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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wouldn't You Like An Imaginary Friend?

by Kellyann Zuzulo

You can imagine your friend any way you want. Be creative. If you're not. You may end up with a friend who's not fully formed. Like the little pink bow in a little girl's hair that could only blink its little eyes. She disappeared, poof, after only a couple of days. What you want is an imaginary friend who fulfills some need in you. Companionship, inspiration, excitement, loyalty, understanding. Again, be creative. Author Matthew Dicks certainly is.

Coming August 2012
from St. Martin's Press
In Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend, Matthew Dicks has crafted a fully formed imaginary friend with Budo. Budo is Max's imaginary friend. Budo and Max have been together for five years, which is a very long time as imaginary friends go. (See, I'm even starting to talk like Budo.) Max doesn't learn like other children, as Budo will tell us. Yet, Max is very smart. He imagined Budo with ears (apparently, many imaginary friends don't have ears. Seems to be a detail that people don't always think of) and with a keen comprehension of situations. (This will come in handy as things go awry.) Budo accompanies Max to school and, essentially, looks out for him. The reader is immersed in the real world as it is perceived by a world of imaginary friends.

Dicks' narrative maintains Budo's voice so consistently that you really will feel that you know Budo, that you root for him, that you would like to meet him. I was immediately captivated by this book. But I will admit that a part of me thought, "Oh, this is clever. What a great concept. But can Dicks maintain the inner life of an imaginary friend for an entire novel? The answer is yes. It's not long before Budo is swept into struggles with death, deceit, treachery, loyalty and some high-risk scheming so that an imaginary friend can execute a real rescue.

Disappearing is death for imaginary friends. If your "imaginer" friend stops believing in you, you die. Dicks' meshing of worlds is so seamlessly done that I found I was as traumatized by the death of a real person of whom Budo had become fond--even though she couldn't see him--as I was by the heartbreaking disappearance of imaginary friends who no longer served a purpose for their imaginers. Budo fears death more than anything, until he realizes that there is one thing he fears more. That something bad will happen to Max. Budo's struggle becomes one to not only reconcile his own dread of the inevitable moment when he fades away, but to save Max from literally disappearing. (A suspenseful kidnapping plot figures prominently in the novel.)

Although written from the perspective of a nine-year-old's imaginary friend, this is a book for adults (and for young adults). Dicks delivers high concepts about life and death, friendship and loyalty that snag your heart and make you think. While I don't know the author, I did receive a copy of the book to read, with no obligation to review it. However, without prejudice, I will say that Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend is a beautifully written book and the best execution of magical realism I've read, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novels. The novel will be released in August. As the cutline on the back cover proclaims: This summer, use your imagination. I will second that.

Meanwhile, think about what you would look for in an imaginary friend. Remember to add ears. Reading this book is not only an engaging odyssey into a world that borders the "real" world, it's a great exercise for writers. Dicks has mastered the development of a narrative that leaves no gaps in logic and continuity. Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend is world building at its finest. So, pick up this book and meet Budo. Then meet your own imaginary friend.

Who would you imagine?

Best Wishes,
Kellyann Zuzulo
www.kfzuzulo.com
My imaginary friend is a genie. Visit him in

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