I tried to read this book in one go, with the intention to then go through it again and write about it chapter by chapter, but it was both too long and too awful. I honestly don't really remember what happened as far as I did read, so you all get to see my shock and disgust as I unearth these suppressed memories. Grab your drinks because you need to drink enough for both of us, dear reader.
You want to know how much I forgot? I forgot that this book opens with first-person baby Grey hanging around his Mom's corpse and being hungry and playing with cars. I--I'm not even going to quote any of it because
1) First person child narration, even when done well* is creepy and annoying.
2) EL James attempting to drama and angst porn is also creepy and annoying
3) Honestly, the writing in those two paragraphs is just such a jumble of bad I don't even know what to grab to demonstrate it.
So I will summarize: Grey hangs out with Mom-corpse, is hungry/thirsty and eats some unidentified gross stuff while puttering around not understanding that Mom isn't sleeping. Her drug-dealer ex turns up, freaks out, boots Grey in the head out of the way to investigate the body, calls the cops, and peaces out and locks the door. Cop turns up, grabs Grey who freaks out and... this leads to him forgetting how to words? Or running out of words? Even being put in this character's head at this moment, it's just all so... blunt force that I actually find myself less certain as to what is supposed to be going on with them.
Don’t touch me. I stay by Mommy. No. Stay away from me. The lady policeman has my blankie, and she grabs me. I scream. Mommy! Mommy! I want my Mommy. The words are gone. I can’t say the words. Mommy can’t hear me. I have no words.OK, I get that we're trying to establish how he ended up doing the whole "not talking for a few years" thing (which, given the amount of therapy he was put in from such a young age, still does not seem quite feasible to me but I am not a child psychologist) and the whole "no touching" bit (that one seems more reasonable to me to have manifested in the way it did, even with being treated intensely from a young age) but eeeehhhh. At least EL James is trying to show, not tell? Like, it's an improvement. (But she's already told us. Over. And over. And over. I no longer care to be shown.)
We then get a smash cut to Ana tearfully reassuring Grey in third person--and that is weird to me. Was EL James struggling to write Grey in first person? I get why it's not Ana, this scene is very much about Grey, but switching to third person (which we have not seen at any other point in the series) is a strange narrative choice that doesn't work for me. I think it would have worked better if the whole book was third person (James' third person is actually not nearly as terrible as her first person) or had stuck with Grey for the whole chapter.
“Ana.” He breathes her name, and it’s a talisman against the black choking panic coursing through his body.
“Hush, I’m here.” She curls around him, her limbs cocooning him, her warmth leeching into his body, forcing back the shadows, forcing back the fear. She is sunshine, she is light . . . she is his.
Grey is, as far as I can tell, in the middle of a panic attack when he wakes up. I am lucky enough to not have had a panic attack, but not all of my loved ones have been so lucky. For the sake of privacy I won't go into too much detail, but I'm like 90% sure you can't hug away a panic attack. I've tried. What surprises me is Grey, who until the last book had a lot of issues with touching, in a moment when he is, if not having a panic attack, on the cusp of maybe having one, isn't set off more by touching. That seems like it would be more internally consistent. I mean, I get Ana apparently has some high level cleric spells (she's been power leveling between books it seems) that have allowed her to become light incarnate (that's gotta be at least a level 10 spell) but being able to magic away deep rooted psychological problems is still some hella high-leveled shit and I don't think she's had enough time between books to both power level AND become a shrink. However on top of not being a child psychologist, I am actually not any kind of psychologist, so this is not my area of expertise. (That involves fire. So much fire).
I also see that even in third person Grey is claiming Ana as "his". That will never not be weird to me. I will sometimes claim The Husbeast's** limbs as my own, and ignore his protests of needing them, and there is nothing sexy or romantic about this. I do it entirely to harass him. So when I see someone claiming another person as their own, I associate it with all the wrong things and it's either creepy and Gollum-like or involves evil giggling followed by trying to hide the other person under the blanket and hope they're not like birds and think that nothing else exists now.
“Please let’s not fight.” His voice is hoarse as he wraps his arms around her.You were just asleep what? How does that even? I don't?
“The vows. No obeying. I can do that. We’ll find a way.” The words rush out of his mouth in a tumble of emotion and confusion and anxiety.
Dude this is a hell of a non-sequitur. I assume they were fighting about this before bed? I mean, they fight constantly in book 2 so that seems like another Tuesday in their household. I kind of like that we're being told he's disoriented and confused and anxious here--not just shaking off the (almost?) panic attack. I guess even Ana's high level light-magic healing spells can't even do that (I'd look into taking some levels in healing if I could) and as annoyingly unrealistic as Grey's feelings and trauma is--bouncing wildly between melodramatic and "tidied up neatly by the end of the episode" levels of simplicity--I do appreciate when James hits on something resembling human.
I am a concerned for Ana that Grey is only agreeing to compromise on her not agreeing to obey him, in front of all their friends and family (a call that seems painfully obvious on her part), when he's like this. Grey is shaken and upset, and Ana is the one thing (he thinks) that can help. It is taking that to have him say "OK, I need (not want) you in my life because you fix a thing, so I will do what it takes to keep you here so you can keep fixing that, 'kay?" which is still shitty and unhealthy and so typically Grey.
“Yes. We will. We’ll always find a way,” she whispers and her lips are on his, silencing him, bringing him back to the now.
HER KISS CAN TRANSPORT HIM THROUGH TIME I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT SPHERE THAT SPELL BELONGS TO IS ANA A MAGICAL GIRL?!
That brings us to the end of the prologue (it is, unlike every other chapter, blissfully short). Keep an eye on twitter (@SnappyErika) or tumblr (for those of you lamenting Will not being on twitter, he IS on tumblr!) for news on updates, or, you know, come back and check the 50 Shades Freed tag. Do what feels good friends. As always, your comments encourage me to forge forward into this awful, and I need all the encouragement I can get. Till another Thursday! Erika out!
*I could not finish this book because while it was very well written and engaging in a horrific sort of way my inherent lack of ability to kids made it too hard to get through for me.
**He was promoted from The Boy after we got married, and a reminder since I've been away and it keeps coming up in comments on older posts, Will and The Husbeast are not the same person. [WW note: It is impossible to overstate how important this distinction is.]