You may have seen this for like a MINUTE the other day when I accidentally hit publish. This is what happens when you are running two blogs. *sigh* Whoops. Sorry about that.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
By Matthew Dicks? Green? Who are you today?
Read by Matthew Brown. I do not think this is the same Matthew, but who knows with this identity crisis of his.
This is the sort of book that I close and go “Okay, so, now Heather, just how are you going to review this one without giving anything away?” And that sneaky little voice in my head goes, “Honey. I have no idea.”
And I had so many difficulties with this book. The publisher sent me the audiobook out of the blue and I read the book and was like, wow. That sounds so amazingly new and original! A book, told from the point of view of a young autistic boy’s imaginary friend? And it’s compared to Room? “Let me get on this right now!” I thought. And I did, as soon as I was able. Then, well, things got rocky, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, so, what is this book about? Thanks for asking! What would I do without you?
So, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is about the life of an imaginary friend, right? Budo is the imaginary friend of Max, a young autistic boy, and Budo will only exist as long as Max believes in him. Budo helps take care of Max, deal with awkward social situations, and loves him. Most importantly, loves him. Budo loves Max more than anything else in the world. Budo has lived the longest of any imaginary friend that he knows, which he is glad of, because he is afraid of disappearing. So Budo knows there is a fine balance between helping Max along, and keeping himself needed. So, when something completely out of the ordinary happens, Budo has to make a decision; how does he help Max without loosing himself completely?
Like I said, I had huge problems with the listening of this audiobook. I couldn’t get into it! I couldn’t connect to Budo at all, Max was a mystery (although I think Max is SUPPOSED to be a mystery), and I just felt like I was struggling to get through the book. In talking with a friend about it, I realized that it might be the listening itself. I didn’t even really have a problem with the reader, except that his reading felt somewhat emotionless to me and I didn’t think he sounded very much like a child. Since I had the eGalley from NetGalley, I decided to switch over and, suddenly, I was in the narrative. Totally into it. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. Into it.
The beginning of the story takes us through Budo and Max’s days at school. Budo shows us how Max struggles with his classmates, his father who refuses to believe something could be wrong with him, and his mother who desperately wants to get Max the help he needs. Budo tells us how he helps Max go to the bathroom, how he helps “the bravest little boy in the world” do things other children do without batting an eye, and most of all, just how much he loves this little kid. In many ways, Budo seems older than Max, like an older brother even. Budo is special in the world of imaginary friends, in that he can be away from Max. This could get Budo into trouble. Budo is Max’s special protector, so what will Budo do when he can’t get to Max to protect him any more?
That’s all I can tell you. To tell more would be to give so much away. The second half of the story becomes one of such suspense. Something happens to Max, something Budo witnessed all by himself, and, being an imaginary friend, can’t tell any one. Budo has to be smart, very smart, to get to Max and help Max see that this time, Max is going to have to help himself. No matter the cost.
I can see where this book would be compared to Room. A young protagonist is telling the story, and there is a measure of suspense in the second half of the narrative. Yet, for all the suspense, the writing wasn’t quite as tight as Emma Donoghue’s in Room. There were times where it felt like I was just hanging around, waiting for something to happen because Budo didn’t know what to do next. This kept me reading, but at the cost of a tiny bit of irritation. Irregardless of that little bit of nit-pickery, Matthew Dicks (I’m picking Dicks because that’s what’s on my ebook) has created one of the more imaginative characters (Ha! See what I did there?) I’ve encountered yet. Budo is the kind of imaginary friend I know I would want (no disrespect, Penelope, you were fun and all, I swears) and any kid would be lucky to create. Max, like most autistic kids, is distant, hard to know, and so endearing. You just want to wrap him up in that hug he wants no part of. It’s been a couple of months since I finished this book and it has really stayed with me. Highly recommended.