Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Published on: August 21, 2012
Page Count: 320
My Reading Format: Audiobook ARC picked up at BEA
Audiobook Published by: MacMillan Audio
Narrator: Matthew Brown
Audiobook Length: 9 hours
Audio Sample: Thank you to MacMillan Audio for providing this audio sample of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
Budo is special. Not only is he Max’s imaginary friend, he has been for more than five years. This is an uncommon feat for any imaginary friend. You see, the lifespan of an imaginary friend is the total of the time in which their friends believe in them. Max has some emotional and social issues and it is because of this, it seems, that Budo has survived for such a long period of time. As a result, he’s come to know a great deal about the lives and role of imaginary friends, his friend Max, and the world around him. While this information helps him to navigate Max through and around difficult situations, it has its disadvantages. His knows enough dread his own demise more than anything else and, although he can communicate with other imaginary friends, there are few who can relate to him at all. It his job to help Max, but when doing so means he might die, Budo has several difficult decisions to make.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend may have been written from the perspective of Budo the imaginary friend, but there are two stories in this novel. Budo’s story is interesting in that through his eyes the world of imaginary friends is given shape and substance. As his story expands, he provides glimpses of Max’s idiosyncrasies. It is when Max’s story emerges more fully that the full impact of the novel can be seen. Even while laughing at some of Max and Budo’s antics, most especially as they pertain to Max’s public bathroom practices, my heart went out to Max. I became thankful for the existence of imaginary friends to help him learn to cope with his compulsions and social awkwardness and survive everyday reality.
While the concept of imaginary friends seems like child’s play, this novel is not for children. Max may be the only person with whom Budo can interact with, but he observes all that is going on around Max. What Budo sees and overhears gave me pause. No one ever wants to think of being observed at their less than glowing moments, even if it is by a benevolent imaginary friend. That Matthew Dicks crafted his novel in such a way as to give an almost 3D view of the life of a child with emotional and social issues impressed me. The teachers, the parents, and Max are all shielded in one way or another from the complete picture. It is Budo alone who carries Max’s full weight. As a parent, how could I not love Budo? How could I not worry as much about him as I do the child who created him?
I’ve got to believe that when he was given this project that Matthew Brown must have wondered exactly how one gives voice to the imaginary friend of an elementary school child. Narrating a child in and of itself must be a challenge for an adult, but this requires narrating something that exists only within the child’s mind. Whatever process he went through to finish Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Matthew Brown was perfect. He captured Budo’s innocence, experience, both wanted and unwanted, and fluctuating feelings with care and conviction. From the first words I could almost feel him fit snugly into Budo’s skin. It made for a spectacular performance.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend does for imaginary friends what Toy Story did for toys. While glued to my car the entire I listened to this audiobook, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty for forgetting whether I had and discarded imaginary friends of my own. Matthew Dicks created wonderful and lasting characters in Budo and Max. His storytelling and Matthew Brown’s narration made for an unforgettable reading experience. I cannot recommend this book enough.