A while ago I was reading some of the Slow Living monthly reviews posted on Slow Living Essentials (at least I think that’s what I was reading) and someone (I have no idea who, so if it was you I apologise for the lack of acknowledgement) mentioned they had been reading this book. As I often do when I read book recommendations I went straight onto the library website and put a reservation on it. A couple of weeks later I got the email saying it was ready to collect, by which time I had completely forgotten what that blogger had written about it or even that I had reserved it. But thank goodness I did, it was quite the page turner and not something I think I would have stumbled across on my own.
The story centres around a young boy called Max and his imaginary friend, Budo. Max has special needs, it’s never labelled but to me it seemed like something along the lines of Asperger’s syndrome. He lives on the inside and struggles with many social skills, but he has Budo to help him and an amazing teacher. His parent’s are struggling to come to terms with Max’s reality and this has put immense stress on their relationship. A few short chapters in the story takes a turn, that although I knew something was coming I didn’t pick what that something was. From then on I couldn’t read it fast enough, desperately wanting to know the outcome for Max and for Budo. To tell you anymore than that would spoil it for you all, so all I shall say is read it for yourself and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Aside from the storyline what I loved about Green’s writing was the world he created within this book. It seems an obvious thing to say, but his imagination shone throughout in some quite unique and intricate details. I love books than you feel like you become part of and however implausible it might be it is written in a way that just makes you believe. I felt the same way reading the Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The characters in both ring true to me despite the fact that in one the main character is a time traveler and in the other one of the characters is imaginary. The characters are written authentically. Mind you Memoirs of an Imaginary friend doesn’t quite stack up to Niffenegger’s great novel. There was some slightly annoying repetition, especially in the last third of the book, which wore a little thin and Budo’s pre-occupation with his inevitable non-existence was a bit overdone.
One final point of criticism that many other reviewers have discussed was the sheer number of novels written in this genre – the use of unwordly narrators to tell the story of a child, especially one with special needs – that perhaps it has all been done before. For me that wasn’t really a problem as I’ve only read one other The Curious Incidence of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon (BRILLIANT!) and that was so long ago I didn’t feel the tedium of reading a formula-style book, though I understand why others might feel differently.
On the whole this was a suspenseful but endearing novel and one that I would definitely recommend… provided you haven’t read the many other apparently similar novels.