Over the summer like many moms, I read the entire 50 Shades Trilogy. Yes, all three books because, a) I’m a sucker for a series and b) I love writers and always want to give them a chance to redeem themselves. Sadly, I don’t feel like E. L. James or her characters redeemed themselves by the end of these books. In true Film Sack style, (I think there should be a similar BookSack podcast.) here’s my twitter post (spoiler alert):
Insecure virgin college student w/ a burgeoning eating disorder is stalked by emotionally stunted billionaire w/ serious Oedipus issues.
Whew! 4 character to spare;)
Despite appearances, this is NOT a book review. I’m not going to comment on the level of writing or storytelling skills of Ms. James nor am I going to sneer jealously at their obvious marketability. I’m not going to criticize the (contrary to all the hype) rather tame sex in the book. I’m not even going to talk about how absolutely toxic and abusive the relationship between Ana and Christian is or how I hate the depiction of BDSM as only being attractive to people with emotional problems. Other bloggers have thoroughly covered that. Jennifer Armintrout’s blog on the subject is a tour de force.
No, the thing that bugs me the most about these books is all the women my age (the back half of my 30’s) creaming their collective panties over Christian Grey, a man who’s only redeeming quality appears to be his looks. I don’t consider his money a redeeming quality because it enables him to aggressively stalk his prey, namely innocent brown haired girls who remind him of mommy. Even his victim/lover Ana refers to him in the later books as being “stuck in adolescence” as if he’s perpetually 15 years old. And that’s just the thing that bugs me about this whole series. If you take out the sex, the emotions in these books would be better suited for a high school classroom than the corporate boardroom where Christian Grey is supposed to rule. Christian isn’t the only one who’s stuck in adolescence. Ana is pretty immature herself. Granted she’s younger, but she’s supposed to be a college graduate. We’re incessantly reminded in the first book of her impressive GPA. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I was still immature when I graduated from college, but I was capable of feeding myself and conducting an interview without stepping on my own tongue. Most of all, I was capable of saying NO or ENOUGH when I knew a situation was unhealthy.
Make no mistake, minus the sex this is a Young Adult book. It’s no surprise at all that this started out as Twilight fan fiction. It’s loaded down with all the lip-biting angst and blushing insecurities of any teenage romance. The trouble is: IT’S NOT ABOUT TEENAGERS! That is precisely what gives me the creeps. I understand a little of the nostalgia that leads grown women to read and enjoy books about the first blush of teenage love, and sometimes that’s okay. Hey, I read the Twilight books and I didn’t hate them. But at some point, you do have to grow up, and just because a guy takes charge in the bedroom buys the company where you work and gives you a car, that doesn’t make him a MAN. What does it say about them that grown women are getting all hot and bothered over a guy that behaves like 15 year old? What does their fascination with a character like Christian Grey say about the actual men in their lives?
I’m all for getting young adults to read more and I’m all for parents knowing what their kids are reading. What bugs me is grownups getting fangirl crazy over these books. The issue is much broader than this particular series. The Young Adult Romance sub-genre has exploded since the Twilight books came out and a good bit of their popularity can be attributed to grown women devouring them like so many skinny lattes. Yes, they can be entertaining, but the emotions, like teenage emotions, are overwrought and the characters are frequently sterotypes especially the male characters. And I have yet to read a young adult book with a female protagonist that didn’t make me want to throw my ereader across the room because of her sheer obtuseness. So to hear grown-ass women going all weak-kneed for characters that they wouldn’t want their daughters within a mile of just gives me chills. Oh, I know there are moms out there who still behave like teenagers. I even know a grandmother or two that still behave that way. But are those the kind of adults we really want to be? Sure, it’s fun to remember being young and falling in love for the first time, but there’s really only one first time and eventually you DO have to grow up.
If you are grown up and want to read Erotic Romance, have at it. There are plenty of erotic books about real adult people who act like adults. There are even some steamy BDSM books out there about emotionally healthy people who engage in what E. L. James only hints at in her books. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s fine for adults to read erotic books but it’s downright creepy to read an erotic book about perpetual fifteen year olds. Erotic books have their place, and Young Adult books have their place, but Young Adult Erotica? Yech! So, gals, let’s leave adolescence to the adolescents...Please.