currently reading (or, “why i’m reading 50 shades of grey”)

I love to read. I’m a diverse reader, and will pretty much read anything I can get my hands on.

I would have to say that my favorite genre, though it generally targets an audience younger than my twenty-two year old self, is Young Adult. Not only is it my favorite genre to read; it will be the genre that I write if I ever actually write a novel.

I generally make pretty decent literary choices, but last month I decided to tackle a series that has exploded onto the literary map: the Fifty Shades series.

A bit of background: in addition to being a writing major, I am currently pursuing a women’s studies minor. Each student in the program has to spend an entire semester researching something having to do with gender studies. After much thinking, I decided to do a study of the portrayal of female heroines in pop culture. The study, which will take place this fall, is going to intensely examine the female protagonists in the Hunger Games series, the Harry Potter series, and the Twilight series. I chose these three stories because of the differences in the way females are portrayed, and because they all have large fan bases. After examining these protagonists, I plan to look at the influences that these characters have on young women in our society.

While planning this project with my professor, we were talking (mostly bashing) about Twilight, and she asked if I had heard of the 50 Shades series. I had heard of it, yes, but had no real desire to read it. She mentioned that it began as a Twilight fan-fiction, but evolved into its own story. She also explained that Ana, the main character, was so similar to Bella that it may be worth it to use these books in my study as well.

Begrudgingly, I began reading. Immediately I could pick up the similarities between 50 Shades and Twilight, though I had not touched the Twilight books since high school. I was quickly irritated by the author’s use of British words coming from American characters — I got very tired of hearing Ana say she looked ‘smart’. (I’m sorry, but if you’re going to write characters from a country other than your own, please do some research.)

I kept reading. I wouldn’t say the book gripped me or anything, but I’m one of those people that has to finish a book once it’s started. It’s not the best series I’ve ever read, and I do think that the author could have combined all three books into one, but if nothing else, it has definitely been an interesting read.

I am now well into the third book and am still not sure why I’m reading them. I can see why they are so popular, but the popularity scares me. Ana and Christian are not the types of characters who need to be idolized — he admittedly stifles her (physically and emotionally), and their relationship is based purely on sex. That kind of life may absolutely work for some people, but for others, it may do more harm than good.

It’ll be interesting to see if they can make a movie out of this that has any less than an X rating… I swear, every few pages is another sex scene. Sex in novels doesn’t normally bother me, but the 50 Shades series relies a bit too heavily on graphic sex scenes.

I’m looking forward to finishing book 3 and moving on to bigger and better things.

EDIT: Author Jodi Picoult’s twitter blew up with a debate on 50 Shades … here was one of her more memorable responses.

It’s not the story I oppose. It’s the unethical “borrowing” of another author’s ideas and characters to make $.

She does have a point.

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