Thirteen-year-old Madison Spencer–the chubby, precocious, pampered daughter of two of Hollywood’s brightest stars–discovers one day that she has died (of a marijuana overdose, of all things!) and is now in Hell. Hell, as it turns out, is just as gross as one would expect but significantly more boring. Determined to make the best of it, Madison finds some equally damned friends and begins her quest for something that perhaps resembles meaning?
As with all Chuck Palahniuk books, I’m not entirely sure whether I liked it. It was super weird, obviously. The premise started out weird and definitely spiraled out from there. However, that’s really to be expected with any of his books. There are some sections with sexual content that actively squicked me out, so be warned.
I liked the character of Madison a lot. Her voice was strong, though I sometimes struggled to remember that she’s supposed to be 13 (she comments a lot on her own vocabulary use, reminding the reader often that she is THIRTEEN not STUPID). While I enjoyed her pop culture references, there was a certain part of me who found the whole thing a bit unbelievable for someone her age.
All of Palahniuk’s usual quirks were present: repetition, gross-outs, unexpected twists, playing with familiar tropes, an unreliable narrator–and I liked them just as much as I usually do. I’m pretty sure that Chuck Palahniuk is one of those authors whom readers either REALLY LIKE or REALLY DON’T and there’s not a whole lot of grey area in between.
While on the whole there was nothing particularly “new” here, there were some sections that really spoke to me, especially a chapter in which Madison deals with the collapse of her own image of herself. Her musings on what to do when it turns out the persona you’ve built and invested in over the course of years is suddenly shown to be inaccurate were super relevant to me.
I also love The Breakfast Club more than is reasonable, so when she collects a princess, a nerd, an athlete, and a criminal I may have cheered just a little bit.
On the whole, I’d say that this is probably not a book I’d recommend to someone who doesn’t know already whether they like Palahniuk (for that, I’d probably point them toward Survivor or perhaps Fight Club) but I definitely would say I’m glad I read it.