A spoiler free review of Beautiful You by author Chuck Palahniuk followed by a full summary. Separated so you can easily avoid spoilers if you’d prefer.
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Spoiler Free Review
Beautiful You is not going to be for all audiences. It probably isn’t even for most audiences. Those familiar with Chuck Palahniuk know that he only offers extremes. This novel deals heavily in completely over the top scenarios riddled with hyperbole and shock value. That’s his brand. It’s also a smart and original satire that will make you think.
The beginning of the book is rough. I assume that many readers opt to put the book down after the first chapter. It opens with the depiction of a rape. A woman is being raped on the witness stand of a courtroom. She’s the only female in the room and not a single man steps up to help her. She’s completely helpless and isolated in her fear.
Now, if you can push past this agonizing opening scene you will be rewarded. This book is completely unlike anything you’ve read before. It has a ton of sex but is in no way sexy. It definitely has to do with a battle of the sexes but there are no winners. It’s also a takedown of capitalism and consumer culture.
Palahniuk has made a career commenting on male fragility and the toxic attitudes of rape and macho cultures. Unfortunately, the exact targets of his satire are the ones who worship him the most, they’re too dense to see they’re being mocked.
Beautiful You changes the perspective. Instead of focusing on toxic males it focuses on the women of the world. The women are not satisfied by their position in life or by the men whom they have sex with. What would happen if every adult woman suddenly had a device that could take care of her in a way a man would never be able to keep up with?
Beautiful You showcases the male fear of erasure. As technology develops men have become more worried that they won’t be needed anymore. Vibrators, in vitro fertilization, females in the workplace, females in politics, females anywhere are all threats to man’s delicate ego.
The women of this world become selfish and focused on pleasure while the men desperately claw for the return of the status quo. Turns out they need those women after all.
Through bizarre depictions of sexual activities and a fair amount of violence this book uses extremes to keep the reader engaged through a complex story. As I was taking notes for the summary below I realized that every detail mattered to the larger story. Each little piece was important to the entire book.
This novel might be one of Palahniuk’s best from the last 10 years. I know I stopped reading him for a while because I was unimpressed with books like Pygmy and Tell All. I got back to reading him and have been excited that he experienced a slump but returned to form.
If you like this author definitely read Beautiful You. If you don’t this one will not change your mind.
5/5 lady bugs because there are no dragonflies 🐞🐞🐞🐞🐞
Beautiful You Summary
For most readers it will be hard to want to continue past the first chapter of Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk. It opens with a horrifying depiction of a woman getting raped in the witness stand of a courtroom while nobody helps her. She screams out and no one makes an effort on her behalf. She’s the only female in the room and feels completely helpless.
Making it past this scene will be difficult. At this point I wasn’t sure what I signed up for with this novel. I am very familiar with Palahniuk so I had a feeling that things may not be as they seem so I pressed forward, I’m glad I did.
From the beginning we know that the first female president of the United States has recently died and women are becoming scarce. We also know that our protagonist, Penny, used to date the richest man in the world.
The book leaps backwards to when Penny met this mega billionaire Maxwell. She was working on the bottom rung of a law firm when she meet cute spilled her coffee in front of him. Charmed, he helped her up and invited her to dinner at a very exclusive restaurant. Of course, who is she to refuse?
On her way to the dinner in a dress she fully intends on returning for a full refund we are enlightened to an odd quirk of hers. Her whole life she has seen mysterious men observing her. They follow her from a distance and she believes they keep her safe. She thinks they are homeland security and that this is normal for all US citizens.
She attends her dinner with Maxwell and feels underwhelmed. She talked to much, he barely spoke, there was no chemistry or any talk of a next date. However, a single paparazzi picture gets leaked and everyone starts treating her differently.
At first, everyone is astounded for her to be seen with Max. Then, when they aren’t seen together a second time people start to pity her. Right as she is ready to write the whole thing off he calls her for a follow up date.
She starts to date him just because he’s so rich and the pressure to be with him is enormous. Her family and friends all tell her to “accidentally” get pregnant so she can lock him down. Penny thinks he’s incredibly boring but accepts her new fate as girlfriend of wealthiest man alive.
Things get less boring when Max’s most recent ex girlfriend, a top actress in line for an Oscar, warns her that she must never have sex with Max. Of course, they have their first sexual encounter that night, how dare this woman tell Penny what to do?!
The sex is… unusual. He lines the bedside with a laboratory’s worth of vials and devices. He uses them on her and is disturbingly clinical about the experience, even taking notes and recordings (with her consent). However, he does make her cum so hard that she temporarily dies so she’s willing to ignore the impersonal touch.
