I finished "Fifty Shades of Grey." With minimal eye-rolling.
I embarked on the erotic literary journey midway through last week and finished on Sunday. "Fifty Shades of Grey," written by E.L. James, is a piece of erotic fiction that focuses on a recent college graduate's first major romantic fling. She's virginal, he's experienced. BDSM is involved. You get the picture.
I read the book because it's invaded all sorts of headlines and I wanted to be part of the cool kids club. Entertainment Weekly even has an entire online portal devoted to the book.
So I read it, ultimately satisfied to find a piece of escapism entertaining enough to keep me awake past my bedtime for one too many nights.
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When I read the final page, my reaction was simple: "Well, that was fun."
But it came with some guilt.
"Fifty Shades of Grey" began as "Twilight" fan fiction, and the elements of female submission that dominate "Twilight" are obviously present in the book. The main character's professional goals seem like an afterthought. Her computer -- a gift from her love interest -- is used for exchanging romantic emails and researching her partner's romantic preferences.
Unlike Bella in "Twilight," Ana -- the central character in "Fifty Shades of Grey" -- has moments of genuine humanness while analyzing her actions.
Nonetheless, the book is still largely a tale of female submission and that made me feel guilty for liking it.
Here's the problem, though. As much as I want a world where all female heroines live according to a soundtrack of Beyonce songs, I can't ignore the fact that even real women seem to spend a significant chunk of time crying over emotionally unavailable guys.
"Fifty Shades of Grey" isn't an accurate portrait of a 20-something female in 2012, but it touches on one aspect of female existence. And acknowledging that fact -- maybe even appreciating it -- shouldn't be a cause for guilt.
At least that's how I justified buying the second book in the series.
Stay tuned. And in the meantime, read my colleague Sara Pauff's cool blog post about romance novels.