Every now and again a book comes around that entirely blows my mind. I don’t mean a five-star rating, I mean that five stars is the most I can give because my feelings can’t simply be expressed with a book rating.
This is one of those books.
In the best way possible, the only thing I can really think to describe my feelings is that this a book that makes me, as an author, feel like I will never write anything even remotely close to this book. It was such an amazing story that made me sad, scared the crap out of me, and left me in awe at the end.
Imaginary Friend is Stephen Chbosky’s first novel since Perks of Being a Wallflower, and other that it being a horror novel, I mostly went into it blind. The story follows the occupants of a small town in Pennsylvania, but focuses primarily on Christopher Reese, a little boy with dyslexia and trauma based around his father’s suicide. Christopher goes missing for six days, putting the town in a panic and when he returns, he is changed. His dyslexia is gone, his math skills are well above his classmates…but he also hears a voice in his head. The voice of “the nice man” who is telling him to do things in order to save the town from a monstrous creature who is set to kill everyone.
As time passes, the town becomes affected by the same things Christopher has dealt with, but with none of the knowledge that he has. It is a rollercoaster of twists that flip the whole story 180° with every few page turns.
If I needed to compare the book to other things, I would have to say Stand by Me, Stranger Things, IT, and a little bit of Hansel & Gretel meets Slenderman. It’s a huge mash-up of familiar and incredibly original new-ness which makes the 700+ pages just zip by when things aren’t so stressful I needed to put the book down.
I loved the wide cast of characters. I loved all the context of where they’re coming from. I loved the twist that I only figured out before it was too late. I was desperate to get to the end while also never wanting it to end. Believe me when I say that it was a horrifying thrill ride from start to finish and I will never forget this book. I highly recommend it for people looking for a good scare when they have a good chunk of time on their hands because I promise you that you won’t want to put it down, despite being such a beast of a book.
One final note I will mention about this book is some trigger warnings: this book contains child abuse, suicide, sexual assault of minors (more than implied but nothing happens on-page), domestic abuse, substance abuse, body horror, and lots of general violence.