Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why I Stopped Reading 50 Shades of Grey

I almost bought 50 Shades of Grey - the book nine out of ten women sitting inside any given subway car are currently reading - five times before I actually bought it. Everyone was talking about it (still are). Everyone was reading it (still are), and I don't like to miss out on things everyone is doing (which is why I'm now rocking subtle ombre style highlights). Unfortunately I'd heard more bad things than good, so the decision to spend that $9.99 on the e-reader version was one I weighed heavily. Do I want to waste the cost of half a pedicure/one future dirty martini/a can of my favorite dry shampoo on some crappy book?

I bought it because I was headed to Puerto Rico with my college best friends the next day and thought the book would make for good girl-talk. As it turns out Katie was reading it too. That's only two out of the five of us, but my girlfriends have never followed the typical odds.

I didn't start reading the book until the plane ride home (turns out we girls had 4 full days worth of gossip to catch up on, plus I can pour over a magazine for hours). I got exactly 100 pages in, and then I put it down. My rationale in a word - meh. It didn't really suck me in, I wasn't really attracted to the guy, and I find the girl pretty annoying.  

At first I thought - Jessie, just get over yourself and enjoy the sexy, mindlessness of this beach read. But then I thought - you know what, no. Why should I read something that I do not like because everyone else is eating it up? 

So, not to give this issue FAR more time than it deserves, but here are my real reasons for not finishing 50 Shades of Grey - as of right now...

1. It's Really Poorly Written  

There are too many fantastic books out there that I haven't yet read for me justify spending hours on end reading really poor writing. Far be it from me to criticize someone who has completed writing three books, but the fact is that they are not works of artful craftsmanship.  The language is over-simplified, the story is nothing unique, and the main character talks to herself too much (and that's coming from me).  I'm hesitant to say I'm boycotting this one in honor of all the people out there who've written far better books currently sitting in the "NO THANKS" box of publishers around the world, but that's pretty much what I'm doing.

2. I Don't Find It Sexy

SPOILER ALERT: The book is about a young, naive, impressionable girl who becomes the object of an older, dominant's affections. "Dominant" as in a man who seeks the dominant/submissive role play in sexual relationships. Bottom line: that whole situation just isn't sexy to me and never has been. It doesn't skeeve me out or make my uncomfortable, I just don't find it to be this titillating page turner like many other women. As such, when I read it I'm like, ugh, this crap again. I get that many, many women are into this book because of the sexual content. For me that's just not working. Maybe someday I'll savor every word of books like this one, but right now the whole relationship between the man and girl makes me roll my eyes.

3. I Don't Want To, and you can't make me.

When I used to tell people that I haven't read and don't intend to read the Twilight series they'd say, "WHAT?! That's nuts. It's soooo good." When I'd reply that, from what I've heard, I don't believe I'll find it "good," they'd say, "but you work in entertainment. How could you not be a part of this insane phenomenon." To which I would say, "I'm part of plenty of insane phenomenons." Same goes for this situation. My life will not change for the better if I read 50 Shades of Grey. In fact it will probably change for the worse because there are a lot of things I should be doing instead of reading a book - correction, that book. So I'm not going to read it. Just like I didn't read the Twilights OR...brace yourselves...The Hunger Games. 

Now, the only question is, am I wrong? Is there some interesting dynamic that develops on page 200 and is worthy of exploring? Does it get sexy in a different way on page 150? Should I read it just to write a blog post about how I feel at the end?  Make your case in comments, and I'll consider re-evaluating my stubborn stance.


  1. Kristin McCrackenJune 12, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    I stopped too, probably around the same point as you. There are too many other books to read, as you say. It's HORRIBLY written.

    2 other comments:

    1. Not that you asked, but The Hunger Games is well-written, unlike this one and the Twilight series (which I have to admit I enjoyed - she is a good storyteller, at least). And Katniss is empowered and badass, unlike Anastasia Steele.

    2. What is your favorite dry shampoo? I think I want some.

  2. You are not wrong. I only wish I had stopped 100 pages in. You pretty much nailed it with your assessment -- poorly written, played-out storyline, and not titillating. I would actually go a little farther and say that this book is harmful to women and their sexuality. There is already enough pressure from movies and TV to have mind-blowing orgasms with little to no effort. In 50 Shades, the girl (who has never had any previous experience with herself or anyone else) seems to be able to climax when the wind blows. I get that it’s just a book, but it sets women up to feel bad if they’re not like her (and NO ONE is). Not to mention that she's in a relationship where the guy is throwing all kinds of red flags and telling her very clearly that he doesn't want a relationship, and yet she stays, clinging to the vague hope that he doesn't mean it or that she's different. Again, setting women up for failure and disappointment when the guy they are dating in real life really doesn’t want a relationship.

