Sunday, May 20, 2012

50 Shades...You read what?!

Many of my friends have been waxing lyrical over 50 Shades of Grey. Some of them are reading it furtively on their Kindles and Nooks where no one can see the title while others are reading it proudly, cover showing, telling anyone who’ll listen how hot it is.

I haven’t read it. Honestly, I probably won’t, but not for the reasons you might think.

I don’t care that it was originally self-published, although the general consensus of reviewers in the blogosphere is that it could have benefitted from some professional editing. I have no beef with self-publishers. I’ve considered it myself. Get your stuff out there. Get paid. In E.L. James’ case, get paid a lot.

I have no issue with the erotic content of the book. I LOVE a good romance, and many of my favorites don’t fade to black when the hero and heroine finally make it to the bedroom. 50 Shades is part of the subgenre, erotic romance, which I generally don’t read. For my readers who aren’t romance aficionados, the difference between erotic romance and another subgenre of romance with erotic content is that in an erotic romance, the hero and heroine find their way to Happily Ever After (HEA) through their sexual journey. So…the sex is front and center rather than something that occurs along the way.

My favorite subgenres are romantic suspense and paranormal romance. In these subgenres, the protagonists find their way to HEA through a mystery or some sort of spooky doings. Sometimes, they get freaky while they’re being spooky, and hey, I’m all for that, as long as it makes sense in the story.

In a world full of many wonderful romance choices, 50 Shades isn’t something I would pick up and read in the normal course of events. Add to the mix the fact it was written as Twilight fanfic, and I’m really not interested. Edward and Bella explore their relationship through kinky sex? No thanks.

So, you might be thinking, why bother blogging, Kathy? You’re not jumping on the 50 Shades bandwagon. Bully for you. Do you want a cookie or something?

No, I do not want a cookie. Wait! Is it an Oreo? Oh, nevermind. I do not want a cookie. And I really, really, really do not want to read a book review over 50 Shades written by a 15 year old boy. Yes, you read that right…one of my freshman boys wrote their final book review of the year on 50 Shades of Grey

He strolled into my classroom with a question. “Hey, Ms. Owens, have you read 50 Shades of Grey?”

I raised my eyebrows. “No, have you?”

“Yeah, my mom let me have the whole trilogy after she finished with it. I couldn’t put it down.”

“I’ll bet. You say your mom gave you the books?”

“Yeah. Do you know what they’re about?”

“I’ve heard about them.” Now the grin starts spreading across his face. He was just waiting to see if I knew anything about the book. 

“Seriously, Ms. Owens, seriously, it’s a great story. Even without all the sex.”

“Seriously?” I repeated in the same tone of voice. Mind you, he hasn’t stopped grinning like the cat that ate the canary.

“I swear to GOD, Ms. Owens, it’s a really good story.” I was so tempted to tell him he sounded like every guy who’s ever read Playboy. “I read it for the articles.”

Uh. Huh.

Instead I said, “Well, I guess it’s up to you to convince me of that in your book review.”

Fast forward to Friday. I read his book review before school started, and handed it back to him in class. 

“You gave me a C.”

“It was a week late and a bit sparse.”


“No detail.”

“No detail? You wanted detail?”

“You have the rubric for the assignment. You talked all around the story without really telling me anything. I could’ve gotten what you wrote from the book jacket.”

“I promise I read that book. I read all three.”

"Oh, I believe you read it. That’s why you worked so hard not to tell me anything.”

He changed tactics. “It’s the book I chose, isn’t it? You said you don’t believe in censorship.”

I threw my hands up. “Did I say you couldn’t do your book review over this book? You still have to write a good review, no matter what book you choose. You’re lucky I know you’re a reader and I believe you read it.”

“So you don’t read books with sex in them?”

He knows he wrote a subpar review, and now he’s fishing. I know it. I’m not having the conversation he’s trying to have.

“I don’t read Twilight fan fiction.”


“Well, yeah, the main characters are based on Edward and Bella.”

“No way! They aren’t vampires!”

I took his review back out of his hand and read out loud. (I’m paraphrasing here and I don’t remember the characters’ names, but the gist is the same.) “Sally is fascinated by Joe, but then she finds out he has a dark secret. At first she is afraid, but before long, she is drawn into his secret world and wants him to make her a part of it. Now let me read that again and substitute the names Edward and Bella.”


I laughed and went on with class. I did notice several times that he was staring off into space with a bereft look on his face, and I felt kinda bad. He had an “innocence lost” expression. I think 50 Shades was just a titillating story for him until I offered real faces to put on it.

I like to think I’ve been teaching long enough that things don’t surprise me anymore, and boys wanting to read books with sex in them…that doesn’t surprise me. Heck this book is selling like hotcakes. A lot of suburban moms want to read sexy books. What surprises me is a suburban mom giving the sexy books to her teenage boy.

One day of school left…

Thank God.


  1. Aw, man, I was hoping when you said one of the Freshman boys read it his book review was gonna make your upper lip sweat. I honestly have to say that by the time I was his age, my mom would have handed me those books. She used to read trashy fiction when she was a kid because it was what my great aunts read and it was what was there. I think I was about 12 when I read V.C. Andrews. Honestly, I'm not much of a pure romance fan but this was hysterical.

  2. by the way, the punctuation in the previous comment (or lack there of) is brought to you by my rapid iPhone typing. I apologize!!!!

  3. Getting kids to turn in any assignment where they have to read independently makes my upper lip sweat. A good bit of what we read in class (The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet) has enough sex in it that I'm not easily thrown. Glad you enjoyed it!