by Sarah Davis
Move over Nicholas Sparks, emotional romances are now dominated by E.L. James.
First, let me say that I did mention in a previous blog that I thought these books were about a clumsy girl who captures the heart of a superficial guy (Christian Grey). I feel entirely stupid for "judging a book by its cover", essentially, because someone pointed out to me that this description was wrong. So, I began reading...and reading. My first mistake was describing Christian Grey as superficial. As his character develops, you see that he isn't.
I was very skeptical of these books because I thought that surely the only reason why they were popular was because of how risque they were. For the first half of the first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, I believed this to be true. However, as Christian Grey's character develops, you discover this multi-layered guy with a very troubled childhood; a man who simply never learned what love was (or learned that he deserved it.) Even though the books are narrated by Ana Steele, you almost feel like you can relate more to Christian, because as she learns about him, the reader does. She spends most of her narration exploring who he is and what his past contains, so you focus more on Christian than her. In Fifty Shades Darker, Christian opens up so much to Ana that I cried several times. For instance, when his character, who has a phobia of being touched on certain parts of his body (chest and back) from being abused as a small child, allows her to touch him and he is terrified, it's one of the most emotional parts of these books. You see that he is trying to change for her and that he has finally found someone who loves him and he can let love him.
Without getting into too much of the plot, because if someone gave me a blow-by-blow, I would be mad that I didn't get to discover it for myself, let's briefly go over each of these books. In Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia Steele helps out her sick roommate, Kate, by going to an interview that Kate fought to get for the school newspaper (the two roommates are just about to graduate college). Ana interviews Christian Grey, the CEO of Grey Enterprises and is so intimidated by him that she actually falls down in his office (hence my "clumsy" comment in my previous blog). Christian sees her as a submissive female and immediately zooms in on her, sending her gifts to her home and visiting her at her part-time job at a hardware store, essentially trying to convince her to be in a weird "relationship" with him. The two try begin this relationship, with Christian in control, and his basic intentions are to have her as his....slave. But, Ana's personality won't allow this and he spends a lot of time being stunned by how bold she is. She isn't impressed by how rich he is, how many gifts he buys, or how domineering he can be. By the end of Fifty Shades of Grey, she challenges him to show her how bad it can get, as her "slave" (where he beats the Hell out of her). After seeing the "real Christian", she leaves him because she wants a real relationship and knows he isn't capable of giving her one.
In Fifty Shades Darker, a heartbroken Christian or "Fifty" comes back with a proposition for her that convinces her to give him another shot: he offers her "more", which he has never done with a woman. It's the first real relationship for both of them, so they fumble through how to be compatible with one another, arguing a lot but always making up. Fifty Shades Darker is way more action-packed than the first book, with a lot of big events peppering their first days of being a couple, including a guest appearance by an ex of Christians, who not only tries to cut her wrists but breaks into Ana's apartment with a gun, a sleazy boss at Ana's first real job at a publishing house who tries to practically rape her, and an almost-plane-crash. Like I mentioned earlier, though, Christian is entirely vulnerable in the second book and I cried several times, as he begins to let Ana in on how tortured his heart is.
I cannot describe why these books are so engulfing, but I cannot give them enough raving reviews. The relationship between Ana and Christian is so heart-wrenching that you cheer them on and cry with them. Move over Nicolas Sparks, emotional romances are now dominated by E.L. James. I must warn you though, if you read these books, you will start to be bummed out that Christian Grey is ENTIRELY fictional (i.e. not a real person and never will be.) I will also say that even behind the risque-factor of these books, there is a real plot that captured my heart (for instance, the part where Fifty buys a house for the two of them.)
So are these books worth reading? Yes, but with an open mind.