    Lastly, the tampon scene. I'm sorry, I will not elaborate, but if you've read that part, you will never be able to get that image out of your head. I literally threw my book across the room in disgust.

  3. i completely agree with you. i got about 3/4 of the way through the first one, and just did not care about the storyline or characters, and as you said, the writing is horrendous. i honestly don't see the appeal--i guess i can understand that perhaps some of the sex scenes provoke conversations between partners about varying levels of intimacy or the topic of domination/submission... but that is stretching it. the relationship dynamics are also extremely negative and based on stereotypes i don't care for.

    as for twilight, the writing was marginally better and there was humor present. there was also a backstory--i didn't get too wrapped up in the love triangle, more so the vampire element.

    i do recommend hunger games. writing is better than twilight, though it's still not an extremely well written series, but the ideas within the story are super interesting and thought provoking. plus, katniss is a heroine i can actually support!

  4. No, I'm with you. I didn't start, mostly because there are SO MANY books I want to read and there is never enough time to read them all. I'm not going to spend my reading minutes on drivel that won't interest me. If it interests someone else, great! But it is just not for me.

    Here is an article that I think of every time I find myself reading something I'm not into: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/04/21/135508305/the-sad-beautiful-fact-that-were-all-going-to-miss-almost-everything

  5. I have it waiting for me and haven't started reading it yet, but I didn't read any of the Twilight books for many of the same reason, particularly the one about bad writing. I'm willing to give it a fair shot, but I don't see great things coming out of this.

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  7. I'm on the second book but I'm taking the characters/storyline/writing for what it is -- some mindless, fun reading. I've got a lot of years left to read the heavy stuff so taking a couple weeks to read these is not going to hurt me in the long run. (I do recommend the Hunger Games trilogy though)

    As for what it does to women, I personally find that 90% of books/movies/websites/magazines project unrealistic ideals upon the rest of us. If that is where you are going for guidance, then that's on you.

  8. I haven't read it and I don't know that I ever will. Unless I run out of other things to read first. Can anyone explain why so many women LOVE it? I guess I don't quite understand...

  9. So, I won't read Twilight because I got about 10 pages in and felt like I was reading a 15 year olds diary, both in content and in writing ability. I won't go there with 50 Shades because I heard the writing is terrible too. I did read the Hunger Games trilogy and enjoyed it. The writing is decent, probably popular author level- Danielle Steel, Nicholas Sparks quality- and the genre is my favorite (dystopian future). I agree with you on not wasting your time reading something that you don't like; there are far too many books to read in a lifetime.

  10. I 100% support not reading the rest of that drivel. I'm not going to touch it thanks to reviews like yours, why waste my reading time?

  11. I read the whole Fifty Shades trilogy. Why? First, everyone is buzzing about it and I got sucked in by my uncontrollable urge to know what all the buzz is about. Second, I took the route of a previous poster and enjoyed the books for what they are - a mindless read to pull me away from the day-to-day of real life. I certainly wasn't looking for or expecting to find a strong female heroine, sexual guidance, or literature that caused me to think about the meaning of life.

    As somewhat of a side note, this certainly can't be the first book of its kind to hit shelves - have you seen how big the 'Romance' section of your local bookstore is?!?! Why so much buzz around this trilogy?

  12. Haven't read 50 Shades either as the reviews said that it was poorly written. Won't waste my money or time on it. Too many other good books out there to read and the sexual aspect of the story isn't even remotely "sexy." Domination by a man? REALLY? How is that new or different? Or shocking or surprising? And this was written by a woman! Honestly, women should be boycotting it rather than drooling over it. Their sex lives must be pretty lame if they find this so tintalatting! And BTW the books, The Hunger Games Series and The Twilight Series were written for YOUNG adults and should not be put on the same level as an adult book. They were good stories for teenagers that adults enjoyed, too, but were not meant or written for adults. One shouldn't critique the writings of those books with one written explicitly fo adults.

  13. Don't do it! Don't finish it! I considered reading purely for the fact that there was one rumor my future ex-husband (Ryan Gosling) should be considered for the part in the movie. . . then I learned this trash novel was written by a fan of the trashiest novel of all--Twilight. Seriously, how does this crap get published? Don't do it! Spend your time reading a classic, like Gone with the Wind! or guilty pleasure reading actually worthwhile, like Nick Sparks.

