Have you heard of 50 Shades of Grey? Have you maybe confused it for one of those other "Grey" or "Gray" books out there on the market, possibly even confusing the writer of, say, a novel about a Lithuanian girl exiled to Siberia with the author of the erotic BDSM trilogy that's topping the New York Times Best-Seller list? With so many books with that particular color in the title, it is hard to keep things straight! Not to worry, here's a guide to the "imposters" you may be confused by. And for good measure, the real one.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, by E.L. James
About: From Amazon, "When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms." From Wikipedia, "Set largely in Seattle, it is the first installment in a trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steele and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of BDSM."
Evidence of Confusion: See below. At right is the book you're probably looking for. >>>
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1 in Books
Disclaimer: Not everyone is a fan. Detractors cite terrible writing and annoying repetitions as well as the fact that the book started out as Twilight fan-fiction. One diligent Amazon reviewer writes the following:
I have discovered that Ana says "Jeez" 81 times and "oh my" 72 times. She "blushes" or "flushes" 125 times, including 13 that are "scarlet," 6 that are "crimson," and one that is "stars and stripes red." (I can't even imagine.) Ana "peeks up" at Christian 13 times, and there are 9 references to Christian's "hooded eyes" and 7 to his "long index finger." Characters "murmur" 199 times and "whisper" 195 times (doesn't anyone just talk?), "clamber" on/in/out of things 21 times, and "smirk" 34 times. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 "grins" and 124 "frowns"... which, by the way, seems an awful lot of frowning for a woman who experiences "intense," "body-shattering," "delicious," "violent," "all-consuming," "turbulent," "agonizing" and "exhausting" orgasms on just about every page.
You know you're going to read it anyway. Do not be confused by...
Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys
About: A Lithuanian girl exiled to Siberia during Stalin's reign of terror.
Evidence of Confusion: A stranger seated next to Sepetys on a plane whispered to her, "You are an erotic phenomenon," according to NPR's All Things Considered. Also, the first line is "They took me in my nightgown," says the author. "At first glance, readers may not understand that the nightgown foreshadows totalitarianism, not titillation."
Further Evidence of Confusion: "At a bookstore event in Cambridge, Mass., a man approached me after the public discussion and said, 'I must have gotten my dates mixed up, I was here for a different shade of gray ... but hey, did Stalin really kill all of those people?'"
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,085 in Books
Evidence of Further Confusion: Phelps is also the author of Reflections of Grey: Book Three of the Alexis Stanton Chronicles and Color Me Grey: Book One of the Alexis Stanton Chronicles, the description of which sounds not completely unlike what could be construed for the other Grey: "Recently unemployed after quitting a boring office job, Alexis Stanton finds a mysterious ad in the help wanted section that might prove to be the answer to her desire for excitement and adventure. After an intense application process, including actually fighting with her competition, she gets the job of her dreams. But is it going to kill her?"
Amazon Best Sellers Rank [for Shades]: #12,193 in Books
Shades of Gray, by Kim Sanders
About: An award-winning photojournalist finds herself on the wrong side of the lens when she is framed for murder.
Evidence of Confusion:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,240 in Books
Shades of Gray, by Susanne Jacoby Hale
About: A dropout prevention teacher.
Evidence of Confusion: Via the AP, The Florida author "says she has received emails, Facebook messages and phone calls from people thinking she wrote Fifty Shades of Grey."
Further Evidence of Confusion: Via The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Hale's husband, a medical sales representative, says doctors regularly approach him wanting to talk about the book."
Further Evidence Still: "Hale is getting stopped at the grocery store, at her kids' schools, in the neighborhood, all by people who've heard of her book, or think they have. When Hale went to donate a copy of her Shades to the local library, 'the librarian shoved it in her purse,' Hale said. 'She was so excited.' Mistaken, but excited." Worse than that, "Hale's eldest daughter, Chelsea, a sophomore at Florida State University, repeatedly fields calls from sorority sisters who say, 'I can't believe your mom wrote that book!' And the family's only boy, Matthew, 17, was questioned by his high school guidance counselor about his mother's scandalous novel."
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,164 in Books
Shades of Grey, by Michael Cargill
About: "John is not a very nice man. He works for the government. So who has tied him to a chair and what do they want?"
Evidence of Confusion: The cover, probably. Also:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,367 Paid in Kindle Store
Shades of Gray, by Andy Holloman
About: "Combine Breaking Bad and Cops with a disturbing, dark remake of The Love Boat and you have all the flavors of SHADES OF GRAY."
Evidence of Confusion:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,495 in Books
50 Shades of Beige, by Reid Mockery
About: "Readers are introduced to Annis Thesia, a young naive graduate who becomes intoxicated sensually by billionaire, Bobby Beige. Like the lead character from the real book, Annis Thesia will put you to sleep. But, in this story, Annis becomes the Dominant."
Evidence of Confusion: Per an Amazon reviewer, "Did I hit the wrong button on my computer when I bought Fifty Shades of Beige here as a low-priced Kindle edition, or was it that the idea of such a parody maybe being better than the original? It's impossible to miss all of the media hype surrounding the highly popular trilogy by E.L. James. Like many, I've been curious about what all the fuss is all about, especially when I hear of libraries in Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin either not stocking the books or pulling them from shelves, with many citing what they say is inappropriate and explicit content." (OK, maybe people are buying this one on purpose.)
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,214 Paid in Kindle Store
50 Shades of Black and Blue, by I.B. Naughtie
About: "In this hilarious parody of Fifty Shades of Grey, our heroine, Annabelle Stilletto from Jersey City, New Jersey. Annabelle is a graduate of Beauty School but doesn't have a job and lives with her roommate in a dumpy apartment. Her life changes overnight when she goes for a job interview with the rich and handsome Vinnie Griso, the heir to the famous Vinnie's Auto Parts fortune. With this sky blue eyes, jet black hair, tight pants and pointy shoes, Vinnie is Annabelle's dream come true. When she falls for his seductive charms, she discovers that Vinnie has a deep, dark secret and a strict set of 'rules' that she must obey. At first she resists, but she soon discovers the secret pleasures of domination as she becomes 'black and blue.' (This is the first installment in the parody)"
Evidence of Confusion: Per an Amazon reviewer, "Don't bother. You're paying 99 cents for a single chapter (32 pages) of a poorly written and not-yet edited version of Fifty Shades of Grey. Seems the only difference is a change in names and a very slight change in plot. Seems like someone is trying to capitalize on the recent attention the author has received for the existing Fifty Shades series, but this is so bad it's appalling. And the main female character has no character at all. Thank goodness it was only 99 cents and about 15 minutes of my time. Otherwise, I think I'd have to beat myself black and blue just for downloading and reading it!"
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,036 Paid in Kindle Store
This must be what it's like to be a struggling author named Stephanie Meyers.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.