My rating: 2 of 5 stars
If ever there was a book that was completely over-hyped, I think this would be it. I know that it was originally fanfiction, but that doesn’t excuse how lackluster this book actually is. In fact, since it was once fanfiction, I would have expected something a bit better. Many fanfic writers these days can weave more compelling tales than some of the best-selling authors in the world.
The phraseology was completely wrong for a book that was set in the United States. There were so many times when I would have to remind myself that the reason that so many lines sounded like they were plucked off the BBC was that the author was English. Even after reminding myself of that, I still wondered why James couldn’t seem to figure out how to Americanize her language choice. (Or how to put the characters in England, which might have worked even better.) I’ve read books and fanfic by Brits who were able to better grasp the American vernacular than Ms. James did. That she didn’t seem to even try shows quite a bit of laziness on her part.
I get that James wanted to instill a sense of kink into her stories, and that’s why she chose to use her own brand of BDSM in the book. The bad thing is that she got it all wrong. Most people in the BDSM community are not damaged. Sure, there are some who are, but the idea that people get into BDSM because they had a bad childhood or that they have to do it to keep from becoming a “crack-whore” is part of a very old myth about the community held by people who simply refused to learn more about it and wanted to categorize all of those within it as being diseased. Another thing is that BDSM actions are not about abusing the partner. When it comes right down to it, this book is about an abusive relationship. It is not about a Dominant-Submissive relationship. It is about abuse. Now, if James had wanted to write a story about an abusive relationship, I wish that she would have just been upfront about that. It worries me that her characterization of the BDSM community in such a way will inspire some people to attempt to recreate the relationship of Christian and Anastasia and will get people hurt.
In terms of writing technique and style, it really isn’t very good. Yes, I was intrigued by the dramatic ups and downs of the characters and the relationships. To be honest, the draw of watching the ups and downs was kind of like watching NASCAR for the crashes. You just want to see the destruction of something because otherwise it feels like you’ve been suckered into watching things go in circles for hours on end, which isn’t very fun. I know that the book used Twilight for its basic outline and the characters of that series were basically redone to fit this new story. As a person who enjoyed that series, it was very apparent what parts of that story were lifted to create this new universe. Honestly, it felt like when a kid writes a book report, but instead of summarizing and coming up with their own ideas about what they have read, they choose to plagiarize instead. Twilight wasn’t very good literature and to hijack it and place it in another story was not only ethically disgusting, it was also a key part of what made this story badly written. Maybe if James had taken a little more time to craft a more original story, it would not have felt like such a waste of time. I’m just glad I didn’t waste money on it.
If James plans on writing more stories in the future, I hope she learns how to write them without stealing a story from someone else, using the wrong dialect, and writing what could be seen as an offensive stereotyping of an entire subculture of people. Maybe, if she chooses to write other books, she will learn how to use something many of us call an imagination. Maybe she will also utilize the internet to do some research. It’s amazing what she could have learned by just looking for appropriate sources. Basically, I hope she learns how to actually write a decent story someday.