Book Review: Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky was, at least I thought, one of those "one-novel" guys. He's a director, a screenwriter and author of the coming-of-age novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I loved Wallflower in my early-twenties, and I enjoyed the movie adaptation - which, Chbosky directed - but I never thought we'd see any further books from him.
Boy, was I wrong.
This year, twenty years after the publication of his first novel, Stephen Chbosky has delivered a doorstopper of a novel in Imaginary Friend. Where Wallflower was a short novel, sweet and lighthearted, Imaginary Friend is 700 pages of King-esque horror. In fact, in the Acknowledgements page, Chbosky thanks Stephen King for the inspiration for this story.
Imaginary Friend is a tale woven through multiple characters and perspectives, but at its core is about a seven year-old boy and his mother who have fled an abusive relationship and settle in rural Pennsylvania. The little boy, Christopher, goes missing for six days and when he reappears , things start getting weird. And he now has an imaginary friend, who he calls The Nice Man. And The Nice Man needs him to build a treehouse in the woods behind their neighborhood for some very mysterious and ominous reasons.
I loved this story, and it got really scary. It made my skin crawl, made me tear up and gave me the hilly-willies at points.
However, it's also incredibly long. I couldn't find any actual word count information online, but multiplying the words-per-page by its total of 700 pages, the novel clocks in somewhere around a quarter million words. That's Order of the Phoenix long. And, I don't mind a long novel, but I really felt like a good chunk of this novel could have been left from the printer. A little tightening up could have made this story fly. All in all, however, I loved it. I love a story that makes me feel things. If an author can make me actually cry, there's something to be said for that. Though definitely not a young adult novel due to some of the more mature aspects of the story, I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the young protagonist and his friends. It reminded me of being eight years old and having not much other than my single dad and my close friends. An evil presence haunting kids, it's reminescent of It, but not derivative to a fault.
I give Imaginary Friend a solid B+. A great story, but like I said, bring a snack because it's going to take a while to get through it.