I'm a freelance writer who lives on the Bellarine Peninsula. I enjoy finding new things to see and do in the beautiful area that I live in.
Published May 1st 2012
It's a safe bet that when you were younger you had an imaginary friend. Even if, for some reason, you didn't, you probably knew somebody else who sought comfort, loyalty and friendship from someone who no one else could see. Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend explores these themes and more, in a sweet way that seriously pulls at the heartstrings.
Max Delaney is an eight-year-old boy, and although it is never mentioned by name in the novel, it is obvious that he has some form of Asperger's Syndrome. His parents have sent him to several doctors for diagnosis but have come up with inconclusive results. While his father refuses to admit that Max is anything but a quiet, withdrawn boy, his mother almost seems to wish for a diagnosis that would explain Max's obsessive routines and disinclination towards displays of affection. The only one that seems to understand Max is the main protagonist (and narrator) of the story, Budo.
Budo is Max's imaginary friend. He has been alive for five years (which is an extremely long time for an imaginary friend) and looks almost human-like, which is apparently a very uncommon feat, considering that most imaginary friends are created from a child's thoughts, and are often missing important features like feet, eyebrows, or even a human form. Budo knows everything that Max knows, as well as a lot more that he has picked up through his travels. Unlike some imaginary friends, Budo is able to move around independently of Max. This means he is able to visit his 'friends' at the service station and hospital at night while Max is asleep, learn more about the world that Max isn't privy to, and loiter in a sense of self that other creatures of his kind could never comprehend.
Being imaginary, Budo can only be seen and heard by Max and other childrens' imaginary friends, which can obviously be quite handy at times. He helps Max make decisions about what colour shirt to wear, which food item to have for breakfast, and guides him when he is confronted by the school bully.
However, when Max's life becomes endangered, Budo faces a dilemma of epic proportions. How can he save Max when no one else can see or hear him? When Max is kidnapped, how can he alert the authorities, having witnessed what happened, and show them who the culprit is? Enlisting the help of his fellow imaginary friends, Budo embarks on a quest to save his best friend from harm, and ultimately prove his worth.
While this novel greatly highlights the meaning of friendship and unconditional love, it also delves strongly into the meaning of existence- something which Budo constantly ponders. Having watched many of his friends disappear as their human friends grow up and forget about them, Budo often has the fear hanging over his head that he, too, will fade away to nothing. Budo gradually learns of the importance of his role in Max's life, although it takes a while for him to understand that even after he ceases to exist, he will still have a place within Max's memory, even if others don't remember him.
While the above theme of existence may seem a bit heavy, Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend is actually a very heartwarming and easy to read story. This novel is absolutely littered with likeable characters - the character of Max is sweet, and I particularly enjoyed the strict but grandmotherly character of Max's teacher, Mrs Gosk - and has a certain charm that can only come from a well-written novel based on childish experiences.
While the concept of an imaginary friend telling the story is refreshing, some of the elements of this novel reminded me of others that I have read. The whole idea of an imaginary character as a protagonist reminded me of Death's narration in The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, while some of the child-like descriptive language reminded me of how Jack spoke in the novel Room, written by Emma Donoghue.
While some of these ideas seem to have been borrowed in the construction of the novel, Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend is nevertheless a delightfully original story that explores the young and imaginative side in all of us.