I must admit a book blogger’s worst nightmare with Imaginary Friend, I requested the ARC back before the hardback version came out and it’s been sat on my shelf until just before it will be published in paperback! So sorry to the publishers, I guess I was a little apprehensive at starting this 700 page tome but I’d heard some good things and wanted to get the review done before my second deadline at least!
We’ll start with the positives; Imaginary Friend is written in a really engaging way. Although it’s long, the writing style kept me engaged and made me want to keep picking it up to see what happened next. I also enjoyed the split narratives in the story – although the book is very centred around Christopher, we get small snippets of story arc from pretty much everyone living in the town it is set in and it really made for a varied read. It very much reminded me of a Stephen King book – centred around a young boy and his friends fighting off bullies while the supernatural world unfurls around them.
Then we get to more of the negative spectrum - at 700 pages this book could have so easily been edited down to around 350! Although I enjoyed the set up of the book and getting to know Christopher and his mother and friends, I felt it started to lose its tight pacing after they built the tree-house. After this point it all starts to get a bit muddled and repetitive. The last 30% (bearing in mind that is 200 pages!) of the book could have been cut in my honest opinion as we just get the same fight over and over again. The writing style also becomes a bit abstract towards the end – whole paragraphs are intentionally repeated which really wasn’t needed. There are also phrases that are repeated a lot as well which lost their dramatic effect, such as ‘He was terrified.’ The first time this was mentioned it invoked fear in the reader as a seemingly capable character was portrayed as being scared, but after a while I just started rolling my eyes as the phrase was used more and more.
I don’t normally mention formatting in an ARC copy but after I opened my original ARC and saw lots of sentences running together with no spaces I re-downloaded it in the hope they had updated it to the version that is currently being sold. I really hope this isn’t the case as the lack of spaces makes some parts very hard to read and is still very present in the version I downloaded this month. I really enjoyed a moment where the capital letters in one character’s letters ended up being important to the plot but then the formatting was used in other places to a less dramatic effect. One character speaks with random capital letters peppering their speech for example, and another with no capital letters other than at the end of words. Although I understand trying to show the characters speech patterns through emphasis of certain letters it wasn’t needed and made the whole book very difficult to read.
The first half of the book shows good promise with an interesting plot but I was disappointed at where the author decided to take it. I also don’t understand why the author insisted that Christopher had to be 7 years old as it makes him as a character very unrealistic – I saw him more as 11/12 throughout. The ending didn’t feel climatic enough for me and the very last chapter I had completely guessed as soon as the character it is centred on was introduced – it wasn’t a great cliff hanger.
Overall Imaginary Friends is a good enough story but needs some ruthless editing and a good format check for this reader. Thank you to NetGalley and Orion Publishing Group for a copy of the ARC in exchange for an honest review.