Literature: Invisible Monsters

"Give me attention. Flash."

Invisible Monsters is a 1999 novel by Chuck Palahniuk about a beautiful fashion model. Despite her awful past and family difficulties, "Daisy St. Patience" continues to be widely successful, and even holds down a relationship with a handsome detective. That is, until everything goes to hell and her entire lower jaw is blown off in a drive-by shooting.

Save for her mangled jaw and inability to talk, she is left perfectly intact and carefully drives herself to hospital, only to soon suffer a massive breakdown when she learns birds flew into her car and ate the remains of her face. Soon switching to baby food and starting ventriloquism lessons to learn how to talk again, Daisy quickly adopts a few veils when she meets Brandy Alexander, the large-handed drag queen supreme who is one surgery away from being a "real" woman. Taking Daisy under her wing, Brandy gives her a new identity and starts teaching her how to let go of her past and live again.

Interestingly, the book was originally denied by publishers for being too dark, and Invisible Monsters was supposed to be Palahniuk's first novel; after responding by making an even more offensive novel (which turned out to be his most famous book — Fight Club), the eventual success of Fight Club meant Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters was given another chance and published.

Not to be confused with the other Invisible Monsters.


Tropes found in this work:

  • Anachronic Order: The first book jumps around frequently, but the Remix version jumps around even more through a "choose your own adventure" type guidance you can optionally follow.note 
  • And I Must Scream: An interesting variant, as the narrator instead copes with her suicidal temptations and lack of mouth by laughing manically (as it's all people can understand from her).
    What the doctors told me was unless they rebuilt me some kind of jaw [...] I could die any time I fell asleep. I could just stop breathing and not wake up. A quick, painless death.
    On my pad with my pen, I wrote:
    don't tease
  • Arc Words:
    • Sorry, Mom. Sorry, God.
    • Give me X. Flash.
    • Jump to…
  • Black Comedy: Most of the situations the narrator finds herself in, including the wedding reception at the end of the book.
  • The Blank: "Birds ate my face."
  • Body Horror: The narrator's injuries and the descriptions of them.
  • Death Faked for You: The Rhea sisters fake Brandy Alexander's death so they can start her transition.
  • Brother-Sister Team: Brandy is really the narrator's brother, Shane, and they steal pills and other drugs from homes being sold on the real estate market as a team.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of the narrator's scribbles on her notepad are sly jokes or snarkiness, but no one understands it most of the time.
  • Drag Queen: The Rhea sisters.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Brandy and Evie.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The book ends with the narrator/Shannon giving up the last remnants of her identification to her brother so he can figure out what he wants from life, then walking out and finding a new start for herself. In the Remix version, she sets up a support group for disfigured women and even gets married!
  • Evil Feels Good: The narrator decides to burn down Evie's home (twice, in fact) because she knows she can get away with it, and because it feels cathartic.
  • Face Stealer: It turns out Brandy looks exactly like the narrator.
  • First-Person Smartass
  • Gag Boobs: Brandy Alexander.
  • Gender Reveal:
    • The narrator, Brandy and Seth learn from a realtor that Evie was born a man, which motivates their decision to sabotage a wedding ceremony.
    • Brandy Alexander is really Shane, the narrator/Shannon's brother who ran away from home and is undergoing surgeries to turn himself into a woman.
  • Hidden Depths: It is eventually revealed that the narrator/Shannon shot herself to escape from her beauty, while her brother Shane/Brandy knew about his sister's injury all along and is still confused about what he wants out of life.
  • How We Got Here: The book starts with Evie dressed in the remains of a burned dress, having just shot Brandy while the two of them and the narrator are in a burning mansion. And it goes downhill from there.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Having shot herself with a revolver and blown her own lower jaw off, the narrator/Shannon is quite nonchalant when she walks into the hospital, taking the time to drop the weapon down a drain pipe before she enters.
  • Meaningful Echo: At the end of the book, [[spoiler:Shannon helps her brother out by giving him the last remnants of her identity (her identification) so he can figure out what he wants from life, just like how he helped her in the speech therapy room near the beginning.
  • Nightmare Face:
    • This is so bad that the narrator can steal a turkey without being caught.
    • Yup. (this might be considered NSFW)
  • No Name Given: The narrator, until the very end. It's Shannon MacFarland, if you're curious.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Many of the situations in the book are motivated by what the narrator is able to get away with, including stealing a turkey from a supermarket (while everyone stares in horror at her face) and asking for information from a hotel clerk while brandishing a rifle and writing down her request for a specific room number as he attempts to shove handfuls of cash into her pockets.
  • The Reveal:
    • Brandy Alexander is Shane, the narrator's brother, who never died from AIDS.
    • Brandy isn't actually a transsexual because she doesn't want to be a woman. She just wants to destroy herself.
    • Manus is Seth, who is actually gay and only likes the narrator because she looks exactly like Shane. Seth was also the one who molested him and gave him an STD.
    • Evie is actually a transsexual, and knew Brandy through a transgender support group. And Brandy has known all of this from the beginning.
    • The narrator, Shannon MacFarland? She shot herself in the face. It's all her fault.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: Brandy Alexander.
  • Sue Donym: The "Brandy Alexander Relocation Program" means the protagonists have to constantly change ridiculous identities (such as "Hewlett Packard", among others.)
  • Theme Naming: Shane and Shannon.
  • Transsexual: Brandy Alexander and Evie. Although technically, the former doesn't count because for her it's just a form of self-mutilation.
  • The Unfavorite: Played with. The narrator notes that, in death, her brother receives more attention than her because their parents have become gay rights supporters and talk him up every chance they get.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The narrator confesses she just hates everyone and that in fact nobody behaves worse than she does.
  • Updated Re-release: In 2012, the book was republished as Invisible Monsters Remix, with the Anachronic Order even more mixed up and structured like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.