Budo has learned a great deal about the world since he was imagined into existence. He is the imaginary friend of Max, a young boy who struggles to navigate through the world. Budo knows that he will continue to exist as long as Max believes in him for he has watched many other imagery friends disappear during his life. Max, with high functioning autism, depends on Budo to help him cope with the vast array of confusion which is daily life. When Max stumbles into danger, Budo must figure out how to save him.
I had a difficult time getting into Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. There is a great deal of repetition of words, phrases, and concepts. I suspect Mr. Dicks used this as a device to remind the reader that the narrator, Budo, was a child (or at least an imaginary friend child). However, it took me a while to look past that and get into the overall flow of the book. Many times I had to roll my eyes at being told yet again the basic rules of imaginary friends or what Budo thought of the people in Max’s life.
I am glad I kept at it, though. The simplistic, childlike narration hides many levels of meaning throughout the novel. How do we understand evil? How do we deal with death and grief? What happens after death? What is bravery? What is love? What do you do when the right choice is the one that makes you face your greatest fears; sacrifice that which you hold dear? It’s one of those books that stayed with me, long after I put it down, as I thought through all the messages. It’s been a long time since I read a book that left me thinking through all the existential questions.
During the first part of the book, Budo helps the reader understand Max and his view of the world. This charming look into the world of an autistic child blended with the world of the imaginary friends offers an endearing introduction to the world and characters. However, the book rapidly plunges into darker waters as Max walks blindly into a danger (and every parent’s nightmare). From there, Budo must figure out how to save Max and what cost he is willing to pay to do so.
The final resolution left me in tears. Somehow, it was happy and sad all at the same time. After all, sometimes the only way to win is to lose. Mr. Dicks weaves multiple vignettes of the sadder aspects of life, reminding us that everyone faces challenges. At times, our imaginations help us get through whether in the creation of imaginary friends or other ways. Best of all, everything we need to overcome our challenges resides in us, if we can just find the courage to do the hard thing.
This book isn’t perfect but it moved me deeply. I can’t offer higher praise then that.
Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Griffin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.