Beautiful You

Doubleday. Oct. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780385538039. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385538046. F
There's a familiar plot for bad romance novels or romantic comedies. An awkward girl in the big city runs into a gentleman who's way out of her league. The two meet and the man begins to remake the girl from an ugly duckling into the confident, vivacious woman she never knew she wanted to be. And then the guy uses the girl to test his new line of designer sex toys. Sex toys so perfectly calibrated that women will stop pursuing careers, raising families, or even eating, choosing instead to spend all their time chasing pleasure in darkened rooms. Using the language and tropes of poorly written romances, Palahniuk springboards into a female version of his seminal work Fight Club, exploring what modern consumerist society does to women by trying to manipulate and control their sexuality.
VERDICT While writing female protagonists has never been Palahniuk's strongest suit, his latest novel has a more powerful message and compelling hook than many of his recent efforts. Full of original imagery and sensibilities, this is sure to amuse and horrify even his most ardent fans. Casual readers will be hard pressed to find anything else like it on the shelf. Highly recommended for everyone except the prudish or readers of actual romance novels. [See Prepub Alert, 4/21/14.]
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