Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: Beautiful You – Chuck Palahniuk

Beautiful You – Chuck Palahniuk

Penny Harrigan is a low-level associate in a big Manhattan law firm with an apartment in Queens and no love life at all. So it comes as a great shock when she finds herself invited to dinner by one C. Linus Maxwell, a software mega-billionaire and lover of the most gorgeous and accomplished women on earth. After dining at Manhattan's most exclusive restaurant, he whisks Penny off to a hotel suite in Paris, where he precedes, notebook in hand, to bring her to previously undreamed-of heights of gratification for days on end. What's not to like?

This: Penny discovers that she is a test subject for the final development of a line of feminine products to be marketed in a nationwide chain of boutiques called Beautiful You. So potent and effective are these devices that women by the millions line up outside the stores on opening day and then lock themselves in their room with them and stop coming out. Except for batteries. Maxwell's plan for battery-powered world domination must be stopped. But how?

Review: So . . . I didn’t like this one.

Chuck Palahniuk is a hit-or-miss author for me. Some of his books are amazing. They’re funny, and clever, and slightly offensive, and the social satire is on-point. Beautiful You is mostly just silly. I knew that this book didn’t have the greatest reviews before I read it, but since it was satirizing Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, I couldn’t resist. I expected to love it.

Penny is an ambitious but average employee at a big law firm. One morning, she trips and lands in a puddle of coffee at the feet of Maxwell, the world’s richest man. After the coffee turns her blouse see-through, he promptly invites her to dinner.

“She kept hoping that something would happen to rescue her from her own small-scale, predictable dreams.” – Beautiful You

Penny becomes Maxwell’s lover, which is great, until she discovers that she’s nothing but a lab rat that he uses to test his company’s new line of sex toys. Maxwell plans to use these toys to achieve world domination. After a woman uses one, Maxwell can control her brain for the rest of her life. He can tell her which politicians to vote for, which ugly shoes to buy, and which crappy vampire romance novels to obsess over. Penny has to stop Maxwell before he destroys the world.

From the book description, it sounded like this odd little dystopia would be hilarious, but I mostly wavered between disgust and boredom while reading. Like the erotica that this book is satirizing, Beautiful You is heavy on the unrealistic sex and light on everything else. I haven’t read much erotica because the sex lives of characters don’t interest me, and that’s why I got bored with this book. It’s mostly just sex. I wanted so much more from the characters. The plot also didn’t work for me. The novel completely lost me when Penny climbs Mount Everest to learn the sex secrets of the ancients from the sex witch. The trip feels long and pointless, and I seriously started to question why I was reading this story. If I hadn’t been so close to the end, I wouldn’t have finished it.

I did laugh once. It was when the men try to burn the dildos in a bonfire to get their wives back, but the dildos turn into missiles, shoot out of the fire, and destroy the city. Even though I didn’t like the book, I have to admit, that is funny.

“In her experience every man thought he was a natural dancer, and every one thought he was good in bed. The truth was that most men only knew one dance step—usually the pogo—and between the sheets they were like a monkey in a nature film poking at an anthill with a stick.” – Beautiful You

I think I struggled with this book because I’m not sure what I was supposed to get out of reading it. Maybe I was cringing so hard at the magical sex witch that I missed the point. Is the book about the dangers of constantly chasing pleasure instead of doing the un-pleasurable things that are necessary to achieve success? Is it a critique of the gender roles in our society? Honestly, I have no idea. I’ll leave you with some lines from the book that I really like. Maybe you can help me figure it out.

“Artificial over stimulation seemed like the perfect way to stifle a generation of young people who wanted more and more from a world where less and less was available.” – Beautiful You
“The future had a way of breaking your heart if you expected too much.” – Beautiful You
“She wanted a choice beyond: Housewife versus lawyer. Madonna versus whore. An option not mired in the lingering detritus of some Victorian-era dream.” – Beautiful You


  1. Hmmm, I saw Chuck Palahniuk in the title here and thought 'brilliant, must get this'. Now I have read your review, I think I will pass! You're right - he is a hit and miss author!

    Stephanie Jane @ Literary Flits

  2. Something about technology taking over people's lives instead of merely enhancing people's lives?

    Something about people going for the quick, easy fix to problems instead of putting in the effort to truly make things better?

    Something about people centering on themselves and disconnecting from other people?

    Probably none of the above.

    1. Actually, the first one you listed might be right. I don’t know. I’m still thinking about the yucky Mount Everest sex witch and the sex secrets of the ancients.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!