Sunday, December 30, 2012

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend (Matthew Dicks)

Sometimes, I read books that sneak up on me. As I read, I think "yeah, I like this book, it's pretty good" and then at the end, I am blown away and might even possibly cry. This is a good thing, and Matthew Dicks' latest book, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, is one of them. Our narrator is Budo, the imaginary friend created by Max. Max is in third grade and created Budo five years ago--Budo is old in the world of imaginary friends. It's clear early on that Max has some level of autism or Asperger's, and so Budo is there to help him make it through each day.

We spend quite some time just following Max and Budo, seeing the world from both Max's perspective and from Budo's. Of course, Budo's is more interesting: he knows that he is doomed to die, to be forgotten by Max when (if?) Max outgrows the need for an imaginary friend. These perspectives are part of what make the book so great and at their very best reminded me of Emma Donoghue's Room and Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I am a sucker for unusual perspective.

Eventually, we get to the driving event of the narrative, that one of Max's teachers steals him from school. This is the point at which the book switches from "pretty good" to "really good": Budo realizes that if Max stays kidnapped forever, Budo will never die; he simultaneously realizes that he is the only one that can save Max from his teacher, at the probable cost of his own existence. Budo doesn't know what to do. This is what makes the book so emotionally resonsant--the character complexity is so believable and real that watching Budo struggle with these decisions is heartbreaking and beautiful.

It feels cheap and punny to use the word "imaginative" to describe a book about imaginary friends, but it is. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is one of the best examinations of friendship and love that I have recently read, handled from such an unexpected, wonderfully unique perspective. I will confess that I cried at the end of the book, and I can't decide if these tears were happy or sad. It doesn't matter. Any book that I can invest myself in enough to cry is, in my opinion, an excellent book.

Matthew Dicks' book drew me in and tore me apart; it is not to be missed.

My rating: 5/5
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend on Goodreads
See what I've been reading lately!

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