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TBTS Reviews: Fifty Shades Darker

July 20, 2012

Fifty Shades DarkerThe second book in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy picks up right where the first one left off, with only a day or two passing in the meantime. Our protagonist Ana Steele, who has just realized how truly fucked up Christian Grey is, has left him, and is suffering the consequences. Anyone who has ever suffered through a breakup can sympathize: she doesn’t eat, she barely sleeps, and she spends most of her time thinking that whatever crazy shit she would have to endure by being with him has got to be better than the hell she is in at that moment. We’ve all been there, sister.

Of course, Ana and Christian are soon reunited (there are two more books, after all). He has realized that his need for her and the lightness she brings to his life far outweigh his need to beat the shit out of her for his own sexual pleasure, so he makes her a proposition: All the kinky fuckery, none of the masochism, and he’ll try to throw in some hearts-and-flowers stuff for good measure. She, of course, accepts.

While Fifty Shades of Grey was all about the honeymoon period, Fifty Shades Darker is all about the settling in. Both Ana and Christian do a lot of growing up in this book. Neither of them is experienced in grown-up relationships, and they’re both finding their way. They make plenty of mistakes along the way, but they learn from them. It’s like watching a time-lapse video of someone growing up — you actually see the progress. Christian begins to accept the “vanilla” lifestyle and actually enjoy it, realizing how much he needs it after rejecting it for so long. Ana learns to stop romanticizing Christian’s moodiness and just accept that he’s kind of a mess, but a mess that she loves, for better or worse.

There is some outside drama in the sequel — an ex-submissive who’s gone off her rocker and roaming the streets of Seattle with a gun, a pervy boss with an ulterior motive, a helicopter crash. As Ana and Christian really start to get a handle on their relationship, the outside world intervenes, as it always does. The novel shifts from a purely erotic romance to a bit of a thriller (though the dramatic bits turn out to be pretty straightforward and one-dimensional in the end). I actually like the second book better than the first. I’m not sure if I just get used to the bad writing or if the writing actually improves, but it’s a better read. And I like that E.L. James lets you see how the characters and the relationship mature.

Since posting my review of Fifty Shades of Grey two weeks ago, I can’t seem to go a day without reading some news piece or blog post about the book series. The Internet seems to either love the books or hate them: there is no in-between.

Personally, I love these books, but mostly in a “Fuck you, world!” kind of way. The story is unoriginal, the writing is terrible, but the sex is delicious. And really, I love the fact that these books are flying off the shelves. They’re everywhere! I love walking through Target and seeing two or three women clustered around the GIANT Fifty Shades display, all giggling and snickering as they flip through the books to find the juicy bits. I love seeing women on the bus clutching their paperbacks, furtively glancing around to see if anyone notices what they’re reading. And I love that women are passing these books back and forth among their friends.

I don’t really understand all the Fifty Shades hate, but I think Laurie Penny has it nailed:

When you get down to it, the problem most people seem to have with Fifty Shades of Grey is that it’s for girls. Even worse – it’s “mommy porn”, porn for mommies, for older women to read and get excited about, and that dangerous nonsense really needs to be stopped right now.

It’s perfectly fine for every guy on the planet to spend his nights whacking off to RedTube clips (NSFW), but heaven forbid a woman read a little erotica. Thankfully, I think we’re starting to see a change. The success of Fifty Shades has boosted sales of all erotic literature, and even some of our beloved classics will be treated to Fifty Shades makeovers (no, really). It’s great to see women wearing their enjoyment of these books and others like it as a badge of honor. We will have our smut and we will not be ashamed!

TBTS Reviews: Fifty Shades of Grey
TBTS Reviews: Fifty Shades Freed

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