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.
First published: 1999
I read Invisible Monsters back in January during Bout of Books for a book club, but I put off writing a review about it until now. This book is so magnificently insane that I couldn’t really figure out how on earth I was going to write this review. Of course by now it’s only gotten more difficult since most of the details have already slipped my mind, but oh well. Let’s give it a shot anyway!
Invisible Monsters is my first foray into the writings of Chuck Palahniuk, and it’s unlike anything I’ve read before. Like I said, it’s insane, but it’s so good! The story is told from the perspective of a former model whose real name we only get to know somewhere near the end, and which I’ve already forgotten (it’s really not important to the story). In a very strange accident that involved a car and a shotgun, she’s – how do I put this delicately (I don’t) – lost her jaw. She can no longer speak, and walks around with a veil covering her face. Obviously, she is not a model anymore, and she’s quite bitter about that, although at the same time she doesn’t really seem to mind.
The plot of this novel is so incredibly fast paced. I’ve seldom read something with so many plot twists that were entirely unexpected and also made you have to completely rethink the context of the story. Some of those plot twists were so bizarre that I just had to stop reading for a little while because I was so in awe of what was just revealed. To use a crappy metaphor: this book was like some wild rollercoaster (although that doesn’t fit entirely either because I hate rollercoasters – but you get the point).
What made this story more than simply a grim (and at times rather gruesome) novel is the fact that it is jam-packed with some delicious critique of today’s society and its incredible superficiality. We not only get a glimpse of what it is like to try and make it in the harsh modelling world, we’re also confronted with the ridiculousness of the constant need for attention people seem to have.
“It’s too lonely at my real house,” Evie would say, “And I hate how I don’t feel real enough unless people are watching.”
This passage seems even more relevant today, with the omnipresence of social media. It really struck a chord with me, as did so many of the other passages. So many bizarre things happen in this novel, but somehow it all seems so grounded in reality, as if all it’s meant to do is show the reader how completely idiotic this world of ours actually is.
The writing style really fits with the rest of the novel; short sentences and tons of flashbacks slowly unravel the story of the strange life this girl lives. It had me completely engrossed, although also quite confused as well at times.
If you can appreciate a good dose of cynicism and harsh humour, and don’t mind getting slightly discouraged about humanity as a whole, I’d definitely recommend giving Invisible Monsters a try. Do make sure you go in knowing as little as possible, though, because knowing what’ll happen will most likely ruin this story for you.