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Literature / Damned (2011)
aka: Damned

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Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison.

Damned is a 2011 book by Chuck Palahniuk.

From Chuck Palahniuk, the bestselling author of Fight Club, comes a dark and brilliant satire about adolescence, Hell, and the Devil.

Madison is the thirteen-year-old daughter of a narcissistic film star and a billionaire. Abandoned at her Swiss boarding school over Christmas, she dies over the holiday, presumably of a marijuana overdose. The last thing she remembers is getting into a town car and falling asleep. Then she's waking up in Hell. Literally. Madison soon finds that she shares a cell with a motley crew of young sinners: a cheerleader, a jock, a nerd, and a punk rocker, united by their doomed fate, like an afterschool detention for the damned. Together they form an odd coalition and march across the unspeakable landscape of Hell—full of used diapers, dandruff, WiFi blackout spots, evil historical figures, and one horrific call center—to confront the Devil himself.


A sequel would later be published in 2013 named Doomed.

Tropes found in this work:

  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Like with all blood and tears ever spilled, all ejaculate expelled in masturbatory sessions eventually trickles down to hell to form the Great Ocean of Wasted Sperm. With the advent of VHS tapes and the internet, it's been rising at record rates
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Not actively abusive, but some of Camille and Antonio Spencer's parenting is questionable at best. They have negligent tendencies toward Madison, encourage her to experiment with drugs, and Camille cultivates Madison's image to keep her looking childlike and lies about Madison's age in public to make herself seem younger, even putting the wrong birth year on her headstone.
    • Beyond this, the Spencers use adoption as a PR stunt each time one of them has a project coming out that puts them in the spotlight. The children they adopt are always either Non-Specifically Foreign or Inspirationally Disadvantaged, such as the child Madison mentions who has a cleft lip. Once they have served their purpose, they are Put on a Bus to one foreign Boarding School or another and promptly forgotten.
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  • A-Cup Angst: Madison, who died before puberty, expresses jealousy of Babette's more developed body.
  • Arc Words:
    • "At best, a sentry. At worst, a voyeur."
    • "It's power, but a kind of pointless, impotent power."
    • "The only thing that makes earth feel like Hell, or Hell feel like Hell, is our expectation that it ought to feel like heaven. Earth is earth. Dead is dead."
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Archer's death, combined with Redemption in the Rain.
  • Boring, but Practical: Madison's thick-soled Bass Weejun loafers are much more comfortable and durable than Babette's counterfeit Mahnolo Blahnik heels. Knowing this, she advises her recruits to wear comfortable and dark-colored shoes and clothes that won't show dirt.
    Madison: And yes, I'm well aware of all the reasons why I should politely but firmly refuse these shoes...but instead, I LOVE THEM. And they fit.
  • Battle Trophy: Madison acquires King Ethelred II's belt, and adorns it with such others as Caligula's testicles, Hitler's mustache, and Thug Behram's handkerchief.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Babette is introduced as somewhat of a Brainless Beauty, but she boasts an impressive body of knowledge about the rules of Hell.
  • Byronic Hero: When facing down Baal, Madison proclaims that she appears quite Byronic.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The criteria for admittance into hell are so strict, anyone who has ever used the word "ain't" will face eternal damnation.
  • Critical Research Failure: For the first half of the book, Madison believes that she died from a marijuana overdose. note 
    • She also has no conception of the mechanics of sex.
      • Because of this, she also lacks a basic understanding of French kissing, which leads to her accidental death.
  • Dead to Begin With: The novel starts off with Madison "Maddy" Spencer finding herself in Hell after her death. The novel focus her on trying figure out why she's in Hell and make the best of it.
  • Hell Seeker: Madison had her reservations at first, but grew accustomed to Hell and convinced anyone she could that they should do everything they could to join her there.
  • Important Haircut: In Hell, Babette gives Madison the bangs she always wanted, but her mother insisted she was not ready for.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Babette's accessories include knock-off Mahnolo Blahnik stilettos, a fake Coach handbag, and cubic zirconia earrings. These fashion sins are probably not noticeable to most people, but Madison has an eye for detail and was raised rich enough to have discriminating taste.
  • Non-Specifically Foreign: Goran. Madison describes him as having thick, dark hair and a Transylvanian accent, but admits that she does not know where he's from.
  • Polish the Turd: Madison's attempts to spruce up Hell including painting bats red and blue to look like birds and adding reflecting pools.
  • Scenery Gorn: Hell boasts such attractions as the Dandruff Desert, the Swamp of Partial Birth Abortions, and the Great Ocean of Wasted Sperm.
  • See You in Hell: Played for laughs. Teenagers who've gone to hell (it's not as bad as it sounds) get to return to Earth for a few hours on Hallowe'en to go trick-or-treating. When they split up to go their separate rounds, they casually go "OK. See you in hell!"
  • Shout-Out: Each chapter begins with Madison writing in a journal, always starting with "Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison."
    • Madison mentions The Breakfast Club rather frequently in the beginning of the book, at one point even writing a note to Satan in the style of the iconic letter the group writes to the principal at the end of the film. Her Five-Man Band also mirrors their personalities pretty well, and she refers to them as "The Dead Breakfast Club"
    • Jane Eyre gets several nods as well.
    • Madison is interested in River Phoenix, and Emily wants to know if Corey Haim is single.
  • Take That!:
    • The English Patient is the only movie available in hell and it plays on an eternal loop.
    • Hearing "You're the One that I Want" from Grease three times in a day is a sure sign you'll die before sunset.
  • Verbed Title

Alternative Title(s): Damned