[Review] Imaginary Friend (2019)
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 her child. 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. Until Christopher vanishes. For six long 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, and a mission only he can complete: Build a treehouse in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again. Chbosky has returned after 20 years with an epic work of literary horror, whose grand scale and rich emotion redefine the genre.
Wow, this book. I cannot even recall the last time a book grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go until the very end. Imaginary Friend is one extremely well written and intense book, I could not put it down. Seriously, I took off from work 2 days because I was just that hooked. Even all of the characters got into my head and didn’t let go. The character development is so very thorough and is probably why the book is as long as it is. There is also a very strong message in this story that will remain with you for a long, long time.
“He knew how he found the skeleton. He knew that the bones had been there for a long time. He even thought he knew the name of the kid who died. But he couldn’t tell the grown-ups that. Because eventually, they would ask him how he knew everything. And he only had one truthful answer. ‘Because my imaginary friend told me.”
Imaginary Friend starts out with single mom Kate Reese and her young son, Christopher fleeing an abusive relationship, and end up in a small town in Pennsylvania. They are having a rough time, and struggle to just get by. Christopher does not do well in school and has a lot of trouble with letters and learning in general because he has Dyslexia. Christopher has never really managed to have any friends either. Kate and her son end up living in a motel while Kate tries to get them back on their feet. She wishes for them to be able to get their own place soon.
Everything seems to be going great until one day while waiting for his mother to pick him up after school, Christopher wanders into the woods and is missing for six whole days without a trace. Kate and the townspeople search everywhere with no luck. Then Christopher comes back, and he has no recollection of where he’s been. When asked how he got out, all Christopher manages to say is that ‘the Nice Man helped me out.’ But things are different with him, he came back changed, his dyslexia is gone and no longer struggles with reading, and he’s suddenly the smartest kid in his classes.
Christopher seems to mysteriously know what people are feeling, and even what they are thinking about. He also somehow manages to help his mother win a lottery. He has a voice in his head that is telling him to build a treehouse in the middle of the Mission Street woods by Christmas, or something horrible will happen to everyone. Many years before this, another young boy named David Olsom had also wandered into those same woods, only he was never found.
As Christopher is being guided by his imaginary friend, a horrific entity called the Hissing Lady is out to hurt him, but the ‘Nice Man’ is determined to protect and watch over him. His most important task is to build that treehouse that will work as a portal between the real world and the imaginary world. But the Nice Man warns Christopher that he must not be in the imaginary world when night comes because that is when and where the evil lurks. Christopher ends up spending more and more time in this imaginary world, while the people in the real world suffer from some sort of sickness that’s making them all crazy. Violence erupts and throws the entire world into total chaos.
“A nightmare is nothing more than a dream gone sick.”
I won’t say any more at this point because now is when the twists start happening, and anything else would ruin the story for you. I will say, however, that as a reader, I became very invested in Kate and Christopher’s lives, and the bond they created through shared experiences with poverty, abuse, and trauma. Having never read anything by Stephen Chbosky before this book, I was not sure what to expect. I was blown away by how deeply this book was able to pull me into the story, from only the first few pages, unable to put it down for anything, even work. If you only read one horror book this year, do yourself a great favor and let this book be the one. Highly recommended!
About the Book Author
Stephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Southern California’s Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. He is the recipient of the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Everything Divided as well as a participant in the Sundance Institute’s filmmakers’ lab for his current project, ‘Fingernails and Smooth Skin.’ Chbosky lives in New York.
Title: Imaginary Friend
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Published Date: October 1, 2019
Genre: Horror Fiction, Ghost Story
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 721 pages
Reviewed by: Sarah Hopkins
Our Rating: 4.0 /5
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