Imaginary Friendby Published 01 Oct 2019
|Publisher||Grand Central Publishing|
Christopher is seven years old. Christopher is the new kid in town. Christopher has an imaginary friend.
Single mother Kate Reese is on the run. Determined to improve life for her and her son, Christopher, she flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with Christopher at her side. Together, they find themselves drawn to the tight-knit community of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. It's as far off the beaten track as they can get. Just one highway in, one highway out.
At first, it seems like the perfect place to finally settle down. Then Christopher vanishes. For six awful days, no one can find him. Until Christopher emerges from the woods at the edge of town, unharmed but not unchanged. He returns with a voice in his head only he can hear, with a mission only he can complete: Build a tree house in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.
Soon Kate and Christopher find themselves in the fight of their lives, caught in the middle of a war playing out between good and evil, with their small town as the battleground.
The epic work of literary horror from the #1 bestselling author of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.
Imaginary Friend Reviews
"A nightmare is nothing more than a dream gone sick."
This book.... THIS BOOK. I never read Perks of Being a Wallflower but what I do know is that this author went to a completely different genre with this young adult horror fiction read. Is it worth every 700+ page? You bet your ass it is.
To begin with, the main character's name is Christopher Reese - this made it somewhat sentimental to me because my family became very close with the Reese family when we lived in Italy. Their youngest was their son, Christopher who became a brother to me over the years and somehow that made this is a bit sentimental to me. Both have a strong relationship with their mothers and both are the best and sweetest boys. Listen, if you can find something in your real life that anchors you to the fictional life in the book you're reading, it absolutely makes a difference.
There were also a couple of incidents that truly reminded me of my childhood. Being pulled under a bed (or that feeling that something or someone was under there) was always a nightmare for me as a child (and once I woke up halfway under the bed, so yeah...) and that creepy ice cream truck jingle... UFF. Both are mentioned and just grabbed that inner child within me all the more. Even to this day, when the many ice cream trucks roam my neighbor at the weirdest night time hours, it still makes my blood turn cold.
Now, this book is just extremely engaging. Even with all 700+ pages, the chapters are short and I love the various tiny changes to format riddled within. You'll know what I mean when you pick up your copy, and I encourage you to make sure to put this on your TBR. This book is chock full of lessons. A relationship between a mother and son - Christopher and how he takes care of his mother while she feels guilty for not being the mother she thinks she needs to be. Faith, shown especially within Mary Katherine and where we get our first hints of the religious undertones of this novel. The good versus evil and how nothing is especially what it seems - especially in the Imaginary World - STAY ON THE STREETS! The loyalty of your childhood group of friends. The past coming to haunt you and how you move forward in any type of life. I could go on and on and on.
While I absolutely consider this my favorite of the year so far, there are a couple of things that didn't quite work for me. The children being 7, made it a little bit implausible - if they were just a few years older, it would've made that slight difference. Some things may feel a bit repetitive but personally I didn't mind this at all and I think that honed in on certain pieces of the story. However, the baby teeth as a description definitely stuck in my head - I wish that could've been identified with something different or not described repetitively throughout the read. But these are just nit picks that I can overlook because of the impact this story had on me. Some people may think this could've been shortened but I think every single page worked to tell this multifaceted story.
For me, this has that NOS4A2 creepy vibe, "kids group fighting evil" King vibe with that Burton-esque feel. I would absolutely LOVE to see this adapted. The hissing woman, the mailbox people and the nice man - each told and described in a tone that set you on your journey with Christopher in the Imaginary World and boy oh boy, these will be anchored in my mind for quite some time. And let me tell you what, I hope I don't run into deer anytime soon (or ever).
Basically, put this on your TBR, keep an open mind and set aside a few hours to really let this story seep into your blood stream. I'll see you on the other side.
Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this early release.
Now available as a BOTM add on starting in October!
Long ago, books stopped terrifying me in the way that people search out from the likes of gory, graphic horror films. Somewhere upon entering adulthood, the paranormal took a backseat to the chills provided by child abuse, sexual assault, and the murder of members of minority groups who never gain an ounce of justice, but this book terrified me in ways that I haven't experienced in over a decade, mainly due to combining paranormal AND realistic horror. I'll go into more detail at the end, complete with spoiler tags, but this book contained the one horror element that still manages to give me nightmares, no matter how many times I read a book that includes it. If you want to go into Imaginary Friend completely blind, I recommend stopping here, and not reading anything else surrounding the story until you've had a chance to pick it up for yourself. If you're the type of reader, like me, who enjoys knowing a bit more about a cryptically vague book to see if you're compatible with it, keep going. Either way, please take my thoughts lightly as the cause behind the commotion in this novel will be very polarizing, and most folks will love it or hate it.
