Review

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

by Matthew Dicks

Imaginary friends. What child doesn't have one at sometime or other during his or her childhood?  For a young boy named Max --- who fears any change in his routine, doesn't like to be touched, and becomes very agitated when he must use a public restroom --- an imaginary friend can be comforting. Max, who attends special ed classes, is "somewhere on the autism spectrum," though his father disagrees vehemently with this diagnosis. Max imagined Budo into existence five years ago, and takes his job as Max's friend and protector very seriously. Unlike other imaginary friends, Budo never even sleeps. When Max is asleep Budo sometimes slips away to hang out at the nearby gas station/convenience store. Sometimes he watches television with Max's parents. Budo can't be seen or heard by anyone except Max and other imaginary friends, so folks sometimes assume Max is mumbling to himself when he is really talking to Budo. Because he is invisible, Budo is privy to a lot of interesting and sometimes disturbing information, but it's almost impossible for him to get help from real people when Max needs it.

"MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND has a unique and not altogether predictable ending.... This story of friendship, loyalty, courage and imagination will stay with the reader long after the last page has been read."

Instead of having just one teacher, Max has several. But his favorite is Mrs. Gosk. She makes learning fun and doesn't talk down to her students. Max feels comfortable in her class, as comfortable as he can feel anywhere except at home. He lives inside himself, has no friends, and likes to be left alone. When he gets upset or confused, he sometimes gets what Budo calls "stuck," and it can take quite a while for that condition to wear off. Budo knows that when Max no longer believes in him, Budo will cease to exist, which frightens and worries him a great deal. He loves Max and wants to stay with him. He is more perceptive than Max and can sort things out that Max can't. This ability of Budo's to reason a problem through often keeps Max out of trouble.

Budo has a lot of companions --- other imaginary friends. One is shaped like a spoon, one is a pink hair bow, one is just a blob. Oswald is an unusual one because he can actually touch things and make things happen, though he cannot slip through a door or window the way that Budo can. 

Mrs. Patterson is a paraprofessional at Max's school who thinks she knows what is best for Max, and in her view it isn't the special education classes or even Max's parents. Budo doesn't like Mrs. Patterson at all, and he doesn't trust her.  And with good reason --- she lies easily and convincingly, she is super sneaky, and she is determined to have Max all to herself. She would never purposely hurt Max, but the complicated, illegal ruse that she eventually carries out is absolutely not in Max's best interest. She kidnaps Max from school and keeps him locked away in a soundproof room in her house. She lavishes him with his favorite toys --- soldiers and Legos ---  and she prepares his favorite foods. Max doesn't really comprehend what has happened. He seems content to be there, especially when Mrs. Patterson leaves him alone. And now Mrs. Patterson is stocking her motor home  with food and other supplies and preparing to drive away to parts unknown, where no one will ever find her or Max. Of course, Max has no hint of Mrs. Patterson's intentions.

Because Budo has been shadowing Mrs. Patterson and slipping in and out of doors and windows, he alone understands what Mrs. Patterson is up to. Budo believes that only he can save Max from this lying kidnapper. Without the ability to be heard by anyone except Max and other imaginary friends, Budo is unable to enlist assistance from any human. Here the tempo of the story takes on a palpable urgency. Imagination has met cold, hard reality, and Max's very safety is at stake. What is at stake for Budo, who will cease to exist when Max no longer believes in him? Will Mrs. Patterson's crime be discovered in time to save Max? Max's parents are sick with worry, and there is an underlying gloom at school as everyone wonders what has happened to him.

MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND has a unique and not altogether predictable ending. The author, an elementary school teacher, drew upon his own classroom experiences to create some very plausible situations, given the fact that the story is being narrated in the first person by an imaginary friend. This story of friendship, loyalty, courage and imagination will stay with the reader long after the last page has been read.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on September 21, 2012

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
by Matthew Dicks

  • Publication Date: August 21, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 125000621X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250006219