Is the book good or bad? I am unsure. It was handed to me after being queried by the editor: "Have you read Room?" I had reacted to the book about a mother and her child trapped in an abductor's perversion — it was disturbing and disconcerting. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend follows a similar vein but takes a step further into an 8-year-old's autistic world. The book is told from the perspective of an imaginary friend named Budo that the young Max Delaney creates so he can deal with the world.
Budo is, well, for lack of a better word, meant to be "cool". He is a complete person created by the boy's mind's eye with a few extraordinary powers such as being able to pass through doors and not having to sleep or eat to survive. Apparently not all such fictional folk are fully formed. You have creatures with stalks for eyes; talking puppies, paper cutouts, spoon; fairies; and bald monsters — all aimed to convey to the reader the breadth of a child's imagination. And their lifespan is quite short, as it depends on each young person. He or she could cease to believe and the friend slowly fades away — a tad melodramatic but that is the way the imagination goes.
The entire book is narrated by Budo or rather the idea of Budo that Max carries within him.
In a way it attempts to help you get inside the head of a child with what most probably appears to be Asperger's Syndrome. It is a type of disorder that involves delays in the development of basic skills, especially the ability to socialise and to use one's imagination. This is interesting because Budo is the direct result of a mind's conjuring act.
Mathew Green has stepped up on his evolutionary process, so now you have an imaginary friend who is not just a figment of imagination but a being who spends time focusing on the existential nature of life. The big question — what happens to imaginary friends once they fade? Where do they go? Budo also has his own set of friends, emotions, jealousies and fears. He has to deal with inadequacies such as not being able to move anything physically.
The book works on the premise that children with Asperger's Syndrome are quite often gifted; it is just that they are unable to communicate with the world. In a society where young people with special needs are often hidden away because people don't know how to deal with them, books of this nature do help. It does dramatise in parts to create the momentum of a fictional plot, but at its core, it works to tell people that adversity is not necessarily a bad thing.
The parts that do feel a bit tiresome are the exchanges between Max's parents — especially the denial by the father to accept that his son needs special attention. When you have a child who will not eat after 9am and only wear seven pieces of clothing at any given time, irrespective of the weather pattern, has no friends and refuses to make eye contact, you do realise that he needs assistance. Perhaps, there do exist parents who refuse to accept, because to them it feels like a personal failure. But, in this case, it feels unrealistic.
The book does carry pace and there is a connect with Budo, especially when the plot is infused with a chase element.
So, yet again, was the book good or bad?
It wasn't bad, it was good in measures and Budo works. And if you have ever had an imaginary friend, then this would make for an interesting read.