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Book Review of Damned By Chuck Palahniuk

Updated on January 21, 2018
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Did you like Chuck Palahniuk's Damned?

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"Death is the One Big Mistake that none of us EVER plans to make."

Chuck Palahniuk's novel, Damned, is not for the faint of heart or for those without a sick and twisted sense of humor. In it, a thirteen year old girl, Madison Spenser, reveals her own tale as she travels through Hell after dying of a marijuana overdose. Hell is where the floors are filled with awful candies, where The English Patient is played over and over, and toenails pile up into hills while sperm lies in an ever-expanding lake. It's also where the damned either sit in self loathing and misery over their fate, take part in fetish internet porn, or work as telemarketers, interrupting meals across the globe, just to ask about safety pins and toothpicks.

What I found especially funny was not only the people little Maddie runs into in Hell but also her group that she bands together. With early allusions to The Breakfast Club leading up to her first meeting with Babbette (the cheerleader/prom queen), it isn't surprising to realize once she also meets Leonard (the nerd), Patterson (the jock), and Archer (the rebel) that she's found herself within her own Breakfast Club in Hell. I guess that makes Maddie the outsider, although she seems to have labeled herself the smart fat kid.

All in all, despite the humor and the playfulness of it, this book is disgusting. Halfway through it, I almost put it down, but instead I kept trudging through and in the end it wasn't bad, although I would say it wasn't really worth it either. It wasn't a waste of time, but it's not something I'd recommend to anyone I know.

"No, it's not fair, but what makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven. Earth is Earth. Dead is dead."

Don't get me wrong, I love Chuck Palahniuk; from his classic Fight Club to Survivor and Invisible Monsters. This is the first book of his that I have read that has made me want to stop reading it and just toss it aside. I can get a humor that makes you want to gag but still leaves you chuckling as your else dart through each line but I think here Palahniuk may have gone a little too far beyond my own taste.

For the first couple of chapters, I thought it was laugh out loud funny. Then as I read along and things started to get a little out of hand while the story continued to run along like a hamster in its wheel going nowhere, I got a little tired. Once past the halfway point, things got a little better but in the end I just didn't feel like I got all that much out of the reading.

The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club | Source

Damned Sequel by Chuck Palahniuk

In October 2013, expect to find the sequel to Damned, entitled Doomed, if you are amongst those who enjoyed this book.

"If the living are haunted by the dead, then the dead are haunted by their own mistakes."

Amidst the aspects of the novel I didn't like, there are good points that Palahniuk makes. With a Hollywood actress for a mother and an equally rich and successful father, Maddie is an only child, with a lot of adopted siblings sent off to boarding schools once their five minutes of fame is over and their parents lose that spotlight again. She is spoiled but hates her life as she tries to reach out beyond the confines of the tinted windows and and constant plane rides all over the world to discover herself, a search that continues even after death.

She can see how fake her parents are in showing that they are environmentally conscious and yet taking private jets everywhere, something not uncommon in those we see in the media. She also sees the benefit in growing up with some kind of belief system in something bigger than herself, something she missed out on since her parents do not believe in religion of any sort and didn't allow her to either, giving her pills and drugs to experiment with instead. Perhaps, she ponders, that's why she ended up in Hell, or maybe it's because she overdosed on marijuana.

At the end of the novel, Maddie discovers who she truly is, and perhaps her real origins, although she learns this latter part from the Prince of Lies himself so we aren't really sure how accurate that may be. I liked that despite the disgusting horror of Hell, Palahniuk made it even more than a place of torture for the character to experience and the audience to read, and in the end made it somewhere where people go to learn to get past the shallow aesthetics and materialism they enjoyed in life and learn more about themselves.

This novel was interesting but I would give it a three out of five stars and warn not only about the graphic aspects of the novel but also the fact that it may not keep your desire to read it very high so you might have to push yourself. If you're a Palahniuk fan like me, just beware that it's not nearly as great as his other novels.

© 2012 Lisa


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    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      Sounds intriguing, but I shall probably take your advice and avoid it. Loved the film of Fight Club though.

    • LisaKoski profile image

      Lisa 5 years ago from WA

      Well those are all great books of his that you've read so far and Fight Club is definitely worth reading as well. I also suggest Survivor, it's another one of my favorites of his. Thank you for reading!

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 5 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      So far, I've read Lullaby, Invisible Monsters, Choke, and Haunted. What's consistent with all the books I've read of his is that in his writing, he does not take his foot off the gas within the realm of the grotesque or that he outdoes himself time and again with shock value; no other author characters suffer more than his own. Sometime a few years back, I stopped reading Chuck Palahniuk (I think it was after having read Haunted), only because after doing so for a while, you can only look at so many corpses on the side of the road--mangled and bloodied. Sooner or later, you just have to turn away. I do however want to read Fight Club soon.

      I don't think I'll reading "Damned" anytime soon, as it reminds me of why I don't read him presently. In any case, good book review!



    • LisaKoski profile image

      Lisa 5 years ago from WA

      It might be worth finishing but it might not. Honestly, I just kept reading because I knew that Palahniuk usually has some pretty unexpected endings to his novels so I thought maybe it'll surprise me and everything will make sense. It sort of brought everything together but it really wasn't much of an ending and kind of left me feeling like it was a bit of a waste of time.

      Nice to know I'm not the only one who wasn't so happy with it! I was really surprised because I'd yet to read anything by him that I disliked so much.

    • Brittany Daniel profile image

      Brittany Daniel 5 years ago from Cary, NC

      I agree completely. In fact, I did put it down just prior to halfway through. Maybe I should give it another shot, but I like books to have a bit more of a plotline than this one did.

      Thanks for sharing! Palahniuk (usually) rocks!

    • LisaKoski profile image

      Lisa 5 years ago from WA

      At first I thought it was some sort of spoof but I'm not really sure what he intended by making his own "Breakfast Club" at all because it really didn't play much of a part other than adding somewhat to the humor of the novel. I think it could be a kind of "teen" novel. I'd never actually considered that before but it makes sense.

      Thanks for reading! :)

    • profile image

      Molly Torres 5 years ago

      So is this kind of a 'teen' novel? Is it supposed to be a spoof? Sounds like there are humorous aspects to it (dying from a marijuana overdose???)

      This is great you are reviewing books!