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Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green

In the few months before my little sister started primary school, she had a new best friend: Cookie. Cookie trumped her other friends with ease, in large part because Cookie was imaginary. Imaginary friends, of course, are subject to the creative boundaries of their imaginers, and are also bolstered by their imaginers sense of what a friend should be. Needless to say, Cookie was essentially flawless.

Cookie also disappeared not long after my sister started primary school. She was discarded in favour of real friendships, which my sister promptly discovered that, although full of arguments about who sits where and who has the best lunchbox, are far more fulfilling than a passive intellectual creation.

That imaginary friends are typically fleeting is something about which Budo, the eponymous narrator of Matthew Greens Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, is all too aware. Budo has reached the ripe old age of five, which is quite a significant milestone given the typically butterfly-like lifespan of most of his kind, and indeed in that time hes seen many imagined creations fade away before him. Its an unusual application of the longevity trope, and is made all the more interesting by the fact that although Budo is long-lived compared with others of his kind, he is human enough that he compares himself not with other imaginary friends, but with people. Hes a sort of imaginary Pinocchio: self-aware enough that he knows what hes missing out on.

But Budos continued existence is contingent on the fact that his imaginer, Max continues to believe in him. Should Max stop doing so, then Budo will fade away. But, of course, part of growing up involves sloughing off the need for an imaginary friend as company or, in the case of Budo, as someone to help solve ones problems. Budos desire for longevity, then, requires that Max never grows up, something for which Budo guiltily finds himself hoping. Budos ambivalence is understandable: hes not only a creation of the (presumably) autistic Max, but an extension of him, much like some of the other imaginary friends in the book. Although Max is an intelligent boy, his ability to express himself or engage with others is severely deficient, and its Budo who demonstrates proficiency in these areas. In contrast, although Budo is lingustically and emotionally capable, he is unable to physically interact with others in the world around him, much as Max is emotionally unable to do so.

Its a fascinating set-up, but things start to turn pear-shaped when we move away from the mundane day-to-day events of ordinary life and suddenly find ourselves embroiled in a thriller.'Budo, although certainly articulate for a five-year-old imaginary spectre, is too much of an innocent to be able to describe the resulting story with the gravity and eloquence thats required, and the effect is something that feels occasionally naff, but worse, often little more than a'series of events with no underlying motivation or reason.'The motivation behind what happens to Max is never convincingly explicated, for example, and the entire escapade for this reason doesnt quite ring true; neither does the ending, which is discordantly coincidental.

There are other scenes that feel superfluous to the plot, such as the shooting in the gas station, and those that act as flimsy excuses for the plot not moving in a particular way. Indeed, in one scene, Budo realises that he could easily put a stop to the mess he finds himself in simply by asking another imaginary friend to talk to their imaginer, but instead designs a hugely circumspect solution to the problem thats a little baffling in its complexity and which seems to push the boundaries of the internal consistency of this novel. Not to mention bloating out the page extent by a good hundred pages or so.

Still, awkward plotting and painfully expositional narrative asideBudo has no qualms in repeating himselfthe premise of this one is certainly enough to pique ones interest, and will have readers reflecting on their own childhood selves. The final few pages mark growth in both Max and Budo, and although inexorable, provide satisfying closure to the question thats hung over the novel since its opening sentence.'Fans of'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time'will likely enjoy this.

Rating: star Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Greenstar Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Greenstar Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Greenblankstar Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Greenblankstar Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green (good)

With thanks to Hachette Australia for the review copy

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  1. Jayne Fordham /

    I enjoyed this story, particularly the POV of Budo the imaginary friend. The far-fetched scenarios didnt bother me too much.

  2. This sounds really good & interesting but only 3 stars? hhhmmm, not sure if Id pick it up from 3 stars rating

  3. Stephanie /

    Jayne: I really loved this at the outset, and think the imaginary friend POV is a brilliant conceit, but overall thought the whole story behind Maxs disappearance was a bit much. My favourite bits were watching Budo interact (or not interact) with those around him, and particularly the notion that he was an extension of Max. I could quite happily have read a novel about that alone!

    Tien: From me, anything 3* and up is worth checking out. This one does have a really fun premise, and though some of it didnt work for me personally, I dont doubt that others will like this onetheres a lot here that captures the, pardon the pun, imagination.

  4. I never had an imaginary friend, but my rent-a-kid has had a few. The one that has stuck around is Henry the Butterfly who drives a green car next to her window in the back seat. I think reading a story from the POV of an imaginary friend would be fun, without any need of shootings at gas stations.

  5. Stephanie /

    Henry the Butterfly sounds awesome!

    I think I was expecting something a little quietertheres already so much going on with the autistic Max and his problems at school/socially that the thriller element seemed a bit much. Its definitely an intriguing concept, though, and Im glad Green went out on a limb to try something different.

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