Friday, February 15, 2013

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend - Matthew Dicks (Audio)

There was some serious buzz about this book at SIBA this year.  It was one of the Editor Picks and of course the publisher ran out of copies before I got to their booth, so I went away with a sad.  I did hear after the fact that the audio was very good, so I perked up and ordered it from the library.  

I also chose it for our February book club selection, to ENSURE that I listened to it post haste.  I have to admit, it sounded very clever and I couldn't wait to start it.

Synopsis:  The memoir in question is that of Budo, the imaginary friend of 8 year-old Max Delaney.  Budo is five years old now, and is the oldest imaginary friend he knows, as most imaginary friends die (fade away) when their human companions enter Kindergarten.  His advanced age can be explained by the fact that Max is on the Asperger's spectrum, and needs a little extra help day-to-day in coping with people, changes in his routine, and making decisions...all things that terrify him.  Budo can only be seen and heard by Max, and other imaginary friends that Budo comes in contact with now and again.  Budo is a pretty smart cookie, can walk through walls and doors, and loves Max's teacher Mrs. Gosk, because this is the way that Max imagined him to be.

Budo has always had a bad feeling about one of Max's teachers in the Learning Center, Mrs. Patterson.  But his worst fears are realized when Mrs. Patterson kidnaps Max one day from school.  Budo knows he must somehow save Max, but how can he when he can't physically interact with the human world?

Guiltily, Budo also worries that if something bad happens to Max, he will cease to exist, and Budo does not want to die.  He may be forced to choose between Max's happiness and his own life as an imaginary friend.

My thoughts:  There are so many books out right now that address Autism and Asperger's Syndrome, and that truly warms my heart.  I have friends with children on this spectrum, and through them I know there are challenges and a great desire to better understand and help their kids.  And what a clever premise this was!  It was absolutely enchanting to understand Max through the innocent and trusting eyes of his very best friend whose only job is to help and protect him.  Dicks really had to think through every detail of the rules of an imaginary friend.  What do they look like?  How would a small child imagine them?  What are their skills, their temperaments, their limitations?  I wonder if he watched the Cartoon Network's "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends"?  (Like my kids did, ad nauseum.) 

Because Dicks is a school teacher, he brings great perspective to the novel.  There are the teachers that really "get" kids like Max, and others that do not.  He understands the obstacles that these kids face...the mean kids, the over-attentive kids, the problem with being touched, even the terrifying idea of having a "bonus poop" at school.  So many of these scenarios made me laugh and made me want to cry.  

All that being said, towards the end of the book, I found some of the dialogue circular and repetitious.  I began to tire of hearing "have to save Max", "afraid to disappear", "how to save Max", "what happens when I die".  These phrases were belabored a bit.  And I (ashamedly) was ready for the book to be done.  Now, the ending was precious and heartbreaking.  I loved that part.  But I felt like I kept hearing the same sentences over and over again throughout the last 2/3 of the story.

Overall though, it was a sweet and enlightening book that I would have to endorse.

A few words about the audio production:  The narrator for this book was Matthew Brown, who I've never heard before but absolutely enjoyed him.  He had a youthful, innocent voice with great intonations for the various imaginary creatures that Budo met, and portrayed Max so well.  He made this book so pleasurable to listen to.

Audio book length:   10 hours and 57 minutes (320 pages)

4 out of 5 stars     


Literate Housewife said...

This is a great review. I was lucky enough to pick up the audio at BEA. I really enjoyed it. I remember what you said about the repetitive sentences at the end. I don't remember it bothering me, but since I know what you're talking about, I noticed it. It just barely didn't make my best of 2012 list. It's a good read. The humor was great.

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bermudaonion said...

I have this in print - maybe it won't seem quite as repetitive in that form. The premise does sound interesting.

Ti said...

Sometimes I wonder if the people that make these audio books actually take the time to listen to them.

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Jeane said...

This sounds like a great book. I'm adding it to my list, although I'll look for a paper copy (don't really do audio books, yet).

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JoAnn said...

I've been planning to listen to this book and am glad to read your review - it has made my expectations a bit more realistic.

Melissa said...

I've seen this one around a few places and hope to get to it soon!

Zibilee said...

I haven't started this one yet, and I sorely need to. I would love to hear it on audio, since that it my preferred format right now, but I have the book on my kindle, so I will probably go that way. I do really love the premise of this one, and think that it will open my eyes in a way that they need to be opened about children with autism and related problems.

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Julie P. said...

I keep meaning to read this one and never seem to pick it up. I don't know if I'd notice the repetition in print.

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Unknown said...

As you know, I try to read all the books on autism I can. I thought this was one of the best so far. I loved the originality of the plot and the repetitive sentences didn't bother me as I thought they added to the tension - I really wanted to find out what happened! I was a little annoyed by the way they didn't take the quick option as I could have rescued Max in about a quarter of the time (but it probably wouldn't have been as exciting a story!) but other than that I can see mself recommending this alot. Glad you enjoyed it.

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Heidenkind said...

I wish I had someone to help me deal with people and make decisions. :p

Matthew Dicks said...

I'm so happy to see that you liked the book! It's always a great honor when someone takes the time to read and review my books. And I'm pleased to see that you enjoyed the audio version as well. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Matthew Brown but I liked his performance a lot, too.

Many, many thanks for bringing awareness of my story to your community.

-Matthew Dicks

Anonymous said...

Yay! I liked this one a lot too. I listened also and really enjoyed the narrator. I didn't notice the repetitiveness of the phrasings in the last 2/3 of the book, but now that I think about it those exact phrases you mentioned were repeated a LOT. But I obviously didn't notice while listening so it didn't bug me.

Kathleen said...

I think I'd like to give this one a try!