Here’s the second novel you’ll see everywhere you go this summer: Fifty Shades of Grey, Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, by E.L. James.
Personally, I’m rejecting this novel.
My personal rule is: I don’t read erotic novels of any sort. This one doesn’t appeal to me at all. But James already has racked up sales of more than 20 million copies. (That’s a total of all books sold in the trilogy.)
Today, Book One of this trilogy ranks as No. 4 in sales out of all of the millions of books sold by Amazon. Curious about Nos. 1 through 3 in Amazon rankings today? Those slots are filled by the boxed set of Fifty Shades, followed by volumes 2 and 3. Apparently so many people have read Book One that it’s now dropped to No. 4 on the list. These novels are inescapable—so we have to talk about Fifty Shades in this OurValues series.
Think those sales stats are startling? Consider how the book was written!
The novel began as Twilight “fan fiction”—an original work written by James (the pen name of British writer Erika Leonard). The original version of James’s saga used the same names and places that were in the best-selling Twilight Saga. Eventually, after runaway fame, James separated her trilogy from the Twilight world. She renamed her characters and places so she could sell her novels independently.
While I haven’t read Fifty Shades, I do know that Fifty Shades is nothing like Twilight. Among other things, there aren’t any vampires or werewolves involved. Even Twilight author Stephenie Meyer has given James a grudging stamp of approval, while noting that Fifty Shades is not her taste in fiction.
If you care to read more about Fifty Shades, Wikipedia has a summary. But, my series of five OurValues columns, this week, isn’t as much about the literary details as it is focused on our gut-level reactions to these novels that keep popping up everywhere we turn this summer.
My reaction to Fifty Shades? In a word: Yuck. I wouldn’t touch this one! The plot summaries make my skin crawl: A powerful, predatory male demands complete obedience and silence from a subordinate, younger, inexperienced female. More troubling is the ever-growing popularity of this three-book series with teenagers, even though the target audience is married women with children (hence the “Mommy Porn” nickname often associated with James’ fiction). I shudder to think about what it does to the expectations of young women without any basis for comparison. Here’s my basic argument for rejecting the book: If I read something like Fifty Shades, I’ve put this material in my memory bank. Like it or not, it’s always there in my brain.
I hope I haven’t intimidated you from commenting if you do want to stick up for Fifty Shades. The entire OurValues project is an effort to encourage lively-yet-civil dialogue. So, come on:
Attracted to this book or not? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Why do you think this book is such a huge hit right now?
Do you have any books on your own “Do Not Read” list?
ABOUT JANE WELLS: Jane is the Marketing Director of ReadTheSpirit online magazine and author of a book about religious themes in the Twilight saga of novels, called Glitter in the Sun.
PLEASE, ADD A COMMENT BELOW ….
AND CLICK ON the “Now You Can Find Us on Facebook” link in the right-hand column.
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.