“The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person.” — from Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
I didn’t always like to read. (What?! But you’re an English major!) Yes I am studying English and no, I did not always like to read. It’s okay, it happens to the best of us. Most of us know the woes of being forced to read books we couldn’t care less about in grade school English classes, and if your experience is different then I am immensely happy for you. If we don’t know how to navigate Sparknotes to get us through UConn’s freshman English or another English requirement, we are learning right now because we sure don’t have time to read through that ten-pound anthology.
But the thing is that some reading can actually be fun. And I think you can train yourself to enjoy reading. So, if you really want to get into reading, I suggest you read something that slaps you in the face. The book I’m going to suggest to you isn’t an end-all-be-all. Actually, I’m wrong a lot, so it might not work for you. But it worked for me and I know that at least one roommate I’ve had in the past four years will agree it worked for her, too.
Invisible Monsters shook me awake and welcomed me into the literary world, which is why I suggest it (or Fight Club, if you’re feeling more popular) to anyone who wants to get into reading.
Follow the narrator, Shannon McFarland, as she figures out who the hell she is. You begin the book in a mansion on fire trying to dodge a burned up bride with a rifle. Evie Cottrell is your bride on fire and Shannon is watching, trying to stop Brandy Alexander from dying of a gunshot wound. Evie is supposedly Shannon’s best friend, until the accident. And no, I’m not talking about the fire. Shannon and Evie were models who each got immense amounts of attention, namely from their infomercial work with the Num Num Snack Factory. Until Shannon’s jaw shattered in a motor accident.
A disfigured Shannon needs to find her way in a world she had previously only modeled in. Evie and Shannon’s boyfriend, Manus, are quick to leave her drooling jawless self alone in the hospital. In the speech therapy office, she meets Brandy Alexander, a transitioning woman who is bold, brash and beautiful. And so begins an adventure that Shannon was not expecting. Shannon, Brandy, and tag-along friend Seth get together and go to rich, lavish homes that are on the market. They survey each house before making some excuse to use the bathroom in the master bedroom. Why the master bedroom? Because that’s where all the drugs are.
Oh, let’s also not forget that Shannon had a brother Shane. His story is rather unfortunate: he is believed to have died from AIDS after running away from home at age 16. He never got the attention Shannon got. What a pity. No one has looked for him, so he must be dead.
This novel isn’t just about stealing drugs and broken families, though. It’s about what it means to be pretty, to get attention. Is attention worth all the fuss? Who are we really beneath all the makeup and layers of expensive dress? In what ways do we love? How can we choose to love? Why do we love? Palahniuk explores all these questions through a quirky narration of Shannon’s experiences after her accident. The style of the book is extremely jumpy. I mean that it quite literally says, “Jump to…” to transition you from one quick moment to the next. Shannon warns the reader that, “What happens here will have more of that fashion magazine feel, a Vogue or a Glamour magazine chaos with page numbers on every second or fifth or third page…There isn’t a real pattern to anything, either. Stories will start and then, three paragraphs later: jump to page whatever. Then, jump back.” (20)
I suggest this book as a great start-up-with-reading-again book because of its casual chaotic nature. There’s also a fantastic plot twist that might make you angry, or shocked, or even happy, if you’re into that.
Reading doesn’t need to be hard. If you want to read again, all you need is some motivation. And let me tell you, nothing motivates like a slap in the face.
Therese Masotta is a senior English major/Psychology minor with a concentration in Creative Writing. She is the social media coordinator and member of the creative nonfiction panel for the Long River Review.