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Don't forget that we're giving away copies of Michelle Moran's The Second Empress this month!

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
by Matthew Dicks

I've previously reviewed two of Matthew Dicks' books: Unexpectedly, Milo and Something Missing.

Budo is the imaginary friend of Max Delaney. Unlike most imaginary friends, who are only around for a few days or weeks, Budo has been alive for five years – so he might be the oldest imaginary friend around. Now, when says that he's imaginary, he means that he cannot be seen by any human other than Max – but Budo isn't bound to Max completely. His thoughts and his movements are his own, so he can come and go without Max's permission, or give his friend advice when Max needs it. Right now, Max really needs Budo's help. He's got a bully at school intent on punishing him for humiliation, one of his parents is in denial about Max's problems, and there's a teacher who acts very strangely around him. Without Budo, Max is lost for sure!

Although it's never explicitly stated in the book, it's very clear that Max is suffering from autism or a similar condition, which goes a long way in explaining Budo's longevity. Max can't make decisions, read other peoples' emotions, and if he gets too stressed he gets 'stuck' – unable to talk or move or think. In many situations, Budo has been acting as an interpreter or decision-maker for Max. At the beginning of the book, it's sweet and even a little funny, but as the story continues and Max's dependence on Budo becomes clearer, it becomes tragic instead.

Budo himself is an intriguing narrator. Although he's only five years old, he acts and sounds more like a ten year old because Max imagined him as 'older'. Budo's mature enough to start contemplating the big “ifs” in life – where did he come from, what happens after somebody dies, who will remember him when he's gone – and he's scared to disappear. Throughout the book, Budo shows that he's brave and loyal to his best friend, making him truly admirable.

The way imaginary friends are handled in the book is pretty cool, too. They are more or less dreamed up by their host child – although 'host' isn't the best word, it's the closest I can think of to describing the relationship. The imaginary friends aren't parasitic, but they need their human friend to believe in them, or they'll disappear. Since they are “created” by children, they might have a distorted appearance - human with no ears, for example – or they might not be human at all. In his travels, Budo encounters a fairy, a giant, a Spoon-man, and a splotch.

It's a good book, if you like this sort of thing. The combination of a child narrator, major character with a developmental condition, and the mystery that dominates the second half of the book reminded me very strongly of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a book that was really popular for a while but I never quite understood why everyone else liked it so much. I liked Budo well enough, and his relationship with Max was sweet, but something about the book didn't work for me. It might have simply been the young narrator; Budo talks like a kid, with a lot of repetition from one chapter to the next. I really didn't care much for Max, so whenever Budo worried about him I didn't. There's an extended discussion about “bonus poops”, and the phrase kept popping up, which annoyed me after a while. (Toilet humor is the one childish thing I definitely grew out of early on.) But even though this book was not as much to my tastes as Dicks' earlier novels, it's a good book that I think a lot of people will love.

3.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: 20 Celebrities with Stunning Home Libraries
2010: n/a
2009: n/a
2008: Creepers by Joanne Dahme


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Aug. 23rd, 2012 03:56 pm (UTC)
This book sounds interesting! I might pick it up :)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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