The very first note I wrote about this book reads as follows:
"Page 1: First two sentences!!! I immediately dislike this."
The next note reads:
"Entire first paragraph fucking blows."
This book opens with the main character, Ana, standing in front of a mirror and complaining because ohmigod her hair just won't behave! I instantly hate her. She continues to do this through the entire paragraph and also tells us her blue eyes are too big for her face. I already know this is going to be a theme and I HATE women who act like this - the exaggerated self-deprecating compliment fishing behavior of the insecure and self-obsessed. Oh you have big beautiful blue eyes? I FEEL SO FUCKING SORRY FOR YOU.
I am further alienated from the main character in the second paragraph. She is hating on herself in the mirror because her roommate, Kate, was supposed to do an interview for the school paper, but now Ana has to do it because Kate has inconsiderately come down with the flu. My note on this says "Kate has the flu - WHAT A BITCH". Poor, poor Ana has to drive 165 miles to interview some super rich powerful guy and she has finals to study for! Oh dear! I have no sympathy for this character. The idea of saying "No, I have to study" has not even occurred to her. Ana is a whiny fucking moron. I feel badly for Kate, though, because she is sick and because she has an ass for a roommate.
That's the first page.
The meeting of the two main characters of the book is based on an entirely implausible premise. Kate is the editor of the school paper. Since she can't do the interview she inexplicably asks Ana to do it, despite the fact that Ana has no interviewing experience and doesn't even work on the fucking paper. In no universe does an editor do something like this - a real life editor would send another actual writer. I was explaining this to H-town, with whom I attended college and who went on to be a real live journalist!, and she pointed out that even that was unlikely because a normal person would have rescheduled the interview. An editor must have pointed this out, because it is made very explicit that it took 9 MONTHS to get him to agree to this interview and THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER CHANCE, which still doesn't explain why she would send her non-writing painfully awkward roommate instead of someone with a goddamn clue.
While this ridiculously contrived storyline is being laid out, two other things are happening: Ana is constantly describing how perfect Kate is at EVERYTHING EVER, and so much foreshadowing there is practically no reason to bother reading the rest of the book. Kate, by the way, who I initially was sympathetic towards, is a college student who drives a Mercedes so now I hate her as well. This revelation is also the point (page 2!) where I encounter the first of so, so many asinine sentences I still can't believe actually got published: "Oh, the Merc is a fun drive, and the miles slip away as I hit the pedal to the metal." My note next to that sentence reads "Go die."
So she goes to the interview and there is so much foreshadowing you could trip over it. The building is intimidating, all the office workers are perfect, everyone's outfit is immaculate, Ana feels out of place because she is so awkward and plain and her clothes aren't right at all. I come across an instance of unnecessary hyperbole that makes me throw up in my mouth a little, when she describes the elevator she's in as traveling at "terminal velocity". I'm no professional writer, but if you're writing an entire novel, nay, THREE OF THEM, it's probably best to save the hyperbolic descriptions for things that actually advance the fucking plot. I've read better writing than this when I was on the staff of the creative writing magazine at my high school.
Anywhore, she is admitted to his office and immediately trips and falls flat on her face because OF COURSE SHE DOES, SHE IS TOTES THE MOST AWKWARD GIRL, LIKE, EVAR. She then proceeds to make a complete ass of herself because she has done zero research on this guy whatsoever, nor has she read any of the questions Kate has written, a point which confuses me because a few paragraphs earlier she had taken the questions out of her backpack while she waited in the lobby, so I guess she just spaced out and forgot to look at them? This kind of bullshit where the author seems to forget what she wrote two pages ago happens repeatedly. Ana's atrocious lack of preparedness is all Kate's fault, by the way. Kate should have briefed her. Kate should have told her how young he was and that he was totes the hottest guy who has ever lived. Ana is incapable of taking any sort of responsibility for herself and also has never fucking heard of Google. I hate her with the hatiest of hates.
