July 21, 2020

Matthew Green: "Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend"

Title: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None (though the author used to have plans for a sequel and maybe still has)
Author: Matthew Green (pen name for UK and Australia, but elsewhere he publishes under his real name Matthew Dicks) [SiteMatthew Green on Goodreads | Matthew Dicks on Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2012
Age: 14+ (but it's more geared towards adults)
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Candid, insightful, magical and heartwarming.
Cons: The simple writing style (tailored on the narrator) may not be everybody's cup of tea.
WARNING! An instance of fat-shaming and food-belittling (even if imaginary friends don't eat, it doesn't sit right). Some violence.
Will appeal to: Those who never completely outgrew their imaginary friend. Those who could still use one.

Blurb: Budo is been alive for more than five years, which is positively ancient in the world of imaginary friends. But Budo feels his age, and thinks constantly of the day when eight-year-old Max Delaney will stop believing in him. When that happens, Budo will disappear.
Max is different from other children. Some people say that he has Asperger's Syndrome, but most just say he's "on the spectrum." None of this matters to Budo, who loves Max and is charged with protecting him. But he can't protect Max from Mrs. Patterson, the woman who works with Max in the Learning Center and who believes that she alone is qualified to care for this young boy. When Mrs. Patterson does the unthinkable and kidnaps Max, it is up to Budo and a team of imaginary friends to save him - and Budo must ultimately decide which is more important: Max's happiness or Budo's very existence. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: A deceptively simple novel that tackles autism from a different perspective, along with themes such as courage, sacrifice, friendship, family and the power of imagination.


Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is, to the best of my knowledge, a unique book in more than a way. Not only the imaginary friend himself narrates the story (and while I read an anthology based on the same concept, I've never come across another novel that does it so far), but his human maker - for lack of a better word - is a little boy on the autistic spectrum (though his condition is never explicitly named in the book). Budo is a fascinating character, who allegedly has been able to evolve through the years and his observation of people, all while maintaining a basic naΓ―vetΓ© - which doesn't prevent him to have some spot-on insights about the world as he knows it, and the adults in it. He also muses about his own existence and is well aware that, as soon as Max stops needing him, he will disappear. This causes an internal conflict for a while (though Budo loves Max dearly and tries to protect him at all costs) that some reviewers found petty, but to me, only adds to Budo's "humanity" and paves the way for his growth. [...]


I can't vouch for the accuracy of the autistic rep in this story, but what I can say is, Max's actions and feelings (as recounted by his imaginary friend) mostly ring true. Budo casts a honest, but always sympathetic eye on Max's peculiarities and struggles, all while unmasking the hypocrisy - or more like the cluelessness - of certain adults in his life, and the way his condition impacts a loving, but partly in denial, family. Max can lack social skills or need a rigid structure in order to function, but he is much more than his supposed weaknesses, and anyhow makes up for them with smarts. Though I'll admit there's a part of the story where he seems to suddenly turn into a too high-functioning autistic - especially for a sheltered little boy - it's still believable from a certain angle (as Budo himself muses), and so uplifting that it does feel like the right plot choice - all the more so since it's not like Max is magically "cured" after that.


For a book dealing with a mentally challenged character and a child abduction, not to mention including a couple of violent scenes (not Max-related, in case you're wondering), MOAIF is surprisingly light and funny in places. Heartwarming, too. Budo's observations and his encounters with other imaginary friends provide some humour and relief, though I have to admit that, in his inner monologue, he can be quite judgmental about those of his kind who are less developed (and smart) than he and some others are. He also has a problematic stance on food (which is understandable, since he doesn't eat, but still - it could have been avoided, also because it doesn't do anything for the plot) and seems to despise fat people (which probably is a consequence of the point I made above, but that doesn't mean he has a right to fat-shame humans in his head). Also, just so you know - there's a whole chapter about Max pooping, which I did enjoy in context, but if you gross out easily, you might want to avoid this book (or the chapter in question at least). Other than that, I can only recommend this novel. It's simple but deep, honest but funny, and an ode to all the little kids on the autistic spectrum out there, the adults who aren't afraid of them, and the friends they (and many other kids) make up in order to cope, and who somehow take on a life of their own...

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  1. I could use an imaginary friend.....
    Wow! This was quite a hit for you, and I love to hear it was heartwarming.

    1. "I could use an imaginary friend....."
      So, based on my "Will appeal to" section, you have to try this one πŸ˜‰.

  2. While it's not my kind of read, I'm glad that you liked it.

  3. *Other than Max pooping* lol This does sound really wonderful though.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. I've never read such a charming book where poop plays such a pivotal role LOL.

  4. This does sound unique. I like that it does have some humor to leaven the seriousness a bit. And I had to laugh about the pooping part. That's interesting haha! Seriously though, I'm glad this was a good one, it does sound compelling.

    1. Glad the pooping part made you laugh LOL. Either than the food and fat-shaming thing, it's a great story that leaves you with a better understanding of what it means to be an autistic little kid, and makes you smile in the process. The best combo.


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