I'm giving Palahniuk one star for effort and another for creative use of the English language. However, my inability to comprehend, complete, or enjoy this book prevents me from giving him any more stars.
I was intrigued by the book's premise of exchange students entering the US to live with American host families with a secret agenda in mind. After all, I help place international students with host families in real life. And I'm quite accustomed to deciphering the language of students with limited English ability. However, Palahniuk's exchange students' English confused even me. Here's a sample from the first chapter:
"Begins here delicious tang of host family, thin American flood already salt on hot tongue of operative teeth. ...Could be crunch of host bones sweet between teeth of this agent. Stomach to growl. Quick them to be screaming out blood ... quick dead. Ultimate vengeance."
This style narrative continues for the entire book. I had much difficulty determining the difference between the 13-year-old narrator's imagination and reality. Did someone really die in the baptismal fount? Did Pygmy really beat up and rape the bully in the bathroom?
I didn't mean to spoil those scenes and themes for you, but yeesh. I had forgotten how graphic Palahniuk can be. As the narrative heads deeper into the area of the disturbing and shocking, it becomes less and less comprehensible. The narrator seemed more alien than human. By the 5th chapter, I had decided that there are too many books out there to waste any more time on this one. Goodbye, Pygmy.