The foreshadowing is out of friggin control. She shakes his hand and it is electrifying. She chalks this up to static because we are supposed to think she is so innocent and naive. He is the most gorgeous man in existence. He is also an arrogant, controlling prick. The entire dynamic of their future relationship (which everyone reading knows is coming because it COULD NOT BE MORE CLEAR) is established. Additionally, I am now filled with moral outrage because she has right off the bat thrown both of her main characters into stereotypical, one-dimensional caricatures of people who participate in D/s relationships: all subs are insecure mousy little creatures who could never figure their life out on their own; all Doms are arrogant outrageous control freaks who need to dominate EVERY SINGLE THING AND PERSON IN THEIR LIVES AT ALL TIMES. Pay attention, because this is important: both of those archetypes are COMPLETE AND UTTER BULLSHIT YOU GUYS. So far she is not mainstreaming and legitimising a subculture, she is undermining it by reinforcing the crap people already believe. I am now wholly convinced the only research she did for this book was to look up "BDSM" on Wikipedia and skim the first paragraph.
After the disaster of an interview which allegedly went over the allotted time, even though based on the dialogue seems like it couldn't have taken longer than 10 minutes, she gets up to leave and then more abominations of writing happen. There is another electrifying handshake which she assumes is her nerves because at 21 years old she is entirely unfamiliar with what sexual attraction feels like. He gets up to open the door with "lithe athletic grace" in case we weren't already sure he was the most beautiful man in all of history. As he does this, he says "Just ensuring you make it through the door, Miss Steele" because remember how she fell before? Well, just in case you forgot something she made a huge deal about SEVEN PAGES AGO she follows this line with "Obviously, he's referring to my earlier less-than-elegant entry into his office." Congratulations, you are are correct! That was completely obvious! It was so obvious that there was NO FUCKING REASON FOR YOU TO POINT OUT ITS OBVIOUSNESS, other than to reiterate that you are super duper clumsy and awkward which we already know because YOU KEEP TELLING US ABOUT IT OVER AND OVER AGAIN. I hate her.
The second chapter starts with her RUNNING FRANTICALLY from the building and then hyperventilating for a while in the parking lot to give her time to complain AGAIN about how it's all because of Kate that she showed up for an interview entirely unprepared. My note on this reads "Why is she running? Why is it Kate's fault? WHY DON'T YOU KNOW WHAT GOOGLE IS?!?" She drives home while obsessing about this guy in minute foreshadowy detail: "Some of his answers were so cryptic - as if he had a hidden agenda."(emphasis mine) HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS I WONDER IF HE'S PLOTTING SOMETHING IT IS SO HARD TO TELL. Hey, did you notice how controlling he is? And gorgeous? Like the most on the planet? Ana did! She'll tell you all about it! Again! My note: "Please tell me more about how you think he's arrogant and hot!" She gets home and Kate is wearing pajamas. She will describe these pajamas to you more than once. I can't be arsed. Kate is perfect by the way. Kate doesn't think Ana should go to work because she's already had a long day and working will make her tired! Ana goes to work anyway so we will know she is a martyr.
This is where we find out about her job. Ana works at a hardware store. Ana has learned a little bit about hardware because she works at a hardware store. She has NOT, however, learned enough about hardware to ever be able to use any of it because she totes sucks at it. She's a GIRL, you guys. Girls can't work hammers. She needs her dad to do it for her. Dads are men. They know how to hammer. I want to hammer her into a pancake.
When she gets home she eye-fucks her roommate some more: "She arches a perfect eyebrow at me." Perfect Kate has the audacity to ask her questions about the interview she went on AS A FAVOR TO KATE. And Ana has to answer her because she has no power to decide what she does and doesn't get to talk about. Kate wishes they'd thought to get a photo of him because she hasn't foreshadowed anything in two whole sentences and we need some sort of plot device to put Ana and Christian in the same room again so she can remind us how uncomfortable it makes her.
We get some background on Ana's family. Her mom gets married a lot, it seems - she's on husband number four right now. Ana phones her dad, who isn't her bio dad but is her first step dad and she considers him her real dad. Two things here: I am absolutely stunned that she doesn't give any detail here AT ALL about where her biological dad is. And I am back to moral outrage because she's feeding (ridiculously inaccurate) stereotypes AGAIN: all future subs have daddy issues. IT IS THE ONLY EXPLANATION FOR HOW THEY GOT THAT WAY. I hate everything.
