Title: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Author: Matthew Dicks
Genre: Contemporary fiction, speculative fiction
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook review copy from Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program
Audiobook reader: Matthew Brown
Audiobook length: 10 hours and 57 minutes
First line: Here is what I know: My name is Budo.
Goodreads blurb: 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.
When I first read about this book, the premise intrigued me: a book narrated entirely by a child’s imaginary friend. It is a unique concept, to be sure, and one that could have been a really bad idea – or a flash of brilliance. Fortunately, this was definitely the latter.
I loved the fact that I, the reader, experienced all the other characters through Budo’s eyes. Which means, of course, that I absolutely fell in love with Max. Max has Asperger’s, and so has need of an imaginary friend more than most. I loved hearing about Max from Budo’s point of view. There were some very funny moments, as well as scenes that brought tears to my eyes – and that is all before the Big Thing Happens. (I’m trying not to spoil too much of the plot, so bear with me.)
At first, I thought this would be Max’s story, told to me by Budo, but this was really Budo’s story. He has friends other than Max. He deals with questions of existence and personhood. He has fears and hopes and people he worries about. One of his biggest fears is fading away – the fate of all imaginary friends when their children no longer need them. Because of Max’s Asperger’s, Budo has been around longer than most imaginary friends. That, combined with the fact that Max imagined him smart, means Budo understands most of what is going on around him in the world. And when Max is in danger, Budo has the resources to try to help him.
There were a few scenes in which I became frustrated with Budo, wishing he would move more quickly – mainly because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened. But Budo is a strange combination of adult and child, and I had to be patient as he figured things out for himself. Toward the end, I didn’t want to stop listening until I knew exactly how things ended.
Matthew Brown was the perfect narrator to voice Budo’s story. I’ve listened to him before (The Fox Inheritance), and while he is not the type of narrator to do accents or extremely varied voices, he is perfect for first-person narration.