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As a woman in her late-twenties, I am part of the target audience for the current number one New York Times bestselling novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. Although this is not a genre I typically read, I wanted to check this one out in order to dissect it and gain a better understanding about why so many people, mos of whom I suspect to be women, have been flocking to the stores and internet sites to buy it. To me, the answer seems pretty simple. I am no expert on women, men, relationships, or sex; but, there are some things that have become pretty clear to me due to life experience over the years. The characters in this book are no exception, which makes it an appealing choice for readers. Christian Grey is mysterious, arrogant, rich, magnetic, controlling, and elusive. Anastasia Steele is a recent college graduate who has had many suitors, but none who have peaked her interest until she stumbles into the office of billionaire, Grey.  He finds himself enamored by her eccentricity and innocence. But, he decides he does not want a typical romance with Ana; because, he “doesn’t do relationships.”  The fact that he cannot seem to stay away from her despite his claim that he is incapable giving or receiving affection is confusing and intriguing for both Ana and the reader. At first, both narrator and reader are drawn in, we want to know: what exactly is he playing at? Although the author creates a series of conversations and e-mails that suggest otherwise, there is not much complexity involved in the dynamics the relationship. The good girl can’t stay away from the bad boy.

Most people have been in situation similar to Ana, call it unrequited love or lust, we find ourselves enthralled, overwhelmed, and attached without a logical explanation; we are willing to do anything for a person who is interested in us one moment and uninvolved the next. Yet, the happy moments are enough; we’re convinced they feel it too.  In the case of Mr. Grey and his new desire, Ana, the reader is interested in the scenes because the emotions Ana experiences are familiar and dangerous. This is not just because author, E L James, has made Grey’s need for control into something more: Ana must agree to a non- disclosure agreement allowing his compulsion for sadomasochistic activities, which means she may never receive the intimacy she wants and needs in return. Although some may find the sex and dominance exciting, the real story exists with Ana and the possibility that in being unable to resist what may be Grey’s attempts to cope with past abuse, her heart and possibly even her psyche will be broken.  As he explains that she will use his S and M playroom with him only if she consents, she knows that while this is true, her mind and body are only partially under her control. “At this moment, I’d probably do anything for the man seated beside me (92).” For most girls, first love or lust may lead to a broken heart, but the ideas Ana has about doing anything for this man will lead to different consequencs.

From the first time Ana meets Grey, her fascination and passion for him overrules her logic. She quickly commits herself to him and his demands, loses her virginity and consents to the escalating amount of dominance Grey asserts in her life. He makes a list she must agree to follow that includes: exercise, personal hygiene/beauty, personal safety, and personal qualities. Ana is now the Submissive and Grey the Dominant (106). The reader becomes fascinated with how far it will go. After all, the only thing Ana gets out of it is to please Grey. But, as she comes to understand, “And I realize in that moment, that yes, that’s exactly what I want do. I want him to be damned delighted with me (100).” Of course, problems arise when Ana becomes less and less comfortable with the complications of the relationship.

The book is engaging because provides incite into a universal relationship problem: can two compromise to make things work? Ana suspects that the adopted Grey’s preferences and treatment of women are related to secrets and abuse in his past.  If she can help him resolve his issues their relationship can change too. Maybe for Ana things will be different and Grey alters his behavior.  Sound familiar? Most people who experience a relationship in which the other person cannot give them exactly what they wish for look for explanations. James feeds her audience the information they are looking for, because stories are never just about the fictional characters contained within the pages, they are also about how reader can relate them to their own life.  As the future of the lovers unfolds for readers, the text remains quick-paced, the characters have depth, and due to the author’s wise choice of themes, which range from unrequited love, lust, control, trust, miscommunication, secrets, compromise, and façades people hide behind, she captives her target audience. For an entertaining read with some unexpected content , I recommend James’ erotic romance.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Watch: E L James “ ‘Bask’ in FIfty Shades of Sudden Success”