"Don't leave the street. They can't get you if you don't leave the street."
The most common question I've received surrounding this novel is about the page length. "Was it really necessary for the story to be over 700 pages long? Who does this guy think he is, Stephen King?" Honestly? Yes. I had my doubts going in, but I almost immediately found myself entranced by the author's writing, and what would be described as a slow burning introduction to our characters became an unputdownable saga. There's a reason why Chbosky is a bestselling author, and while he did wait almost 2 decades to publish his second novel, it shows his incredible range of storytelling capabilities and otherworldly talent. The average rating is considerably lower than most popular books on Goodreads at the time of this writing, but I do think the page length is something that is possibly affecting this. If you're the type of reader that doesn't enjoy a meaty doorstop, you probably won't appreciate what this book has to offer. The page count will be a dealbreaker for about half of the readers out there, and that's ok, big books aren't for everyone. If you're still with me, let's continue on.
"Oh please don't let it be the hissing lady. Please don't let me be asleep."
While I hate comparing authors' various works amongst each other, I think it's helpful to note why this book is being pitched to fans of Stephen King and his older horror novels. This book appears to be set in the 90's, and it very strongly has the "kids battle evil entity" vibe that is so prevalent in many of King's past bestsellers, which automatically appealed to me. The beginning has a similar feel where, we get many details into a multitude of characters' lives, and after the foundation is set, the creepy instances start. It begins slowly, and almost seems to tip-toe around the horror aspect until well into the book, but it is beautifully done so. As a reader, I became invested in Kate and Christopher as humans, and the bond they created through shared experiences with poverty, abuse, and trauma was so necessary in transforming Imaginary Friend from a B-rated horror romp into a full scale terrifying masterpiece.
Alright, here's the meat of it. I'm going to put this next paragraph in a spoiler tag, and while there are no specific spoilers, I do discuss the theme of the reveal, and I don't want this to affect those readers wishing to go in blind. [spoilers removed] This part was so well done, for me personally, because I saw the initial reveal coming (the who not the what), and I was still found myself astonished once it finally came.
There is so much more detail I could go into, but I'd rather let you experience Imaginary Friend for yourself. This book would make a fantastic bookclub pick for groups who enjoy darker reads, as there is so much to be taken away from this. Beyond the horror aspect, there are so many themes surrounding sacrifice, hope, and love that will appeal to parents, caregivers, and members of small communities. While I found myself with questions after finishing, that was ok, because I enjoy when a book makes me think long past the turning of the final page. Imaginary Friend will rank amongst the most unique and memorable books I've ever read, and you can be sure I'll never forget it. Also, reader? Make sure you keep the lights on while devouring this book. If you fall asleep, you never know what may creep into your nightmares.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/
“A nightmare is nothing but a dream gone sick.”
Where do I even begin when it comes to the release of this (20 year) long awaited tome? I guess the easiest thing to do is address the obvious. For those of you who have been anticipating a new Perks to fall in love with, I have some bad news . . . .
There is no Charlie to be had here. Instead, there is a Christopher. A little boy who recently moved to small-town Pennsylvania with his mother when she escaped from an abusive relationship. A little boy who disappeared for six days into the Mission Street Woods and returned – safe . . . but different. A little boy who used to see words as nothing but jumbled letters, but now can ace a quiz in less than a minute. A little boy who has the ability to change his mother’s financial status. A little boy who has to get a treehouse built before it’s too late . . . .
“DEATH IS COMING! DEATH IS HERE! WE’LL DIE ON CHRISTMAS DAY!”
^That sucks. I love Christmas. Today begins the official one-month countdown until I can begin Clark Griswalding up the house.
I’m going to do things a little differently here when it comes to this review. I’m going to talk about some stuff I didn’t like (while still giving this a pretty high rating).
#1. Here is one of my Kindle notes . . . .
