21st Century Literature discussion

Shades of Grey (Shades of Grey, #1)
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2018 Book Discussions > Shades of Grey - General (July 2018)

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LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Hi All,
My thought is to have just two threads. This general one and another for the whole book. I'll open the whole book thread in a couple of days. Great to know who is going to participate. I'm about 3/4's through and expect to finish tomorrow. This is definitely YA, which I did not appreciate when I started. It was recommended to me quite a few years ago and had lingered on my shelf so long that I nominated it to kick me into reading it and since it won, the kick was right on target.

Below a few reviews of the book and an audio that includes a reading by the author and an interview of him.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhKUV... (author interview)

For discussion purposes here in the General Thread, I'll start us off by asking what you think of this being described by some as "the next Harry Potter?"

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments There's a bunch of stuff about the setting and the writing on this section of the author's blog. There are spoilers however!

The next Harry Potter? Really?? Er, not really. It's a post-apocalyptic dystopia in the British tradition (think of 1984 or Brave New World), but written with a lighter touch.

Bretnie | 702 comments I loved this book so much and am excited to discuss it! It’s interesting that I didn’t read it as YA but I guess it makes sense. But yeah, I wouldn’t call it the next Harry Potter!

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Peter, Your response tells me that my question was inartfully asked! Your general description that "it's a post-apocalyptic dystopia in the British tradition (think of 1984 or Brave New World), but written with a lighter touch" is spot on. Harry Potter was definitely not that! What I really wanted to ask, but did not, was whether folks thought it was of the same quality as the Harry Potter series, i.e., a series that would catch the imagination of its readers in a similar fashion?

Bretnie, Can you say a little more about why you did not read this as YA - what is it that causes you to label a book as YA?

Bretnie | 702 comments Good questions, I guess I just haven’t read a lot of YA, so I admit that I kind of forget about it. I think it just didn’t occur to me since it felt like adults were the audience with the dystopian issues. But the characters were definitely young which is why it’s definitely YA, right? In the way The Book Thief is YA (although Shades of Grey is MUCH lighter and sillier).

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Bretnie, I think most of the primary characters in a YA book are young, i.e., no older that very early 20's and typically teens, but that alone doesn't seem to make a book YA. Here's what I found to be an interesting article about YA and how some are splitting off the books with the older protagonists into something called New Adult -- https://www.theguardian.com/books/boo.... I also like this article from The Atlantic which discusses the emergence of YA literature, its history since that time, and where it might be headed -- https://www.theatlantic.com/entertain....

The Book Thief is probably appropriately called YA but it is one that, I think, is more layered than the typical YA. And yes, Shades of Grey is much lighter and sillier than The Book Thief!

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments While I greatly enjoyed reading the Harry Potter books to and with my kids, I don't think their success was simply a matter of quality, but rather a matter of timing, zeitgeist, and luck. What succeeds in publishing and what does not is kind of mysterious at times. Honestly I would have thought Ffforde's Thursday Next books would have been too quirky to be best sellers, but they were; so what do I know?

I think Shades of Grey is certainly well written, but it doesn't strike me as the sort of book that would be a runaway success. But I could be wrong.

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments LindaJ^ wrote: "And yes, Shades of Grey is much lighter and sillier than The Book Thief! "

I seem to have found Shades of Grey a lot less silly than most other people. (view spoiler)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments I think, Peter, you are right in that under the surface silliness there is a seriously dysfunctional society, but I did not appreciate how serious until the last third of the book. Perhaps that was intentional for the planned trilogy but since it has been 9 years with no second volume …..

I will open the whole book thread later tonight and we can dig into this deeper.

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Just a note to those people who, in addition to me, voted for this book -- we hope to hear from you now that the whole book thread (spoilers allowed) is open. You can access it here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/.... It is early so there is no rush, but nice to know if we'll be seeing you in the near future!

Bretnie | 702 comments I think this is why I loved the book so much - it has a lot of serious satire, commentary on society, and deep dystopian subjects, but at the same time it has a lot of lightness.

Take the shortage of spoons - for much of the book this seems like such a random silly part of the book but later it’s tied to the darker part of the story. For me this type of writing made the book both fun to read and really interesting.

message 12: by Peter (last edited Jul 18, 2018 12:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments LindaJ^ wrote: "Just a note to those people who, in addition to me, voted for this book -- we hope to hear from you now that the whole book thread (spoilers allowed) is open. You can access it here: ..."

