I promise I finished this series ages ago. As a matter of fact, I think I finished it nearly two months ago! But my final impression of the Fifty Shades trilogy was so bad that I have been stalling writing this. I decided I would go ahead and read the next book on my list, but then the next book was so good I went straight to the one after that. Now, I have grounded myself from reading until I do my (equally fun) homework … reviewing!
So here I am, running on little sleep but so badly wanting to review two Shannon A. Thompson books and finish up Lois Lowry’s The Giver (which I was oddly never made to read in school). For those who read my Fifty Shades of Grey review awhile back, I have finally reached my conclusion. Though I stand by what I said in my first review (read the series if you are just dying to form your own opinions), my own thoughts have changed considerably. I guess a lot changes when you finish what you start.
The last two books in E. L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy, titled Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, follow the progression of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele’s relationship. Again I repeat that this series began as fanfiction for Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. Therefore, you can predict the general progression of the story, which – all eroticism aside – is very traditional. (I won’t go into more detail for fear of spoilers.) However, when all was said and done and the last page turned (or in this case swiped since I was not brave enough to carry an actual Fifty Shades book with me and instead used Kindle on my iPad), I could not bring myself to like this series, despite a few positives.
So what were the positives? Well, Christian grows up and settles down. He overcomes a lot of his deep-rooted issues with love, relationships, and sex. He opens up about his past and his troubles. He and Ana actually develop a semi-normal and semi-healthy relationship. He becomes a little more than a sexual sadist. And Ana herself actually gains a lot of self-confidence and learns to stick up for herself … sort of.
I say sort of because though she starts speaking her mind and standing up for herself, but then she backs down and compromises or feels bad about things she need not feel bad for, let alone compromise on! For instance, Christian wants Ana to move in with him, but she says that it is too soon. Yet at the first sign of Christian being too controlling about her job, she agrees that if he will relinquish some control, she will move in. Instead of sticking to her guns, she moves faster in the relationship than she is comfortable with. And what’s worse is that Christian doesn’t even hold up his end – not much, at least. SPOILER ALERT!! Skip ahead to next paragraph to avoid this upcoming spoiler. Sorry, I have to share it because I only hope it frustrates someone else as much as it frustrates me. After Ana and Christian get married and Ana comes back to work at SIP, she leaves her name as Anastasia Steele, wanting some separation from her work life and her marriage – mostly because the fact that her husband owns the company (because he’s a control freak). She tries to make a reasonable case of why she won’t change it to Anastasia Grey, yet Christian pitches such a fit and she is so tired of arguing about it that she goes ahead and changes it. Now, I am married. I understand that any relationship requires us to meet in the middle sometimes. However, this does not mean that one person pitches a fit and the other caves in. It means that we discuss the issue at hand like reasonable adults and come up with a solution. Yet that is now how Christian handles his issues. He marches into her office and practically demands that she change her name. C’mon! He bullies her into changing her name. Not ok!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of my big issues with the Fifty Shades Trilogy – Christian’s massive Control Freak Ego that really never goes away. He’s possessive, telling Anastasia, “You. Are. Mine,” early in the second book, when, in reality, they had broken up. Therefore, she was in no way his. He says he wants her world to “begin and end” with him. Later in the trilogy, Ana thinks to herself that she doesn’t want to “push” Christian too far and test his patience and control for fear of what he would do. This is a concern with your husband why? At one point, Christian even prevents Ana from having an orgasm just as punishment/revenge. (May I repeat? Semi-healthy relationship.)
Early in the second book Christian and Ana talk about a time when Christian spanked Ana so hard that it actually hurt. This spanking leads to a lot of their relationship issues throughout the second book and the remainder of the series. When the couple looks back on this spanking, Christian fusses that Ana forgot to use the safe word. Naturally, Ana’s Inner Goddess joins the fussing, telling her “You brought this on yourself!” If she would have just remembered the safe word, Christian would have not spanked her for so long and so hard! Then, they could have been happier. OR!! Christian could have not spanked her so hard, OR he could have been aware that the spanking was out of hand. Don’t get me wrong – I understand that Anastasia tells Christian to spank her as hard as he needs for her to understand the emotional pain he is going through. However, in no way should Ana feel guilty for not safe wording Christian. In no way should she feel that the pain she endured was her fault, and that she could have prevented it. In reality, she could have prevented it, but that does not mean it is entirely her fault that the spanking hurt so badly. She needs to understand that Christian is just as much at fault for the incident. And when she tells Christian that she forgot the safe word, all he says to her is “How can I trust you? EVER?” To which I would have said, “How can I trust you to ease up on the twitching palm?” Relationships are a two-way street, people!
Yet, Christian’s control freak lifestyle is not my biggest issue with the trilogy. My biggest issue with the trilogy is the unrealistic expectations for sex that E. L. James puts into the minds of her readers. This truly could make up an entire blog post in itself, and it probably will someday, but it breaks my heart to see media – books, TV, movies, music – put such expectations into the minds of society. In Fifty Shades, Ana orgasms all but two times. As a virgin who has never even fooled around, her first time having sex is amazing. I’m sorry, but I’m calling it. No way, José! (No pun intended.) I don’t care how good or how experienced the guy is, but I have a hard time believing that your first time and every other time after that is that good! And I have a hard time believing that you simply roll over and go to sleep directly after. Nope! I. Am. Calling. It. As a matter of fact, I am pausing this discussion with every intention of bringing up examples from the media that give women young and old false ideas about sex. It is a big issue for me. So stay tuned.
In all, I will not return to this series for a few reasons: I am not into book porn (practically every other page had a sex scene), I am not into control freaks, and I am not into unrealistic expectations. Though the idea of “fixing” a “damaged/broken” human is a romantic trope which is often thought-provoking at best, it is just not enough to lure me back into the dark shades of Grey.
Random thought from the book: If you have read the trilogy, would you say that the series suggests women that fall in love should become quieter and more subdued around their significant other? Look at the way Mia and Kate are portrayed when they are in love. Ana, on the other hand, seems to do the opposite, getting louder and more outspoken. Thoughts?
Any final thoughts on Fifty Shades? Love it? Hate it?
PS: The further away from this series I get, the harsher my thoughts on it get. However, you might enjoy some other thoughts on this series as well. I recommend Sweaters for Days, she also has some really funny commentary and chapter play-by-plays that will have you rolling. (Beware the foul language! But it’s pretty much spot on with what went through my head while reading.) On a more serious note, she also has an interested read on the BDSM aspects of Fifty Shades.
More harsh thoughts can be found on Cuddlebuggery’s book blog. She has some pretty funny and brutally honest thoughts! Needless to say, they have given me more thoughts to chew. Though, perhaps I would rather forget the whole experience and move on with my life. Maybe I will stick to my YA Dystopian genre.
PPS: Despite the above funny links, I do not judge or think less of anyone who reads and even enjoys the Fifty Shades trilogy. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. (Which is saying a lot because I have rarely met a tea I didn’t like…)