Generally one would start of a book review with a short summary of the plot, and I can do that here, but let’s all just face facts – “Fifty Shades Darker” is a terrible book, as was “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I read both, nonetheless. I’ll probably read whatever the hell the final book is called as well, eventually, because I’m weird like that. If something is a pop culture phenomenon I am probably going to check it out. If there’s a series, I’m going to try to finish it. So here we are…
“Fifty Shades Darker” picks up almost exactly where the first book leaves off; the main character, Anastasia, has left her lover Christian Grey after he spanked the shit out of her during one of their dom/sub trysts. She can’t eat, can’t sleep and is super sad. He contrives some way of getting back in touch with her, they get back together, oh my God he really loves her, some crap happens and blah blah blah. I can’t really muster up the energy to go into too many details of the plot. Bonus points for there actually being a nugget of plot in this book, however. The first book didn’t even have that.
‘What is so terrible about this book,’ you might ask. Let’s list the ways. First, the writing is really bad. It could be partially due to the writer being British and I’m guessing at least 20 years older than the people about which she is writing. I don’t know THAT many Hispanic folks, but I’m pretty sure they don’t walk around saying “Dios mio” on a regular basis. No one in America says “Laters.” I’ve only heard it previously watching ‘Bend it Like Beckham,’ so I’d assume it originates in the UK. Good writers manage to develop characters that seem multi-faceted, plotlines that keep a reader intrigued, and probably use a thesaurus. One of the best book reviews I’ve ever read was on Goodreads for the first book of the series – the reader counted the number of times Anastasia says “Oh my” or something like that. James continues to reuse the same tropes from the first novel in the second: Ana bites her lip and it drives Christian wild, he’s fifty shades of fucked up (naturally that provides the title so we MUST be beaten over the head with it), etc. It gets really old really fast. None of the characters are much more than two-dimensional stereotypes. Ana is the self-conscious naïve beauty completely unaware of her hold over men. Christian was abused as a child so he’s emotionally guarded and driven to succeed. We’ve seen it all before. It’s called Twilight. I think I read somewhere that James used Edward and Bella as sort of a basis for Christian and Ana. I don’t care enough to look up whether it’s true or not; whether it was consciously done or not, she did in fact rip off large swathes of Twilight. Look, I’ve read the Twilight Saga. It’s not something you’d really want to steal from.
What I kept hearing about around the interwebs when this trilogy first got traction was the graphic sex and how titillating and forbidden it was. Hey, I am a red-blooded American woman. I like sexy just as much as the next girl. This wasn’t titillating in the least for me. I think one time I caught myself thinking “Oh! That would be fun!” The rest of the sex I skimmed over. It actually was one of the things that enraged me about the first book (and it’s carried over into the second). The sex described in these books isn’t realistic. If someone out there has a 100% orgasm rate, I want to meet their partner, and steal them away. I have known a lot of women over the years. Not a single one had an orgasm the first time she had sex. NOT ONE. Most women don’t have them from vaginal intercourse, actually, and I feel like this book is lying to women out there. This book is telling women oh it’s possible to have earth-shattering orgasms (multiple ones, even) IF you find the right person. I don’t buy it. Sure, we can and do have them. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if most women had even half the number of orgasms Ana does, stock in Trojan would skyrocket. I’m rambling; I tend to do that when I just don’t understand what the fuss is about. This book has a lot of sex in it, but if that’s what is so great about it, why don’t people just rent a porno? This book is like one of those pornos that attempts to also have a story rather than just a series of sex scenes. They do make those and I really am not seeing why renting one of those wouldn’t be a better option. It probably would be more exciting for me anyway. The first book was just a series of sex scenes with no plot. This book peppers in some plot so that you get a break from all the sex, so that’s an improvement at least.
I suppose I should say some positive things. I like that this book is getting people talking about sex, especially as concerns non-traditional relationships. I think it’s nice that a book discussing in detail some alternate lifestyles has become so popular; it might make folks who are into a little kink (most people, I’d wager) feel a little more ‘normal.’ Don’t get me wrong, this series pretends to be about dom/sub sex. It’s not. Most of the sex is more vanilla than you’d expect. But it’s putting the ideas out there so I think that’s good. It’s also getting people reading. That can’t be a bad thing. Hey not every book club can read Great Expectations all the time. It’s why I read some terrible things sometimes. They’re quick, easy, and don’t make you think too hard. I love great literature, but I also read some crap. These books are good for that, if nothing else. I think it’s safe to say that most people reading “50 Shades Darker” at this point probably are aware that it’s not great literature – it’s just fun.
That’s the thing… it’s not really even that fun.