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E.L James: Fifty Shades of Grey
Originally published online on the Twilight trilogy fan page and later published independently, the Fifty Shades of Grey series has quickly become a best seller in print, outselling even the Harry Potter collection. Gaining popularity as an eyebrow-raising, racy romance, we dug into the first volume of Fifty Shades of Grey to find out what the hype was all about.
The novel tells the story of Anastasia Steele; a young college student who attracts the interest of business tycoon Christian Grey after she interviews him for the university newspaper. As she becomes involved with him, Steele learns of Grey’s aberrant BDSM sexual tastes. An overbearing ‘Adonis’ figure, Grey is moody with an overwhelming need for control, making him all the more challenging and desirable for Steele. Sexually inexperienced and insecure, Steele seems like a perfect ‘submissive’ partner for Grey, but, as their relationship develops, she discovers that she’s interested in more than just a physical relationship.
Granted, the novel is both steamy and kinky; the risqué sexuality is explained in fine detail to both the reader and the protagonist, who is learning all about BDSM herself. At the end of the day, though, the novel is also the cliché tale of a young, inexperienced girl trying to reform a typical bad boy, with a lot of sex in between. And while Steele develops and grows, we have very little exposition to her character outside of her pursuit of Grey.
While Fifty Shades of Grey has been criticized for its sexual content, it is perhaps the prose that deserves a bad rap. Littered with trite and redundant expressions, phrases like “Oh my” and a constant internal struggle between Steele and her “inner Goddess” make it painful to read at times. On the other hand, the language is simple and honest, making the book an equally easy read.
Most notable is Fifty Shades of Grey’s success in online-publishing-gone-to-print, making it a formula that may open up a whole new realm for online publishers in the future. With crowd sourced casting for the up-coming film and a fashion series styled after the novel, it is a puzzling success story – especially given its unremarkable plot and writing.
Perhaps because of all the controversy it’s stirred up, Fifty Shades of Grey continues to top best seller charts. Suspenseful and erotic, events unfold quickly and end abruptly; it ultimately leaves readers waiting for part two.
Detective Bosch has a lot going on in his personal front as well; his fifteen-year-old daughter who is way too mature for her age and wants to grow up to be a police officer is his main support system at home, and a budding romance between Bosch and a social worker adds a tinge of romance to Bosch's life.
The novel is left open-ended, in a way that allows the characters to seem more real as if their lives will continue beyond the pages of the novel.
The first impression of main character Abby, a freshman at university, is that she’s a goody-two-shoes and seems to have a reserved, shy personality. She is just starting a new independent life as a student far away from home, but her peace of mind is soon disturbed when she meets Travis; an underground fighter who goes to the same school. He's the kind of guy that every girl should avoid but still dreams of taming. With tattooed arms, the rebellious enigma captures Abby's attention instantly and though he has trouble written all over him, she can't help but get sucked into his world.
But on the other hand, Travis is also somewhat spellbound by Abby's innocence. What he doesn't know, and neither do we at the time, is that he’s in for a surprise; with a sharp tongue and a strong personality, Abby manages to charm the bad boy into submission. As the story progresses, we see Abby building a shield to protect herself from being another challenge that Travis conquers. Frustrated with Abby, Travis is forced to comply with her strict rules and settles for being ‘her friend’.
The novel takes an unusual turn when Abby loses a bet with Travis and is forced to live with him for a whole month. The lines between innocent friendship and love become blurred and as the story goes on, McGuire gradually delves deeper into Abby's fears and the dark past that is still hunting her.
Jumping up the New York Times bestselling charts soon after being published, Beautiful Disaster is much more than a just another romance novel.