  14. To Anonymous at 7:53 PM: There is a lot of high quality young adult fiction. I recently read The Book Thief and was really surprised to learn it is categorized as YA. Many YA books use a future dystopia as a setting, like The Giver, Divergent and The Hunger Games. One YA series I just finished that I really enjoyed were Kristin Cashore's Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. They are more fantasy oriented - not for everyone's taste, but well-written and great characters.

    I listened to the audio books of The Hunger Games and it was the perfect way for me to find out what the books were all about without feeling like I had wasted precious reading time. I listen to audiobooks during my commute and when I work out so it's kind of a nice variety to me. I agree that I haven't heard any compelling reason to read 50 Shades of Grey or the Twilight series, however, I am a proponent of getting non-readers interested in reading. If one series makes you want to read more books when you weren't into that before ... that's a good thing.

    To sum up, I hope you don't write off YA completely because there are some real gems out there and don't read what doesn't interest you. Everyone has different tastes.

  15. Best line in this post: "...(and that's coming from me)." I love your sense of humor!

  16. What I want to know is is it any worse than anything by the Marquis de Sade? Ever? Because I highly doubt the sex aspect of the book is going to shock me in the least. Every woman I work with is reading this damn book so I'm probably going to end up reading it out of self-preservation because it is all they talk about and they don't understand why it creeps me out when grown-ass women are fawning over some creepy man who stalks the woman he "likes" or at least wants to dominate. Because that doesn't sound sexy in the least to me? Which is also why I don't need to read Twilight. Stalking isn't sexy! Even if he's stalking you from his private jet!

  17. There's always the Bible..right girls? This isn't The New Yorker magazine! Just let your mind go where you know you have always wondered about this kind of stuff. It's just for entertainment...or in some cases...maybe educational!

  18. I'm a concerned boyfriend. My girlfriend began reading this book and when asked what it was about, she said it was hard to explain. I looked up a synopsis and was a little uncomfortable with what I found. She and I have been together for almost 2 years and have had great sex throughout (without needing to belittle or hurt each other to get off). A book is just a book especially if poorly written, but it's her reaction to it that disturbs me. Whenever she puts it down, she is very aroused and initiates sex immediately. That's great right? Not in my mind. When the lines start to blur between our relationship and the BDSM relationship in this book, I feel it is degrading to the loving, trusting and empowering relationship we have created. I will never be in to submission and domination, ever. And I fear that her extreme interest in it (which she denies) is a warning sign that down the road there will be a hole she needs filled(so to speak). I'm not a book burner or a controlling boyfriend so I'm not going to forbid her from reading this book but I cringe every time she picks it up. I'm at an impasse; Do I suck it up and pretend like it doesn't hurt me or do I demand that she takes my feelings on the matter in to consideration? Ugh

  19. From a woman's perspective, I read/watch plenty of things that I find arousing but would never actually try with my partner. It's just masturbation material and I'm content with it being nothing more. But, I'm not your girlfriend. You need to ask her the difficult questions - does she actually want to try the things she's reading and, if so, why? I'm not saying you should compromise your sexual boundaries (no one should), but she's the only person who can tell you what's going on in her head. Odd are, she's just fulfilling some more immediate needs rather than seeking long-term change. And if you don't like being the follow-up, just ask her how she would feel if you only wanted sex after watching bad BDSM porn. That might clear the air. ;)

  20. the most pathetic book ever....got 100 pages in....and like another reader said, just slammed it shut! Can't believe I spent 18 bucks to buy the book.....now I just want it out of the house...can't return it sooo....guess only option is to donate it to the local library....

  21. Don't read it. It is poorly written... But more than that is that it left me with an insatiable desire for sex that my husband can't keep up with.... Not a very healthy situation for a 15 years marriage... To say the very least... DON'T READ IT!!!! Btw I only read book one and the free synopsises of the other 2.... It was too predictable and dull to even continue....

  22. Here's a newsflash: the author stumbled into an internet forum for fan-fiction...For friggn TWILIGHT...yea, what you're actually reading is a collection of "sexy" twi-hard fan fiction written presumably by weird and possibly crazy fans obsessed with imagining Edward and Stewart banging. The author mashed all of them together and figured she could seal it without fear of copyright as all the people who wrote on the forums are anonymous. With extremely good marketing, idiots thought it was literary genius and bought it and raved about it. Other idiots followed because it was a trend that you self-admittedly said you cannot pass up, and didn't want to left behind. The author has literally pulled off the biggest heist in the world and because people are drones who don't do research before buying a product, you all have no excuses and no one to blame for but yourselves for falling into that trap

  23. Worst book ever published as far as I'm concerned. It's horribly written, ridiculously overwrought and you want to punch the characters-- especially the weak, helpless, pathetic "heroine" upside the head-- each time they speak. It offends me that the author has made so much money on this series. I read it only because a fellow teacher-librarian sent me his copies of it in pdf file. One of things I absolutely couldn't stand (and there are too many to list!) was that she has the supposedly American characters who live around Seattle speaking as though they live in London. I HATE that the author couldn't be even minimally accurate with vernacular.