The next day Ana goes to work, as you do, and while she's sitting there doing work she looks up and HOLY TITTYFUCKING PENGUIN FINS CHRISTIAN GREY IS STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER. My reaction: Christian Grey is a fucking stalker. RUN ANA RUN. Ana's reaction: Whoa, that is super weird, he must be in town on business! I can't believe he just happened to walk into the store I work in! WHAT ARE THE ODDS? No one is this naive in real life, are they? They can't be. I can't live in a world where people are this oblivious. She marvels at this "coincidence" hardcore y'all, and reminds us once again that he is SO WAY THE SEXIEST. She compares his voice to chocolate fudge caramel. It is a horrible sentence and I write in my notes "I hate you. I hate you SO HARD" I would tell you more about what a horrible sentence it is, but shortly after it there is a paragraph with two sentences that absolutely should not exist:
1. With my heart almost strangling me - because it's in my throat trying to escape from my mouth - I head down one of the aisles to the electrical section.
2. And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain - probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells - comes the thought: He's here to see you.
WHAT. THE. FUCK. I want to throw this entire paragraph off a cliff.
So here is what Christian Grey comes to the hardware store to buy: cable ties, masking tape, rope. It's a goddamn BDSM shopping list. STOP FORESHADOWING EVERYTHING. STOP IT. STOP. He also gets all dark and angry when some other dude shows up and hugs her because, again, the way it works is every Dom in the whole world gets super mad if anyone else touches the girl they have their eye on. THIS IS HOW IT HAS TO BE.
The chapter ends with the two of them discussing how Kate wants a photo and he tells her he'd be happy to sit for a photoshoot (WHO KNEW?) and so now Ana needs to find a photographer. A few pages before this, we were introduced to her friend Jose who hearts her but she only hearts him like a brother and GUESS WHAT YOU GUYS. Jose is a photographer. I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THIS IS GOING HER WRITING IS SO MYSTERIOUS.
At the start of chapter 3, everything happens exactly the way you've already been told it was going to happen. Also Kate is still perfect. The guy she works with who has liked her forever asks her out again. She turns him down and she flat out fucking tells you it's because he's not just like someone in a fairytale: "Paul is cute in a wholesome all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he's no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination." My note: "You are a total cunt Ana." In the very next line she wonders if Grey IS like a literary hero. In fact she asks herself this. Or rather "...my subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised." I officially want to light myself on fire.
The next day they do the photoshoot and she gets to stare at him and talk about how magical he looks. And then after that - gasp! - he asks her out for coffee on a date! HOLY CURVEBALL, BATMAN, I DID NOT SEE THAT ONE COMING. I wish foreshadowing was a physical object because I want to stab it SO HARD. Oh wait, I skipped a thing (this is why you take notes, kids). In this chapter on page 36, while she's reminding us that Christian is rich and Kate is beautiful, I come across the first instance of a description of his clothes I have been assured will be repeated until I give up and dig my eyes out with a spoon: "...gray flannel pants that hang from his hips." I will be counting, at *friends*'s request, how many times she says this and how many times she talks about bodywash. Anyway, they are going out for coffee right fucking now. She makes a ridiculously big deal about what it's like to walk down a hallway with him. He takes her hand to cross the street and she writes "No one has ever held my hand" so I write back "Oh fuck you". You are a senior in college and you have never held hands with ANYONE? EVER? I don't believe you. You don't exist. Amish kids get fresher than that. Page 42 he is seriously so hot, you have no idea. And his pants hang from his hips (2). He asks if Jose is her boyfriend to reminds us that Doms are ALWAYS jealous and then tells her what a mystery she is. I want to give him this book to read and tell him "Don't worry, she will tell you EVERYTHING in here." You guys. He is a control freak. Also Kate is beautiful. THIS BOOK COULD BE HALF AS LONG AS THIS WHAT THE FUCK.
They start talking about her family, and I find out what I was wondering earlier - her biological dad died when she was a baby, which explains everything. However, when she asks similar questions he doesn't want to talk about his family. UH OH I WONDER IF HE'S HIDING SOMETHING BAD ABOUT HIS FAMILY AND ALSO IF THAT'S WHAT TURNED HIM INTO A BAD BAD MAN. Five year olds write stories that are less obvious than this one. I hate you.
Chapter 3 ends with him walking her back to
This is as far as I am going to be able to get tonight. I am concerned I might not get a whole lot further at all. I am trying hard to stick with it long enough to get to a sex scene so I can eviscerate it, but the next time her character uses "taciturn" out loud to describe someone or any other phrase that is only there so she can prove that she knows big words I am going to lose my shit. I hate everything right now.