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I was so excited for Invisible Monsters. I had heard that Palahniuk had a talent for dark, disturbed characters and, if the movie Fight Club was any indication, things would set up for a pretty incredible ride. Invisible Monsters follows former model Shannon McFarland after a tragic accident has left her disfigured and without a lower jaw. He life is turned upside down and she makes friends with Brandy Alexander, a beautiful woman who encourages her to take control of her life, reject the established way of doing things, and join Brandy on her drug-dealing, con-artist trip of debauchery.
I think that’s the best summary I can give without ruining the countless revelations that pop up throughout the story. If nothing else, this book keeps you on your toes cause you really don’t know where it’s going to go next. But after the second twist, everything starts to feel far too scripted. There are only a handful of meaningful characters and, even when it makes practically no sense at all, they keep on showing up in new, disturbed ways. It was incredibly heavy handed and took away any sense of realism that Palahniuk’s world could muster. I know that realism isn’t exactly the point here, but the book is set in a modern world that resembles our own and the coincidences that mar this novel just don’t fit.
The writing isn’t exactly powerful, either. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it, but there definitely isn’t anything remarkable about it. And there was one repeated gimmick that absolutely drove me-Flash!-insane. Since Shannon was a model she likes to go on these little diatribes against the photographers who would speak to her in cliche, ridiculous sentiments. Things like “give me sexy-Flash!-give me angry-Flash!-give me thoughtful-Flash!.” Shannon than adopts this style of speaking anytime she wants to describe her own emotions (give me disgust-Flash!-give me rage-Flash!). It was cute the first couple times, but this phrase is repeated so often that I can still hear the audio going off in my head two months after the fact. Give me annoyed-Flash!
The other misstep that was apparent in this novel is how similar all of Palahniuk’s characters are. The thing that made the movie Fight Club work is that Tyler Durden is the disturbed sociopath mastermind and the rest of the characters are, while still disturbed in their own ways, kind of normal. Or at least resembling normal. Even the characters that follow Tyler fit in the mold of easily influenced people that would find themselves in a cult, rather than having the same distorted view of the world that Tyler has. They adopt it, but they could not have created it. But in Invisible Monsters, everyone seems to be suffering from the same delusions and to have reached the exact same conclusion about what to do with themselves. If they were all self-destructive in their own way, then whatever. Everybody is a little self-destructive so I would have just gone with it. But Palahniuk uses almost the exact same words to describe the crazed conclusion that Shannon, Brandy, and two other minor characters come to, even though they never consulted with one another. I don’t know why we are supposed to accept this as a reasonable explanation or motivation, but we are. So, if you want to read a book that features characters all living with the same malfunction, all interacting only with each other thanks to a series of bizarre coincidences and dishing out repetitive writing, then I guess this book is for you.