Well, I managed to read something that makes those two look like shining literary achievements: the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. The only reason I read it was to blog about it here, and yes, it is just as terrible as everyone said it was.*
I’m not sure who thought it would be good to actually publish this book and elevate it from the ranks of terrible fanfiction. Someone with a sick mind or a crazy sense of humor, I suppose. I didn’t make it all the way through the Twilight series, but I was heckled into watching all the movies, and I could tell right away that Fifty Shades is Twilight fanfiction. I intensely dislike fanfiction, but that’s an unpopular opinion that I won’t get into here, and that was only a very minor reason why I hated Fifty Shades so much.
The reason I hated Fifty Shades is because it is about abuse and mind control. Our poor naive main character, Anastasia Steele, hardly knows enough about the world and about sex to consent to anything, much less the craziness she is subjected to by our hero (villain?), Christian Grey.
If someone has to get you to sign a contract to be with them, that relationship surely cannot be good. If you are a person who never cries (as Anastasia supposedly is), then the relationship surely cannot be good if you’ve been crying daily since you met the guy. If the guy repeatedly says, “You have a choice to sign the contract,” then constantly shows up and seduces you, thus weakening your emotional resolve, you don’t really have a choice at all, and surely, this relationship cannot be good. If the guy refuses to give you space, gets wildly jealous at the slightest overture of chaste friendship from a male friend, tracks your location remotely, buys you grossly expensive gifts that you have no hope of ever repaying him for, and even admits to you that he is “fifty shades of f**ked up,” then the relationship is blatantly not good for you and you need to run away faster than you ever ran in your life.
By the end of the novel, Anastasia realizes this and ends her relationship with Mr. Grey. I was happy about this, but at the same time, I realized that this is a money-making series. I’m sure that the other books have her realizing how depressed she is without him and running back to him. I don’t have much intention of reading these other books, but I can guess what happens based on the plots of other romance novels: Anastasia manages to “fix” Mr. Grey, get to the bottom of his messed-up past, and turn him into a kind, compassionate man.
Reality check: This would never happen in real life. People’s fundamental deep, dark issues cannot be “fixed” by a romantic partner. A guy like Christian Grey needs a long-term therapist and possibly even a stay in a psych ward. He needs to understand that one cannot run a true relationship like a business contract. I can only hope that the readers of Fifty Shades are mature enough to understand this.
What I learned from reading this appalling excuse for a romance novel: nothing of any use. It only reinforced my prevailing belief that people are weird, and sometimes the weirdness is so extreme that it should be hidden and never shared.
*Interestingly, all three worst books I’ve ever read are romance novels. I don’t dislike the genre, but I like romance better when it is embedded in a different plot, not as the main plot itself.