Last month, a woman with a Yankee accent went off on a rant at book club. She did not like the book and told us so in no uncertain terms. She said book club had really gone downhill lately with the book selections. "I mean, this is just trash," she concluded. I couldn't help but snicker, because I hadn't liked the book either.

This month, we read Fifty Shades of Grey. Sigh.

I have not been looking forward to this month. As soon as I saw the title on our list of books to vote for, I felt a deep fear in my heart that the other bozos nice ladies in the book club would pick it. I was horrified at the idea of having to read it, not just because it was a smutty book, but because everyone in the world knew that it was a smutty book. It was on the news! I have my mom use her Amazon Prime account to order books for me. This time, I blushed at the thought. I usually read during my lunch hour in an empty conference room. I imagined having to sneak the book around so that no one would see me with it. I prayed to the book club gods that the other ladies would show good taste and pick some other crappy book.

The book club gods let me down. It's possible that such a specialized diety does not actually exist.

I am not anti-erotica. I don't really read it, because it makes me uncomfortable, but I don't have a problem with its existence. Whatever people want to write in a book, that's fine. Whatever people want to read in a book, that's fine, too. Yay for books. Fifty Shades is not trash because it's a sex book. It's trash because it's just not very good at all. The writing is bad, bad, bad. The same words and phrases are used repeatedly. I suppose you could say that's an artistic choice. After all, the protagonist and narrator is a young woman, freshly graduated from college. It's not entirely unrealistic in terms of how that character might talk. But who wants to read a book narrated by an idiot? Every time she might've had a thought, she just says "Holy crap" or "Whoa" instead. There is no reflection at all, just reaction. Holy crap.

As for the love interest, ugh. His main qualities appear to be that he is really, really, ridiculously good-looking and richer than Croesus. Also, he's mysterious, in that sometimes he's sorta not a jerk and other times he is definitely a jerk. Gosh, don't you want to read a whole book series about a man like that? He does use his vast wealth to send food to Africa, so that's something. And he likes classical music. He has some cool and interesting hobbies, but those mostly underline his privilege, rather than any sort of zest for life (Life is pretty zesty when you're a bazillionaire). But mostly, we are told over and over how hot he is, the way his copper curls glint in the sun, the thrilling way his pants hang on his hips. I like a nicely-tailored pair of pants as much as the next woman, but I need a little more than that. The narrator gushes about how very sweet he is, because he remembered what kind of tea she liked. Aim high, sister! He does buy her lots of expensive presents, and then uses them to stalk her. He has significant control issues, but that just means he cares.

Oh, he's all messed up inside. That's what the mystery is hiding, a profoundly broken person who is incapable of having a relationship with another person as an equal. His control issues are supposed to be from a bad childhood experience. Being stupid rich, which allows hims to buy whatever/whoever he wants, probably doesn't help.

I can totally see the appeal of the broken man story. Are you kidding me? I love a project. A sad man who needs the love of a strong woman to overcome his troubled past to become the man he is capable of being? That's a great story! It's just that the reader is never given a reason to believe that this guy is worth putting in the work for. There's no indication that he had the potential to be anything more than the moody and entitled jerk that he already was. I guess we were supposed to take her word for it, but she was too busy talking about how his steely grey gaze made her muscles clench down there.

Yup, it's a sex book, which means that periodically in the badly-written narrative, there is a badly-written sex scene. But it's just sex, because the dude's issues make him incapable of "making love." I suppose in later books, once his brokenness has been healed by her love, there will be a badly-written love-making scene.

The book ends with our heroine leaving her lover's penthouse apartment in tears, having finally concluded that this relationship will not work (uh, spoiler alert, I guess). It's not even pretending to be anything but a cliffhanger. And yet, I got to that cliff and I sorta shrugged and wandered in the other direction, tossing the book over my shoulder as I went. I will not be devoting any more of my time to these characters. I will thwart the obvious ploy to get me to buy the next book by writing my own conclusion. As far as I'm concerned, they stay broken up, and they will continue to be generally awful people in their own separate lives, the end.

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