He states that he’s experimenting for his new line of products that will be under the “Beautiful You” brand. He wants to use data and research to bring women the most powerful orgasms they could possibly experience. Penny is his final test subject.
She is completely taken over by this research. All day and night he tests different salves, douches, toys, machinery, and who knows what else to see what elicits the best responses. She does nothing but cum and occasionally eat or sleep. Even when they are out together in public she has something inserted inside of her.
On one such occasion she runs into the actress ex again. She looks unwell but helps Penny out of a predicament in which a toy has become stuck inside of her. The actress pities Penny for becoming nothing more than a sex zombie just like the rest of the former test subjects.
Max has had a pattern in the past. He has left all of his partners on the 136th day of “dating.” Penny begins counting down the days to her freedom but can’t help but dutifully show up for every experiment in the meantime.
On day 136 he claims he has no more use for her and gives her $50,000,000 to never contact him again.
Beautiful You is released to the public and women everywhere line up to obtain the sex toys.
The actress is live on TV to accept her Oscar when she is attacked with a remote orgasm so powerful that she dies on stage. Her official cause of death was an aneurysm, nobody but Penny is even suspicious of what actually happened. They just saw her thrashing and screaming.
Then Penny is raped at the subway station. Her homeland security guards were not there to save her. However, the rapist’s penis was injured from something inside her. The doctor’s exam shows nothing that could have punctured the offender so dramatically.
Penny refuses to buy any of the Beautiful You products but women everywhere are using them so much that they start to call in sick from work and neglect all sorts of their duties. Penny’s own roommate has barricaded herself in her room and doesn’t even come out to eat.
Penny has attempted to carry on a normal sex life by dating a young lawyer. She is too scared to actually have sex with him though because she doesn’t know if he’ll get injured as well. The two do decide to attempt to sue Maxwell for part ownership of his product line since Penny was integral in its creation.
Additionally, a certain toy that looks like a dragonfly is breaking consistently and they also consider a class action lawsuit if they can find any injuries but women willing to put down their sex toys long enough for a deposition are hard to come by.
The aforementioned female president approaches Penny and tries to bribe her against taking legal action. She is also an ex of Max and says that they are powerless against him. She then goes on live TV in front of the UN and shoots herself in the head.
The women who obsessively purchased the sex toys are now obsessively purchasing other products from Max’s other companies. They also start to go missing. Families and workplaces are left without their women, many of whom can only be found in shopping lines. These women are becoming homeless and derelict, wildly masturbating in the streets with no awareness of anything around them.
Penny is required to give a deposition about her potential case. She must detail how she was integral to the research. This requires her to explain intensely graphic sexual acts to lawyers including her boss. He humiliates her by showing a tape from one of the research sessions that he obtained from Max. He claims that her earth shattering orgasms should have been payment enough and calls her a whore for wanting money for it as well.
She decides now is a perfect time to test out her vaginal weaponry. She invites her boss over and he cannot resist this girl he just called a slut to all of her colleagues. She locks his penis in her death trap and tortures him for information about Max.
As she learns that Max has developed nanotechnology in the past she heads to the Himalayas to visit the ancient sex guru Max claimed to learn everything from. This sex crone has Penny live with her in a cave as she teachers her the ins and outs of sex. The only way to defeat Max’s deadly orgasms is through love, duh.
The pieces all come together as Penny understands that Max developed nanobots and used the dragonflies to deliver them into the women. The toy would break and the nanobots would flood into their bodies. They would be undetectable but capable of so much. Max is using it to cause the orgasms as well as brainwash them into their shopping sprees. You better believe that Elon Musk would do something similar in a heartbeat. Do not ever trust capitalists and don’t even consider getting neuralink.
She returns home from the sex mountain to discover that men worldwide are burning Beautiful You products and pinning all their hatred on her. Death threats are coming in from every direction.
We cycle back to the beginning of the book as Penny gets on the witness stand. Max remotely triggers the rape and she is able to channel positive energy (love) to control the deadly orgasm and survive the event. Realizing that she is completely at his mercy she agrees to marry him.
On the wedding day the sex witch arrives to reveal everyone’s secrets. Max tries to orgasm everyone to death but Penny is able to reflect it and kill him instead. With his final breaths he admits that Penny is actually a clone of his late wife. She died 136 days into their marriage. The “homeland security” that Penny always saw were actually his men protecting her until she was ripe for marriage.
Penny snags the control panel from Max before anyone else can find it. She’s ready to live the rest of her days taking up the position of sex witch herself. She wants to be the one to train able bodied adults in how to achieve ultimate pleasure. She dreams of one day controlling all women herself, but y’know, in a good way. She totally won’t be corrupted by the power at all.
5/5 lady bugs because there are no dragonflies 🐞🐞🐞🐞🐞