Seriously, the Worst Book I Have Ever Read

SPOILERS!

I wrote a couple posts some years back about the worst book I have ever read and the absolute worst book I have ever read.

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.

Princess Jellyfish

Let me preface this post by saying that I don’t normally watch anime, and I don’t consider myself very knowledgeable about the genre. The last anime I watched was Elfen Lied, and that was a couple of years ago. But Princess Jellyfish was only 11 episodes long, so it seemed manageable. Like a lot of anime, it was adapted from a manga, and from looking at some pages of the manga online, it doesn’t seem like the plot changed much in the transition. The main character, the jellyfish-obsessed Tsukimi, is 18 and lives in an apartment building with four 30-something women. All of them are what the Japanese call otaku, which means they’re nerdy and have obsessive interests. They call the building in which they live “the Nunnery,” and, though not religious, they all maintain poverty, chastity, and obedience: none of them has more than 2 figures in her bank account, none of them has ever had a boyfriend/lover, and they are all obedient to the landlady, a mysterious manga artist who rarely leaves her room and communicates with her tenants via messages slipped under the door.

One day, Tsukimi meets a beautiful “Stylish” woman who helps her save a jellyfish from certain death. Turns out that this woman is actually a young man in drag, who believes that every girl can be a princess, even these 30-something otaku women who shy away from makeup and have never been “with it” in terms of fashion (or social skills). Throughout the series, the young man helps bring them all out of their shells so they can save their beloved “Nunnery,” which is in danger of being demolished by city planners.

Basically, it’s a cute romantic comedy with an interesting look at gender roles and stereotypes. My only problem with it is that a lot of the conflicts and plot lines had not been adequately resolved by the end of the 11 episodes, which makes me believe that the manga might have had more to it, or perhaps there will eventually be another season of the anime. (I hope so!)

So if you like anime, and you’re sick of mecha, magical girls, and women with enormous boobs in skimpy armor, watch this one. 🙂

YA Is Not for Adults

I’m fond of saying that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your hobbies or the kinds of books you enjoy reading. The author of this article argues that if you’re older than 18 and you still read YA fiction, then you should be embarrassed. (Although it seems that the author is talking mostly about “realistic” YA romances, not sci-fi/dystopian YA like The Hunger Games or Divergent.)

I admit it — I probably read more YA after I turned 18 than before I turned 18. To this day, I still read YA for two reasons: the stories are simple and enjoyable and because I write stories that could be classified as YA. I’ve said many times that if I ever publish anything in the YA genre, I don’t want it to be as sugar-sweet and lightweight as most of the YA romances that are published today. I can’t stand the cliché happy ending or the unrealistic romantic relationship or the inevitable drunken party scenes. They’re trite and boring.

The author of the article says that YA is more about escapism than about really digging in and enjoying a book for the quality of writing or the depth of the characters. In other words, most YA books are easygoing “beach” reads. I agree with her for the most part; most adult fiction is more satisfying. The plots, characters, and settings stick in your head longer and leave you thinking about the book for years after you’ve finished it. The situations in adult books are also more realistic because they don’t always end on an idealized or happy note.

For instance, I recently read a YA book in which the teenage protagonist planned an elaborate picnic for his love interest, complete with champagne and candles. I know that the author wanted me to think the scene was sweet. She wanted me to swoon and sigh and wish that I had a boyfriend like that. But I rolled my eyes and thought, In what universe does a teenage boy actually do that? Only in the YA universe, apparently. And it kinda sets teen girls up for unrealistic expectations of teen boys. 🙂

Anyway. As always, the moral is: Who cares, read whatever you want.