Beautiful You is among the most disturbing dystopian novels I've ever read, and I didn't even realize it was dystopian until I was practically finished reading it.
The evil stuff starts on such a small scale it lulled me into thinking this was just a weird, kinky little romp. C. Linus Maxwell (dubbed by the tabloids "Climax-Well"), one of the richest men in the world, asks low-level law office gofer Penny on a date after a happenstance meeting. Soon their relationship is about one thing and one thing only: getting Penny off, as many times and in as many ways as possible.
Penny's a recent NYC transplant from Omaha, Nebraska, just a regular girl who Max claims is appealing precisely for her averageness. She basks in the attention she receives both from Max in the bedroom and from the paparazzi on the street. Max provides her with more of everything than she could ever want. It's a pretty great life, even though he's cold and clinical, not like a real boyfriend at all. Penny figures out pretty quickly that Max is using her as a guinea pig in his sexual experiments, but she's a practical Midwestern girl--she'll enjoy it while it lasts.
The problem is Penny is only one of thousands of test subjects Max has used over the years, and he's hatched a plan to take over just about the entire world--with his line of "Beautiful You" sex toys. It's so ridiculous and far-fetched and impossible that Penny doesn't take it seriously, until it's almost too late to fight back.
As you might expect, there are a lot of graphic scenes going on here, so be warned. This would not be the book to buy your sweet, doting grandmother or your thirteen-year-old daughter for Christmas. However, if you have the stomach for it, there are some fabulous comic moments, most memorably a bonfire of wriggling pink phalluses on the pitcher's mound of Yankee Stadium, tended by outraged Promise Keepers. The obvious parallel to Fahrenheit 451 really tickled me.
If you enjoy razor-sharp satire and dark humor, and if you can handle a few colorful yet anatomically accurate descriptions of the female body, then run, don't walk, to snatch this one up (if you'll pardon the pun).
With regards to NetGalley and Doubleday for the advance copy. On sale October 21.