Well, what do you know? Little Maddy Spencer got out of Hell. God help us all.
Palahniuk (Damned, 2011, etc.) is rarely known to revisit characters in the manner of Irvine Welsh. But after the heavily experimental voices in Snuff, Pygmy and Tell-All, maybe a little more blasphemy by way of Judy Blume is an acceptable compromise. The author’s muse, 13-year-old Madison Spencer, may be a lot of things—chubby, dead, virginal and sarcastic to the point of sadism—but she’s often quite funny in her most shocking moments. To catch up, Maddy woke up in Hell. It turns out that Hell has a hell of a lot of rules, and Maddy broke every one of them trying to figure out her predicament—the last when she overstayed a visit to Earth on Halloween. Now, she’s stuck here as a ghost. As a notoriously unreliable narrator, Madison can grate on the nerves, but it’s sort of peek-between-your-fingers interesting to learn more of her gruesome back story. First, Maddy runs into her dead grandmother, then discovers her billionaire father shagging her rival from Hell. So there’s that to fix. For better or worse, Madison is guided by Crescent City, a Ketamine-addicted paranormal detective who can see her during his frequent binges. Oh, remember those rules we discussed? Farting, cussing and picking your nose are all grounds for eternal damnation—except little dead Maddy told her diva of a mother that they were requirements for ascendancy to Heaven, and now Mommy Dearest has founded a new religion based on all of her daughter’s grossest behaviors. The book’s other revelation—other than a long-hatching conspiracy about Maddy’s role in the End of the World—turns out to be the real reason that Madison Spencer believes she was damned in the first place.
If you only read one book this year about a dead teenager posting on message boards about playing supernaturalist and tempting Satan’s wrath, let it be this one.