESULTS.

367: "The woman who brought me into this world was a crack whore, Anastasia." That's how we want to phrase that?

372: "Pushing me higher, higher to the castle in the air." Kill me now.

375: "Have you bought your air ticket?" Air ticket?

384: "Dear Miss Steele, Everything you do interests me. You are the most fascinating woman I know." IN WHAT WAY?!

398: "Men aren't really complicated, Ana, honey. They are very simple, literal creatures." Not reductive at all.

398: "She is on her fourth marriage. Maybe she does know something about men after all." I feel like that's the opposite of what this means...

459: "He knows it already, stalker that he is." Aren't his stalker tendencies adorable?!

481: "'Anastasia, I wouldn't dream of interfering in your career, unless you ask me to, of course.' He looks wounded." Gee, I wonder why she would even think that.

484: "It's what he wants—and after the last few days...after all he's done, I have to man up and take whatever he decides he wants, whatever he thinks he needs." SO FUCKED UP!!


I wanted to be able to talk in an informed manner about my hatred for this book, because I felt like a hypocrite for railing so strongly against it without having actually read the words. Now that I have, I can truly say that this is one of the most disturbing books that I have ever read, and the BDSM aspect of it is the least of it. (To be fair, I am also pretty sure that this is not an accurate representation of a BDSM relationship.)

The intensely unhealthy relationship and viewpoints, exemplified by the quote from page 484, are injurious to have in our popular culture, because regardless of whether we want it to or not, popular culture informs our society. While I hope that there are not young people, especially young women reading this and taking their cues from it, I also think it's impossible for it not to pervade in some way. And since we as a society are not openly talking about sex to make sure that the realities and safeties are known, for some there will be nothing to counterbalance the only information they can get: from "romance" novels like this one.

End rant.

Beyond that, there's just some poor writing, you know? "Murmur" 197 times in a 500 page book? "Grin" 142 times? Do you not have access to a thesaurus, at the very least?

One thing that was brought home to me while reading this—and specifically while reading a bit of it out loud to a friend to lull her to sleep while I was visiting in New York—read your shit out loud! It's easier to catch awkward and unnatural phrasing, it's easier to hear how absolutely ridiculous it sounds. Do it. Preferably before publishing and becoming a best seller for some inexplicable reason. (Although maybe it became a best seller because everybody is hate-reading it like me. I choose to believe that's the case.)

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