07 May 2012

Audio Book (P)Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

I think this is the UK cover?
My bookstore received an advance audio of the book, so I started listening to it a couple of weeks ago.  Goodreads provides this summary for it: "Budo is Max's imaginary friend. But though only Max can see him, he is real. He and the other imaginary friends watch over their children until the day comes that the child stops imagining them. And then they're gone. Budo has lasted a lot longer than most imaginary friends - four years - because Max needs him more. His parents argue about sending him to a special school. But Max is perfectly happy if everything is just kept the way it is, and nothing out of the ordinary happens. Unfortunately, something out of the ordinary is going to happen - and then he'll need Budo more than ever..."

One disc into it, I couldn't tell whether I would like this book or not.  I'd already caught one narrative inconsistency, which is too bad,  because when you take something like "imaginary friends" and create rules for the world in which they live, the author really has to be consistent if he wants the reader to suspend disbelief.

Also, an entire chapter about pooping?  I don't buy into that.  Still, I had hopes that the book may in the end turn out to be as interesting and as well done as Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, which is the obvious comp for this book.

I'm afraid the book didn't improve that much upon acquaintance.  The reader himself was pretty good, it's the book's content I have the issues with.  Aside from the "imaginary friend world" inconsistencies, the narrative was repetitive to the point of tediousness.  Budo, the narrator, is Max's imaginary friend and he is only as limited as Max imagines him.  Unfortunately, the author drives home that point roughly six hundred times per chapter.  In other words, this author never heard the dictum that writers should show, not tell. 

I think conceptually this is a book that could have been fascinating if it had been executed better.  It could have had the magic of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, or the amazingly convincing young boy narration of Room (which I thought was masterful), but instead it was overly long and painful to listen to. If I'd been reading the book, I would have skimmed most of it, and if I'd been the editor, I'd have cut out large swathes of repetition.  The ending was moderately good, even if it was too much buildup (we're talking many, many chapters of buildup), but without commensurate payoff in terms of the story arc.

And I mean, come on.  I had imaginary friends of my own as a child (one of them was named Melvin. I kid you not).  I suspect most people had at least one at some point in their lives.  But who in the hell would imagine their friend as a spoon?  I'm all for suspending disbelief when it comes to fantastical creations, but I couldn't quite wrap my head around the idea that some stupid kid imagined a walking, talking spoon for their friend.  Maybe when Old Mother Hubbard had her heyday and the cow jumped over the moon, but in the 21st century?  I really don't think so.

No doubt there will be other readers who will lurv this book, but I am not one of them, I'm afraid.

NB: As I said, I received a complimentary "staff listening copy" of this audio at my bookstore.  The reader is credited as Matthew Brown, but strangely, the author on my CD is listed as Matthew Dicks, not Matthew Green as the book jacket above indicates.  The book will be released in the US in August. 


  1. I think I need to look into getting some audio books for my road trip this summer, though I don't think I'll be adding this one to the list.

  2. I greatly appreciate all the info I've read here. I will spread the word about your blog to other people. Cheers.


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