Budo is an imaginary friend. He was imagined by Max, a 9 year old boy who is different from other kids. Somewhere on the autism spectrum, though an exact diagnosis is never mentioned, he doesn’t like or understand people, spending most of his life on the inside. Max imagined Budo when he was 4 years old, and while most imaginary friends disappear when kids enter kindergarten, Budo has stuck around. Budo spends most of his time with Max, which means he goes to school with him. Both Max and Budo adore Mrs. Gosk, Max’s third grade teacher, and both dislike Mrs. Patterson, Max’s paraprofessional.
I will warn readers that this is a very odd book, and it took some time for the plot to actually get going. A good chunk of time is spent explaining the characteristics of an imaginary friend — what they look like (everything from a life-size cut-out of a boy to a spoon, and most don’t have ears), where they can and can’t go depending on how they were imagined, why they exist and why they are usually forgotten. While Budo was imagined by Max, he’s not with him all of the time, and while Max is sleeping Budo watches TV with Max’s parents, or goes to the gas station or the children’s hospital and hangs out. Because Budo can exist apart from Max, he realizes too late that something is wrong when Max gets into Mrs. Patterson’s car, and Budo watches helplessly as she drives away with him.
Budo is overly preoccupied with his own life, he wants to know what happens when a human friend no longer needs their imaginary friend? Whether he should help Max leads to a dilemma — if he helps him, will it lead to his own death? Budo turns to other imaginary friends for help saving Max, but ultimately realizes that Max is the one who has to save himself.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is a very unusual book, it’s a cross between Emma Donaghue’s powerful novel Room and Mark Haddon’s ground-breaking The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It’s an insider’s view into what it’s like for kids who live on the inside and would be enjoyed by parents, caregivers and teachers of kiddos on the spectrum.
Notes on the audiobook: Budo is imagined by a 9 year old boy, but he is narrated by an adult who does an excellent job with difficult material. Max himself is a child of few words but the narrator conveys his mannerisms and speech inflections in a very believable manner. However due to the repetitive nature of Budo’s narration, there are times I wished I could just skip ahead. Of course audio books also make it difficult to skip to the end and force you to savor the story as it unfolds.
Susan Maclean says
Greetings from over the pond! I got this book to review for Amazon, and have to say that I loved it. Yes, it takes rather a long time to get exciting, but on the other hand it does explain how imaginary friends get “born” and how they exist, which I found enchanting. I have recommended this to several people, and so far no negatives. A strange, but rather wonderful read!