It is not even the sex. When I was a kid we called a book like "Fifty Shades of Grey" a "dirty book." But Fifty Shades is so much more than that. As a person who reads and is involved in a wonderful book club, I had to find out what all the fuss was about. I can say, pretty definitively, that this is the worst book I have ever forced myself to read/skim. I have found that a bad book in a literary sense has certain red flags.
One red flag is the use of the verb "grin." My attempts to keep track of the number of times a character "grins" went off the chart. Sometimes James uses this verb numerous times in the same paragraph. In good literature, people don't grin, guffaw, frown, or sigh their words. Good writers don't fall in love with a phrase, (fifty shades) and use it until you are driven to use the book for a shot put. The protagonist blushes 50 shades of red, the male character is 50 shades of messed up etc. How about "Fifty Shades of Bad?"
And that protagonist! She is a 21-year-old virgin who has been kissed twice without even a modicum of curiosity about her own sexuality before she meets this "oh so handsome" sadist with the steel grey eyes and his pants hanging seductively off his hips. Hmmm … maybe that is why so many bodice rippers are set in previous centuries. Apart from one or two decent sex scenes before the S&M kicks in (pun intended) this book has so value whatsoever.
When the Harford County Librarian elected not to stock it, I was uncertain. Finally I joined the cries against censorship. Now, despite the fact that I feel like I have flip flopped like a politician on this issue, I would like to apologize to her. Madam Librarian, you were right.
Linda Rains Allman
The writer is a resident of Baltimore County but has grandchildren in Harford County and is a frequent user of the Harford County Public Library.