Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend
Max imagined Budo when he was just four years old, and as his friend Budo loves and protects Max at all times. Max is what some people call “on the spectrum.” Budo doesn’t understand why everyone thinks Max is so complicated, he knows that “Max just doesn’t like people in the same way other kids do. He likes people, but it’s a different kind of liking. He likes people from far away”, and since he can’t touch Max and Max can’t touch Budo, it’s probably why they get along so well. Budo protects Max when he gets stuck, which is when he gets upset and he rocks back and forth; his eyes are open but he can’t really see anything. Max explained to him once that when he’s stuck “he can hear the people around him, but it sounds like they are coming from a television in the neighbor’s house – fake and far away.” Budo also protects him at school, from bullies and buses; and while he loves Mrs. Gosk’s class, he doesn’t trust Mrs. Patterson, a paraprofessional that works with Max, because “she’s always thinking something different in her head than what is on her face.”
Budo hopes he can always be with Max but he fears the day that Max will stop believing in him since he knows then he will disappear; just fade away, like his friend Graham did when her human friend Meghan didn’t need her anymore. When despite his best efforts the unthinkable happens, Budo turns to other imaginary friends to try and save Max, and in doing so is forced to choose between Max’s safety and his own existence.
I was completely captivated and enchanted by Budo and Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. In Budo, Matthew Dicks has given readers an original and authentic voice that offers readers a glimpse into a magical world with so many dimensions and so much heart that it seems almost real. Budo embodies the innocence of a child, including their shrewd perceptiveness, like the way a child can see beyond someone’s artificial façade straight through to their heart and true self, the way Budo does with Mrs. Patterson. While Budo shares Max’s childlike sense of wonder, he’s also fascinated by the adult world and is therefore more alert and aware than Max as to the dangers in the real world.
In addition to Memoirs’ charm and wit, Budo’s innocent yet astute descriptions of Max’s quirks and fears, also give us some insight into the small and at times insulated world of a child with autism; helping us to better empathize and understand their mindset and limitations. While the book is very sweet and uplifting, there are some tense moments related to Max’s rescue, as well as some incredibly poignant passages that touched my heart and brought a lump to my throat which involved Budo branching out to a children’s hospital to get help because he says it’s the best place to find imaginary friends – even better than schools – because sick kids “need imaginary friends to keep them company when their parents go home and they are left with the beeping machines and flashing lights.”
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is a wonderfully imaginative and winsome tale of love and friendship with a few dark clouds thrown in under an otherwise blue sky that only serve to make us love our unique and brave hero even more.