By Terri Schlichenmeyer
You had no one to blame but yourself. You forgot, you ignored, you missed out. You broke a promise, maybe a spirit, feelings were hurt, an apology is long overdue. There is no defense because you admit it: It’s your fault.
Guilty as charged, and now’s the time when you wish you were a kid again. At least you’d have someone to point a finger at, but in the book “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” by Matthew Dicks, a pretend friend did more than just take the blame.
Budo doesn’t remember when he was born. One day, when Max Delaney was four, he started imagining Budo and just like that, Budo “popped into existence,” knowing only what Max knew.
Still, Budo knows he’s lucky. Max imagined him with arms, legs and a face, and he can go places without Max, which is handy for eavesdropping. He’s also been around for almost five years, which is a lot longer than most imaginary friends. He’s around because Max needs him and vice versa: As long as Max believes, Budo survives.
Nobody really knows what’s wrong with Max, although some say he has Asperger’s. He hates to be touched, though he likes people from far away. Budo likes Max’s family and most of Max’s teachers, but he doesn’t like Mrs. Patterson. She’s not really all that nice and she makes Max keep secrets from Budo.
As the school year progresses, Budo explores the neighborhood while Max is asleep, he meets other imaginary friends, and he protects Max from a boy who’s bullying him at school. The bully, though, isn’t Budo’s biggest worry; Budo’s more worried about Mrs. Patterson because she likes to take Max out in the parking lot to sit in her car. They don’t go anywhere. They just sit.
But one day, they don’t just sit, and Budo’s sure that Max knew about that. Max might even admit to knowing, but Budo can’t ask because he can’t find Max, which means the grown-ups can’t either.
Max is gone, but Budo knows Max is still alive because he’s still alive, too.
How long that will last, is anyone’s guess.
Flat-out, hands-down, no doubt, “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” is a wonderful, wonderful novel.
Some 65 percent of adults had an imaginary friend once upon a time, and author Matthew Dicks will make you remember the one you loved before you grew up. The difference is that here, Dicks allows the innocence of childhood to butt against the harshness of delusion and the emergence of reality. His own imagination soars in creating Budo; we peek into a world we’d never usually see and it’s incredibly captivating. Then Dicks chills us to the core just before he breaks our hearts.
This is one of those novels that takes you by the hand on Page One and doesn’t let go. It’s sweet and sad and I think you’ll love it, so grab “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” and have a seat. Miss it, and you have nobody to blame but yourself.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.