Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
is a 2012 young adult novel by American author Matthew Dicks. The main character is Budo, and he’s five years old, which is very old for imaginary friends. He belongs to eight-year-old Max Delaney, a boy with an undiagnosed disorder on the Autism spectrum who has a lot of trouble fitting in at school. Budo protects his friend, but is very worried about the possibility that one day Max will stop believing and he’ll disappear like all the other imaginary friends who belonged to kids Max’s age. However, when a disturbed teacher who believes she’s the only one qualified to care for Max takes action, Budo has to decide between protecting his own existence and helping the boy who is his whole world. Exploring themes of disability, obsession, growing up, and fear of death, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
received overwhelmingly positive reviews and is in development as an animated film at 20th Century Fox. It won the 2014 Dolly Gray Award for Children’s Literature.Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
begins as Max, an eight-year-old boy in special ed classes at his elementary school, copes with the daily challenges of his day with the help of his imaginary friend Budo. Max imagined Budo into existence five years ago, and Budo is very protective of his young charge. Max hates any sort of uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation, and so Budo often finds himself coaxing Max through challenges. Budo never sleeps, unlike some imaginary friends, instead keeping watch over Max. Sometimes he’ll briefly slip away to watch TV or explore the neighborhood, but he’s never away from Max too long. Max is the only one who can see or hear Budo, so people often think Max talks to himself. Budo picks up a lot of information by observing, but it’s near-impossible for him to communicate with anyone outside of Max, even when Max needs his help.
Max has multiple teachers at school, and his favorite is the kind Mrs. Gosk, who makes learning fun and doesn’t talk down to him. It’s the only place Max feels comfortable besides home, and Max doesn’t really have any friends besides Budo. When he gets confused or scared, he sort of freezes in place and can’t respond. Although Budo looks after Max as best he can, he knows his time might be short - he talks to other imaginary friends, and knows that most kids stop believing in their imaginary friend long before eight. And when an imaginary friend is no longer believed in, they go away forever. Budo tries to be as useful as possible to Max, so he’ll be around as long as possible. Budo has other friends in the form of fellow imaginary friends. While Budo is mostly human-shaped, some of his friends are anything but. One is a spoon, one is a pink hair bow, and another is simply a shapeless blob. His friend Oswald is rare because he can affect the world around him and touch things, although he can’t get in and out of places as easily as Budo can.
Budo works on helping Max through everyday situations, including fending off the class bully and trying to make friends. However, a far more dangerous threat emerges in the form of Mrs. Patterson, a paraprofessional at Max’s school who becomes obsessed with him. She thinks Max is a special boy and she knows what’s best for him, better than the special education teachers or even Max’s parents. Budo gets a bad impression of her from the start, but he can’t communicate this to anyone when he sees her working to isolate Max from other people. In her own twisted way, she loves Max, and this leads her to kidnap him. She locks him in a soundproof room in her house, surrounding him with his favorite toys - legos and toy soldiers - and cooks him his favorite foods. Max is comfortable, and he doesn’t quite realize what’s happened. He’s comfortable, and has no idea she’s out stocking up supplies to drive him away to an unknown situation. Budo, however, realizes how dangerous she is, and has to figure out a way to protect Max - even when Max forbids him to leave and follow her.
Since Budo is the only one who knows Mrs. Patterson took Max, he needs help from the only beings he can communicate with - fellow imaginary friends. He enlists Oswald, who uses his power to affect objects to honk Mrs. Patterson’s horn so she’ll come out of the house and check her car. When she’s out of the house, Oswald and Budo go in and find Max. Max is hesitant to leave, because Mrs. Patterson has been telling him lies that his parents don’t want him. Budo has to tell Max that he’ll leave him forever if Max doesn’t come with him. Max gets scared, and they help him escape. Budo tells Max to run into the woods. Oswald, whose belief aura has been fading for a while, disappears into the void. Budo chases after Max, and Max hides under leaves in the woods so Mrs. Patterson won’t see him. Budo realizes that Max is starting to solve problems on his own, and this is what he needs. Max runs home to his driveway, but Mrs. Patterson catches him and tries to drag him away. He’s able to throw his piggy bank through the window and alert his father, who tackles Mrs. Patterson and rescues Max. As time goes on, Max needs Budo less and less. Budo knows he’s disappearing, and he’s at peace with this. One day, he just fades away - and then he opens his eyes, and sees a pair of eyes. They belong to Dee, a sick girl who Max knew briefly. Budo is where he needs to be now.
Matthew Dicks is an American novelist, playwright, columnist, and teacher. He has received awards for his novels, his live storytelling skills, and his work as an educator. He was named the 2005 West Hartford Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for Connecticut teacher of the year. He is the author of four novels, and has humor columnists published in multiple magazines. He is published in the United Kingdom under the pseudonym Matthew Green.