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Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

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Speaker: The narrator in this story is one that readers can feel like they are emotionally invested in. Nameless, aside from alter ego identities received later on, she is an extremely beautiful until her life is changed completely. Freak accident on the freeway leaves her disfigured and with close no self-esteem, invisible to most: a monster. Hiding under a veil, the story is told from the protagonist’s new point of view as she is forced out of the spotlight. Not only does she crumble inside, but her life also collapses around her.

Occasion: The occasion is that the speaker, Shannon Mcfarland is an incredibly beautiful supermodel: posing in her life as she is being photographed, admired, and trying to cope with the loss of her brother and the dysfunction of her life at home. Shannon, seems to have the perfect job, boyfriend, and best friend, until all at once, it crashes down on her. The bottom portion of her face and jaw is lost in a violent accident, and suddenly, the life she was accustomed to fades away with betrayal and abandonment from those closest to her. Now, she must go on a journey with her newfound friend, Brandy Alexander, and adapt to the changes, or as the book puts it, “When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?”

Audience: Undoubtedly the niche-audience is the teenagers and young adults. Although, not intended for the faint-hearted, easily offended, or weak The book is most popular in the range of 16-22 for a few different reasons. The first, being very quotable phrases that are relatable to young people who are experiencing angst and trying to figure out what their identity is. A couple excerpts from the book are, “You can only hold a smile for so long, after that it’s just teeth”; “…The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open”; and “The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person.”

Purpose: One of the themes of Invisible Monsters reflects the main character being self-involved and self-centered, reflecting how people in the glamour industry can be for harmful behavior toward themselves through addictions, the development of eating disorders, and other self-destructive behaviors. Another theme could be how we make assumptions of people based on appearance; this can be related to the popular phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. In other words, a lesson from this book could be that one will never understand another person until they look deeper than the surface.

Style: The way the book is laid out reminded me of a fast-paced, cosmopolitan magazine with a ton of plot twists. Palahniuk says in the book, “No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience at all.” And that’s how the book was set up; for example, in magazine article passages, there is one story partially told on page 122 that could be continued on page 195. A few literary devices that I picked up on were the use of metaphors, similes, onomatopoeias, foreshadowing, and allusions. A passage from the book that used a reoccurring onomatopoeia, “Give me lust baby. Flash. Give me malice. Flash. Give me detached existentialist ennui. Flash. Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism.”

Tone: The novel is written in first person and the tone is mostly conversational, with Shannon addressing the audience as she would an old friend. The there is also a bit elusive and conspiratorial. The narrator takes full advantage of using exaggeration and polished sentence fluency with vocabulary that’s simple enough for the most part, but fresh enough that it still tastes good to say. Adding many details and elaborations, you feel informed and scattered as the same time as many key plot points stay hidden until the perfectly executed moment. With the format being non-linear, novel starts at the climax, and the rest of the story is spent catching the reader up to that moment through past experiences. “There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments when you should’ve been paying attention. Well, get used to that feeling. That’s how your whole life will feel someday. This is all practice.”

Summary: The details and life of model Shannon Mcfarland, who tragically loses her jaw as a stray bullet, strikes when she’s driving along the freeway. Shortly following, her fiancé calls off their engagement, and she is obviously never to return to her career in modeling. Her life seems to have no meaning; she is shocked, blindly facing with this new reality. Enter Brandy Alexander, the confident and attractive personality, and currently one final step away from becoming a woman. Brandy consoles the distressed Shannon and begins to lead her on her journey to rediscovering herself. Along the way, Brandy gives Shannon new personas, including that of Shannon Mcfarland. But there is much more to this story, you see. After receiving clues and hints appointing the responsibility of her disfigurement on her ex-lover and ex-best friend, Manus, and Evie it is decided that Shannon and Brandy should work together on getting her revenge. As they learn about themselves and their enemies, they find that everything: Brandy, Shannon, her family, her career, the accident, are all intertwined and connected.

Critique: I’d give Invisible Monsters four stars out of five. I thought it deserved two thumbs up with eccentric, over the top characters and massive dramatic elements, this book will not let you get bored. It keeps the pace going without dragging things out, the engrossing and erratic, style of writing, jumping around, and constantly throwing new information at you. It was a shocking book; not for the faint-hearted, but the lunacy of it, along with the cattiness and twisted elements thrown in, is actually what I found myself being drawn to. To any reader who is not familiar with Chuck Palahniuk, I highly suggest you get a copy of this book. I think that his style is an interesting one to be exposed to and this quirky read was a great introduction. This was Palahniuk’s first novel written, and I think the product was impressive.

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