Why You Should Read “Fifty Shades of Grey”

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“Fifty Shades of Grey” has garnered an unexpected following in the literary world, most likely because of its shocking subject matter. (courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

The Case for the Scandalous Novel that Everyone is Talking About

By COLLEEN THORNHILL
Opinions Editor
Published: May 2, 2012

When I tell people I’ve read and love the book series “Fifty Shades of Grey,” I typically get the same reaction as when I tell them I’m a Ke$ha fan. “Are you serious? You? Why?”

Yes, me. I am just one of millions of ladies (and guys) who have picked up the scandalous new novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” that has taken the literary world by storm.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” has garnered an unexpected following in the literary world, most likely because of its shocking subject matter. (courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

Haven’t heard of it? Well, get with it. This book is about young college graduate Anastasia Steele who falls head over heels for the 27-year-old billionaire, Christian Grey. What’s so shocking? Christian has a secret. He likes S & M. Actually, he doesn’t like it. He loves it. Practically lives for it. Horrified yet? I bet my parents are.

But there’s a lot more to this book than some crazy (and I do mean crazy) sexual fantasies. It turns out Christian isn’t just some one-dimensional sex addict. The man has a serious back story that needs some heavy delving into. He can’t get past his problem until Anastasia can get him to acknowledge it.

Blah blah blah, you’re thinking. But give it a chance; don’t just dismiss it as a sleazy romance novel. There is actually impressive character development once you get past book one, which, yes, is a horrendous example of literature and not something that merits the word “novel.” It does, however, merit the word entertainment. This book is hysterical. It is practically impossible not to laugh aloud as Anastasia enlightens us with her use of the words, “Holy moly” and “Oh jeez.” If you don’t go into the book thinking you’re about to read literature’s greatest treasure, you’ll have a helluva time.

I didn’t even know what the book was about when I bought it. I was getting on the plane back home for Easter break, and I knew it would be an excuse to finally put that Kindle I got back at Christmastime to good use. I took a quick look at the top E-reader books, and “Fifty Shades of Grey” was at the top. Imagine my shock when I got to the more, um, detailed moments of the novel. It took all I had not to burst out laughing in horror, embarrassment and amusement in front of everyone on the plane.

When I first got to those steamy S & M scenes, I didn’t know how to react. I’m more a Harry Potter/Hunger Games kind of a girl. But I’d spent money on it, and I don’t like to waste my money, and frankly, Christian Grey was the most intriguing (read: hot) literary character since Edward Cullen. Christian Grey is so much better than that sparkly-skinned vampire, and he’s human to boot.

Anastasia Steele (please, I invite you to laugh at her name as much as I do) is also way better than Isabella Swan, so don’t even try to pretend like this book is taking feminism three steps back. Sure, Ana (that’s her nickname, FYI) is a little slow on the uptake and definitely a weak little thing at first, but this girl quickly became one of my favorite literary heroines. That’s right, I just called her a literary “heroine.” The Jane Austen fan in me is cringing, I assure you.

Ana wants to help Christian, but she stands her ground. Ana’s not about to let Christian do whatever the hell he pleases just so she can be his girlfriend. This is when things get good. Books two and three, “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” (I know, such great names) explore Christian’s dark past and his realization that he shouldn’t feel this need to harm women. Again, don’t get horrified, please. Christian has safe words and all sorts of things to protect his lady friends. (Wow, my parents must be cringing just as much as my inner Jane Austen fan.)

Just know this: Do not judge “Fifty Shades of Grey” until you read it. The first book is full of racy, scandalous scenes, but how else is an author supposed to sell a book in modern-day society? (That’s a joke. I read non-racy books. I swear.) The series actually turns into a worthwhile, intelligent read by books two and three, with thoughtful character development and surprisingly suspenseful plot twists. Or maybe I’m just blinded by the beauty of Christian Grey. But is that really so bad either?