I admit it. I’m a hopeless romantic. I’ll watch chick flicks and tear up every single time the cute little girl gets her heart broken. I love a happy ending, and boy does “Fifty Shades of Grey” have some amazing, happy endings.

The novel, which tells the story of an independent, self-reliant woman who has an affair with a wealthy older man, was published in 2011. It won the L.A. Times Book Prize and the Goodreads Best Book of the Year Award. The film adaptation, which was released this week, completely rewrote the book’s ending and transformed the story into something more in line with Hollywood’s typical formula: love story with a happy ending!

But I, like many others, fell for “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I read the book in one sitting and was completely absorbed by it. It’s no wonder the movie has been such a massive hit. Here’s a quick breakdown of why the book and movie are so special.

The “Fifty Shades” Universe Is An Unforgettable One

The “Fifty Shades” series is set in a world that is both unique and yet instantly recognizable. The book’s author, E. L. James, based the story on her own experience, which allowed her to create a rich and believable universe. While many dystopian novels are set in some version of the future, where civilization has collapsed and society has turned into a bleak and dangerous place, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is steeped in nostalgia. The book’s narrator, Christian, describes it as “a throwback to the ‘70s” and that is a pretty accurate assessment.

Many of the book’s settings are reminiscent of the ‘70s; Christian’s apartment building, for example, is a “five-star replica” of the one Christian Wycliff frequented in the ‘70s. James describes the structure as if it were a film set, which it probably was, considering all the Hollywood glitter and glamour that filled Wycliff’s apartment back in the day.

The ‘70s are also evoked through Christian’s record collection, which is filled with classic rock and glam metal. He spends a great deal of time in the book either listening to or watching The Eagles, Queen, and Bowie, among others.

A Love Story Of Epic Proportions

The most remarkable thing about “Fifty Shades of Grey” is its portrayal of love. For such a dark and twisty love story, James includes many, many sappy moments that will make any romance fan melt into a puddle on the floor. And I don’t just mean romantic love either; Christian also develops an affectionate relationship with Blythe, one of his submissives, which is beautifully portrayed.

The evolution of their bond is really fascinating to watch. As the story opens, Christian is a successful businessman who is already in a committed relationship with his wife, Emma. Blythe represents Christian’s way of escaping from his troubled marriage. She’s a kleptomaniac who steals expensive jewelry because it makes her feel like a ‘70s glam woman. Christian initially hires her as his personal assistant, much against his better judgement, but eventually comes to rely on her cunning and guile.

While they both benefit from their unconventional relationship, Blythe is the one whom Christian clearly desires. He’s constantly dreaming about what their life together would be like, complete with rose petals on the bed and a woman wearing nothing but a silver bracelet.

An Allegory Of Wealth And Power

Another way in which “Fifty Shades of Grey” explores class issues is through its thematic connections to wealth and power. The couple’s affair is a metaphor for the ultimate power wielded by the wealthy over the less well-off. The novel explores the corrupting influence of money and privilege, as well as the liberation that can come through independence and self-reliance. Those themes, which are also explored in the film, are sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been exploited financially or socially, or who has felt the helplessness that comes with having far more money than they can spend.

It’s an interesting read aloud with Christian and Blythe. He’s a charming conversationalist and a fantastic storyteller who makes even the most complicated topics seem accessible and interesting. There’s also a part of the book that is narrated by Christian’s two younger brothers, who are disgusted by their domineering, narcissistic father and wish that he had been murdered.

To my mind, there aren’t many books as exciting, intriguing, and rewarding as “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It’s an amazing, dark romance that is at the same time a powerful story about overcoming adversity and discovering self-reliance. Do yourself a favor and read the book, if only to see how Christian and Blythe’s relationship evolves over the course of the story. You’ll find yourself invested in their quest for happiness and intimacy, even if they do end up as (insert your own cringe-worthy term here).