If you haven't read it, you've certainly heard about it. The Fifty Shades trilogy by E L James is sweeping the bestseller lists, has over 1,300 holds in the Allegheny County library system (for the first book alone!), and the movie rights have been swept up by Universal Pictures.
The wild, runaway success of the trilogy is not something author E L James likely expected. A wife and mother of two who currently lives in West London, James already had a successful career as a TV executive. She had always been interested in writing, but one of the most interesting things about Fifty Shades is how it started life -- not as a trilogy of novels, but as a series of fanfiction stories about Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.
Fanfiction is stories written by fans about previously-existing characters -- and, as such, falls into a, well, grey area of copyright law. When James's Twilight stories proved immensely popular online (where people could read them for free), she was eventually inspired to rewrite the stories as original -- and sellable -- novels. The series took off.
Read on to hear more about the popular reads from one of our own staff members!
The "Fifty Shades" Trilogy
Staff review by C.O.
Well, what can I say about Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James? First, I'll say that I actually downloaded all three books (Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed) to my Kindle because I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. Why have there been over 1,300 holds on the book in the countywide library system? Did the trilogy live up to the fuss?
Was I disappointed? ... yes and no. Yes, because the writing lacks quality, the dialogue is weak, the characters unbelievable -- and it seems to have sex on every other page, which personally I could do without. No, because I realized underneath the sex and the dominate/submissive scene, this is really nothing but a love story. A little skewed, but definitely a love story. And who doesn't love a silly, little love story?
When you first meet Anastasia, you get the picture of an awkward, innocent, not entirely comfortable-in-her-own-skin person, who just happens to meet this billionaire, 26-year-old Adonis by the name of Christian Grey. Wow, who wouldn't want to meet this guy! But underneath, he is a control freak who wants to dominate women because that is the only way he can have sex. Then he meets Anastasia Steele ... and he doesn't know what hits him. She confuses him, intrigues him, and excites him, all at the same time. She has a way of getting under his skin and breaking his shell wide open, something that he is not very comfortable with -- nor does he quite like the feelings of not being in control.
I really thought the sex scenes were overboard, and could have been toned down without taking anything away from the story. I understand the sex scenes were part of why Christian is the way he is portrayed to be, but to me, it was too much. But I believe the reason Christian finds Anastasia attractive, and eventually falls in love with her, is because she stands up to him. She's not afraid to let him know what she will or will not do in the relationship. She is not there to use him for his money, she is not there to make a name for herself. She's there because she loves the man she sees hidden deep inside of him. A side he really doesn't want to come out, a side that makes it hard for him to have a real relationship -- not just with Anastasia, but with all who love him. At one point in the book, his mother actually thanks Anastasia, because Christian is slowly opening himself up to his family -- a family who loves him in spite of himself.
But the more I read, the more I wanted to find out what happens to Anastasia. Does she succumbs to Christian's wants and needs, and lose herself in the process? Or does she stand firm against him and walk away? If you manage to make it through the first book, I do suggest reading all three -- because you will get the answers to all your questions.