Invisible Monsters - Chuck Palahniuk

Synopsis: She's a fashion model who has everything: a boyfriend, a career, a loyal best friend. But when a sudden freeway "accident" leaves her disfigured and incapable of speech, she goes from being the beautiful center of attention to being an invisible monster, so hideous that no one will acknowledge that she exists. Enter Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme, one operation away from becoming a real woman, who will teach her that reinventing yourself means erasing your past and making up something better. And that salvation hides in the last places you'll ever want to look.




I just finished reading my first Chuck Palahniuk novel -- the one being reviewed, of course -- and what do I think of it? Well . . . I liked it. It's good. If you want the cliff-notes version of this review, there it is: it's good. I enjoyed it. It has some problems, but overall I really enjoyed the experience.


Palahniuk writes like no author I've read before, and I could see immediately why he has the cult following he does. His books are very non-linear, meaning the plot is never "this happened, and then this happened, and it ended like this." The book's first chapter is in medias res, and the rest of the novel's 297 pages are spent explaining the events that led up to what the reader is shown in the beginning. Said explanation can get pretty confusing at times, often giving the illusion that you, the reader, have accidentally digested a few of the pills the three main characters spend so much of the novel stealing from ritzy homes. It's all tied up in the end, but until the reader reaches that point the reading experience is a bit confusing and rather frustrating at times. Is the frustration worth it? Yeah, I'd say so. The odd phrasing and random sequencing of events makes this book a memorable one, albeit pretentious. Palahniuk seems to be saying "Invisible Monsters is Important with a capital I!"


The main focus of the novel is on identity. Everyone in this story (save for the parents of the lead characters, I guess?) is trying to change fundamental things about themselves, so Palahniuk gets the opportunity to address topics such as transgenderism (is that a word? yes? no? maybe? oh, well.), self-worth, drug addiction, sex, et cetera in a way that's really quite remarkable. It would have been easy to flub it up, but Palahniuk has the mark of a talented, intelligent writer with a voice that is all his own. The reader, by the story's end, comes to love these complex and self-loathing "invisible monsters" and the journey they go on together to find happiness and find themselves.


This is a good novel, but I certainly have a few small reservations. Palahniuk's writing style, while obviously inspired and memorable, can come off as pretentious at times. As well, the story could easily be impenetrable to any reader unwilling to give it the time it deserves . . . though I'm not really sure that's a strike against the book, per se. If a reader isn't willing to be challenged every once in a while, screw 'em, I say. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those looking to get into the writing of Chuck Palahniuk. It was my first book by him, and it certainly won't be my last. While I'm not head over heels in love with the thing, it'll certainly make my list of best 2015 reads, if only because it is among the most memorable books I've read this year.