<Yellow Prefect Voice>Voting for a Book without Posting is 1000 demerits accord to the Rulebook! You wouldn't want to that much closer to Reboot, would you?</Yellow Prefect Voice>

Kathleen | 292 comments I'm facing guilt and demerits! I did vote for the book and plan to read it but am having a very hard time getting into it. It starts with tons of detail but with no real character info to draw me in. That's a biggy for me, so I'm struggling, but it's encouraging to know others liked it so much. I'll keep at it.

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Good to hear from you Kathleen - no demerits for you. It got better for me once I was about a third through and started to see some connections so it may get better for you.

message 15: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I'm about 60% through the book. I too am not seeing this as YA.

I very recently re-read 1984, and I'm seeing so many parallels - but certainly in a lighter story. I'm seeing a lot of social commentary layered into the story.

Also in full disclosure, I really don't like YA. And I AM really enjoying this book. So just maybe I don't WANT to see it as YA?

Can't wait to finish reading and head over to the spoiler thread.

message 16: by Peter (last edited Jul 22, 2018 09:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Sue wrote: "I'm about 60% through the book. I too am not seeing this as YA."

There seems to be a belief out there that any book with a YA protagonist must necessarily be a YA book. This is not true. I do not see Shades of Grey as a YA book, but rather as Speculative Fiction/Political Satire that happens to have a YA protagonist.

Mind you, it's not necessarily inappropriate reading for a YA reader, but I do feel an educated adult with some experience of life might get a bit more out of reading it.

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Kathleen wrote: "I'm facing guilt and demerits! I did vote for the book and plan to read it but am having a very hard time getting into it. It starts with tons of detail but with no real character info to draw me i..."

I almost jumped ship at around page 100. But I persevered and felt richly rewarded when things started making more sense and there was a bit more characterization (although many of the minor characters never make it to three dimensional in my opinion).

Kathleen | 292 comments Thank you LindaJ--I appreciate being let off the hook, just in case I don't get through it! And Peter, your comment is very helpful. That's what I was hoping for, that it would just take some time to get into it.

Jessica Izaguirre (sweetji) | 122 comments I also voted for the book and I am running behind. The first 100 pages were a little hard to get through. For me, the world building has been difficult to understand, there are so many things going on but nothing really explained yet so it makes it harder for me to visualize the entire world. Half way through now and it is getting a little better and I am more interested in the plot and characters.

I also see this book as more sci-fi and not YA either. I like the use/deprecation of technology and how society seems to just go back.

Kathleen | 292 comments I'm in about the same place, Jessica, and agree with your comments.

I don't know much about YA, but I was thinking the amount of detail that I find overwhelming might be just the thing a YA reader is looking for.

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments It does seem true that younger readers, having learned less so far, have more space to store new information, and thus are less slowed down by having reams of world building dumped on them. :)

On the other hand, it does eventually (almost) all make sense. Mind you, it took me a long time to sort out natural hues vs synthetic hues. (view spoiler)

Page 100 or so seems to be a sticking point for a lot of people (as I noted above, it was for me). It does get smoother sailing after that.

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Thanks for that explanation Peter about natural v. synthetic. Have to admit I did not appreciate there was a difference! Not to worry Jessica. It should go faster for you now! When you are ready, let us know what you thought of the book on the spoiler thread.

Kristina | 66 comments I am glad to hear that after 100 pages the is a turning point. I have read the first 50 pages so far and I am not sure where the book is heading and in what kind of setting we are in.

Jerry Balzano | 43 comments This was a fascinating book ... but also in many ways a maddening one. Fforde hangs an absolutely incredible number of Chekhovian guns on the wall that he never fires, and while I understand that it's supposed to be part 1 of a trilogy, the sheer amount of unaccounted-for information about this world Fforde creates seems excessive ... and occasionally maddening. Which brings me to my question: does anyone know anything about why Fforde has not pursued writing the sequel, what the problem has been with that, and any current info on whether he still intends to (ever) do so.

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments The only thing I could find about a sequel/prequel is here: https://literature.stackexchange.com/.... It seems the author was disappointed with the sales of Shades of Grey so has kept putting the next book (a prequel it seems) off.

Kristina | 66 comments Jerry, I could not agree more with you. I have read about 30% of the book and I still can't see, what the plot is and how the world is how it is (or even how the world is). I will finish it, but I am making so slow progress. I really wonder, why so many people praised this book so much.

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Kristina,
Most folks have found things starting to click after about 100 pages so hopefully it will improve for you as well!

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Thanks all for an interesting discussion over the past month of Shades of Grey. Feel free to continue the discussion, as the threads will remain open, even as we move on to other reads. If anyone gets wind of when we might see the second book of the trilogy, please note it here!

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