“This has to end by midnight and there are still 200 pages left. Yikes.”
You are going to hear a lot of talk about how this book is waaaaaaay too long. Because it is. Like 350 pages too long. And it’s repetitive to the point of total frustration. You know what I’m talking about, right????
#2. Has Stephen Chbosky ever even met a seven year old? You already have to be able to suspend disbelief in order for a group of kids to be building a McMansion of a treehouse complete with a locking door, shutters, glass windows and a trapdoor with a rope ladder, but JFC - seven???? Not only are these kids better at flipping treehouses than Chip and Joanna Gaines, but they are also pros at sneaking out of the house – they aren’t afraid of the dark and scary woods – they curse like sailors and can’t wait for the chance to see some nekkid titties on Showtime . . . .
No. They’re SEVEN.
#3. There are a lot of things that will call to mind to another recent(ish) release. Between the concerned mother . . . .
And the local sheriff haunted by his own demons . . .
And Charlie’s “headaches” . . . . .
And the imaginary side . . . .
But hey, at least those things aren’t similar to a freaking worldwide phenomenon with a ginormous fanbase, right????
So why the high rating?
#1. For not only having the balls to not just barf out book after book after book on the heels of his first success, but to release something completely different than that megahit all these years later.
#2. For the fact that despite all of my gripes, I read this puppy squisher in two days. Obviously it held my interest.
#3. For the ending. The ending is excellent. Unlike some other megafamous authors who shall remain nameless, but have a tendency to shit the bed in horror stories that wrap up with things like giant alien spiders or . . . giant ants . . . .
#4. Ambrose . . . .
Y’all know I have old lady brain, but I won’t be forgetting Ambrose any time soon.
Endless thanks to Grand Central Publishing for offering me an early copy of this title in exchange for my honest review. This will remain in a prime location on the shelf.
700+ pages by the guy who wrote one of my favorite YA books ever??? Here goes nothing everything . . . . .
Perks of Being a Wallflower was not part of my adolescence and I’m not much of a horror reader although I do enjoy it every once in a great while. So, I’m not quite the right reader for this ambitious novel. Needless to say twenty years after the publication of Perks, Imaginary Friend is quite a departure for Chbosky. As is fairly typical of horror novels, the main conflict is good vs. evil, God vs. the devil and so on and so forth. The kids-in-jeopardy trope is in full swing which echoes King but with less success. I found the kids to be too young at seven years old; perhaps eleven years old would have made it a bit more palatable. This is a long novel and there is a lot that should have been cut due to an overload of repetition. I was about to tear my hair if I read “…like baby teeth” one more time. This is just one example. In its favor, it reads fast and is action-packed. Will it sell in the marketplace? Yes, like green wildfire.
I'll be first to admit that I never read horror, nor do I have the interest, but I wanted to give Stephen Chbosky a try just because he was an iconic author of my teenage years. But this..... wasn't it. Even from the objective perspective of someone not into horror, especially paranormal/fantastical horror, this was a longwinded mess.
This book started out strong to trick you to read on, but the ending was catastrophically terrible. The first 25% is basically what the synopsis describes, and then afterward, the story truly begins. Let me reiterate that this book is 700 pages long and the first quarter of the book is just exposition. From 25% to 75%, this book actually had a lot of good parts. It kept me guessing, it had twists and turns, it had a few creepy partys. But then the ending just became overwritten, incomprehensible plot divided between two worlds and between a cast of 10 characters. The writing was average at best throughout the book, but the end of the book just became totally ridiculous with all the characters screaming LIKE THIS!!!! at each other multiple times a page, aNd ThE viLLaiN oF thE boOk tAlkS liKe tHis. I skim read the last 10% just in search of answers, but this book provided none. I have no idea what the conflict of the book was and why any of the villains were wreaking havoc on the world. The main plot twist at the end just made the entire situation more confusing and everything got so muddled in the end that it's making me regret spending TWO WEEKS reading this massive book only for it to be so completely a let down because the plot doesn't actually get resolved in a way that makes sense. Chbosky just kept on dragging the conflict out even though he could have ended everything 500 pages earlier, with SO much unnecessary inner monologue that dragged out the pace even more.
Maybe if you like fantastical thrillers with religious/spiritual undertones you would enjoy this more, but in my opinion, just save your time and read Stephen King or something.