#ATBR2019 – Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

We’re keeping all the horror books coming!

Thanks to Grand Central Pub for the free advanced copies in exchange for our honest reviews

IMAGINARY FRIEND – Stephen Chbosky (out now!)

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Book Description:

We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us.

Single mother Kate Reese is on the run. Determined to improve life for her and her son, Christopher, she flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with Christopher at her side. Together, they find themselves drawn to the tight-knit community of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. It’s as far off the beaten track as they can get. Just one highway in, one highway out.

At first, it seems like the perfect place to finally settle down. Then Christopher vanishes. For six awful days, no one can find him. Until Christopher emerges from the woods at the edge of town, unharmed but not unchanged. He returns with a voice in his head only he can hear, with a mission only he can complete: Build a tree house in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.

Soon Kate and Christopher find themselves in the fight of their lives, caught in the middle of a war playing out between good and evil, with their small town as the battleground.

Christopher is seven years old. Christopher is the new kid in town. Christopher has an imaginary friend.

Chandra’s Thoughts: 5/5 stars

“A nightmare is nothing more than a dream gone sick.”

This book…. THIS BOOK. I never read Perks of Being a Wallflower but what I do know is that this author went to a completely different genre with this young adult horror fiction read. Is it worth every 700+ page? You bet your ass it is.

To begin with, the main character’s name is Christopher Reese – this made it somewhat sentimental to me because my family became very close with the Reese family when we lived in Italy. Their youngest was their son, Christopher who became a brother to me over the years and somehow that made this is a bit sentimental to me. Both have a strong relationship with their mothers and both are the best and sweetest boys. Listen, if you can find something in your real life that anchors you to the fictional life in the book you’re reading, it absolutely makes a difference.

There were also a couple of incidents that truly reminded me of my childhood. Being pulled under a bed (or that feeling that something or someone was under there) was always a nightmare for me as a child (and once I woke up halfway under the bed, so yeah…) and that creepy ice cream truck jingle… UFF. Both are mentioned and just grabbed that inner child within me all the more. Even to this day, when the many ice cream trucks roam my neighbor at the weirdest night time hours, it still makes my blood turn cold.

Now, this book is just extremely engaging. Even with all 700+ pages, the chapters are short and I love the various tiny changes to format riddled within. You’ll know what I mean when you pick up your copy, and I encourage you to make sure to put this on your TBR. This book is chock full of lessons. A relationship between a mother and son – Christopher and how he takes care of his mother while she feels guilty for not being the mother she thinks she needs to be. Faith, shown especially within Mary Katherine and where we get our first hints of the religious undertones of this novel. The good versus evil and how nothing is especially what it seems – especially in the Imaginary World – STAY ON THE STREETS! The loyalty of your childhood group of friends. The past coming to haunt you and how you move forward in any type of life. I could go on and on and on.

While I absolutely consider this my favorite of the year so far, there are a couple of things that didn’t quite work for me. The children being 7, made it a little bit implausible – if they were just a few years older, it would’ve made that slight difference. Some things may feel a bit repetitive but personally I didn’t mind this at all and I think that honed in on certain pieces of the story. However, the baby teeth as a description definitely stuck in my head – I wish that could’ve been identified with something different or not described repetitively throughout the read. But these are just nit picks that I can overlook because of the impact this story had on me. Some people may think this could’ve been shortened but I think every single page worked to tell this multifaceted story.

For me, this has that NOS4A2 creepy vibe, “kids group fighting evil” King vibe with that Burton-esque feel. I would absolutely LOVE to see this adapted. The hissing woman, the mailbox people and the nice man – each told and described in a tone that set you on your journey with Christopher in the Imaginary World and boy oh boy, these will be anchored in my mind for quite some time. And let me tell you what, I hope I don’t run into deer anytime soon (or ever).

Basically, put this on your TBR, keep an open mind and set aside a few hours to really let this story seep into your blood stream. I’ll see you on the other side.

My Thoughts: 5/5 stars

When looking at this book, not going to lie, it’s intimidating. A monster coming in at just over 700 pages, which can seem daunting to any reader. Well, IMAGINARY FRIEND used all of those 720 pages to weave an incredibly unique and haunting read. I was shocked at how quickly I went through this book. Some books of this size can feel bogged down with unnecessary information or details, but Chbosky gave us exactly what we needed!

Kate Reese and her seven-year-old son Christopher leave for a fresh start away from her abusive boyfriend. They end up in a small town in Pennsylvania and are slowly starting to settle into their new surroundings. Christopher always does his best in school despite his struggles with dyslexia. You can’t help but absolutely love Christopher in this book. One day, every parent’s worst nightmare becomes Kate’s reality. She is running a little late picking him up from school, and he vanishes without a trace. For six agonizing days Christopher is missing and then he returns home.

It’s really difficult to continue with all my thoughts on this one without spoiling certain plot points. I’m really happy I went into this only know the synopsis because, oh man, I loved every twist and every turn that Chbosky threw at us. There are so many layers and lessons layered into this book. The main one being good versus evil. The author also does a great job fleshing out the characters and their relationships, these felt really authentic and genuine. There are so many things I want to say about the book but it’s so hard to put it into words. You just need to put this doorstopper on your TBR. I promise you, the 700+ pages are well worth it. I know this has split some reviewers but I think the messages you take away with it will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.

I can see why this intricately woven story was twenty, yes TWENTY, years in the making. Everything in this book has a purpose and the author slowly unfolds this elaborate story flawlessly. If you’re looking for a good literary horror book filled with bizarre and haunting imagery, then this is the book for you.

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