  24. I totally agree with your synopsis. I too could not finish this stupid book and am confounded by its popularity and the reportedly 40 million copies sold worldwide. I mean, what does this even say about our gender? It isn't so much the supposed "erotica" that bothers me - it is the writing. Why must the writing suffer? Do what you want to your characters, but do it with at least some creative flare and adherence to the mechanics of writing. I enjoyed your post on the matter though! Cheers ~ Rachel ~ :-)

  25. I like to read some BDSM, but there are plenty of short stories online that are far more exciting and/or better written. I was looking for explicit sex scenes, elaborate descriptions of bondage, pain that turns into orgasms, anal sex, well, everything, but it was so... lukewarm... diluted... like written by a teenager.
    It was so weak in all respects. Sad really. At least I didn't waste money on buying it and read it online for free (well, parts of it).

  26. Do you take into account optimizing your blog content for search algorithms?

  27. It was horribly written, most certainly. I couldn't stand the repetitive use of curse words, wanton and "fetch" (that's British, not American - the author clearly didn't do her homework) among others and repetitive conversations (inner and outer dialogue), just for starters.

    I am now on the third book and still enjoying the novels despite my complaints because if you can see past all the holes in her writing skills, story line and blatant copying of the Twilight characters, story and conversations, you can enjoy it for what it truly is - a series to put the heat back into stale marriages.

  28. Bored, simple, bad writted...
    The books offends me as a reader and offends good writters.
    I refuse finish reading the book.

    1. Sorry I forgot to tell:
      The book, the heroine, the language... all is pathetic.
      I had to stop reading this stupid book at page 220.

      Thank's for this web or blog... I thought I was the only I couldn't stand this book!

  29. my wife promised any type of sex I wanted if I read it. I pushed through it against all odds. It was seriously the worst book I can remember reading. but I had something we have not done since college and I really wanted it.

    Well I finally finished it and she then breaks it to me that she meant the whole series. I said screw it... it is not worth it. I will stick with vanilla sex and save my self the agony of reading two more books of that crap!

  30. The MUCH better 50 Shades of Grey type novel is actually "Starbucks Bitches", the controversial book centered around a Starbucks Book Club. Seriously, if you liked 50, this is like 60 Shades of Grey. It is on iTunes, Amazon, etc... (www.StarbucksBitches.com has this following description:)

    Five very diverse women band together to form an unlikely, but unbreakable circle of friends, collaborating and scheming their way to better relationships and better lives. When one of them vanishes suspiciously, the others must work together to find her before she disappears forever.

    With a wide range of emotional and complicated relationships that span the highs (and lows) of life, Starbucks Bitches takes the reader on a wild ride that is deeply touching, thought provoking, and intensely romantic.

    One of the most erotically charged and overtly sexual novels of the century, Starbucks Bitches is an unprecedented adventure in love, lust, and unconditional friendship.

  31. I read it and honestly it is just a love story between a mindless and naive girl and a man who is a adolescent in term of relationship. There is some sex but nothing shocking (will you do or not this kind of stuff is up to you but reading it is not shocking if you are not prude)
    You like the story or not, it depends of your taste. I have to admit I usually love this kind of stupid love story where you can guess what is going to happen.. and this is what I like reading when on holidays and I want to change my mind...
    Honestly it is a twilight where you change tortured vampire by a man with a tough childhood. Even the other character look like a lot of the ones of twilight.

    I read it in English and I have to admit I found it was badly written even if I am a non English native.

    Would I recommend it ? No if you don't want something really well written or are not girlish...
    If you just want a love story like there is a lot, yes. and definitively if you liked twilight....

  32. It is really nice to see a group of people that can see this book for what it really is. It makes me genuinely concerned for society, that so many people think of this as great literature. This is the most poorly written book I think I have come across. I struggled through books 1 and 2, but was unable to make it past chapter 1 of the 3rd book. The characters are shallow, the plot is a copy of Twilight (which makes sense as it was originally a fan-fiction), and it does not show BDSM in it's true light. If you are going to write about something, it is a great idea to do the research.
    I apologize for going on somewhat of a tangent, however, it seems that everywhere else you go Fifty Shades of Grey is the greatest thing since sliced bread.