ARC Book Review: Imaginary Friend

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Copy of Title_ Author_ Page Count_ Publish Date_ Publisher_ (6).pngSynopsis

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. The epic work of literary horror from the #1 bestselling author of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Content/Trigger Warnings:

Child Abuse (Physical & Sexual), Sexual Assault, Extreme Violence, Death, Murder, Bullying, Derogatory Remarks Toward Disabilities.


Rating (5)

 Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for the reading and reviewing opportunity. 

Imaginary FriendStephen Chbosky penned one of the books that changed me as a teenager. His short novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is one of my favorite books of all time. It had a monumental impact on me when I read it for the first time, and it still does every time I reread it (at least once a year, maybe more). It’s a really important story to me.

So, when I heard that he was coming out with another book after 20 years, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it. I hastily preordered a signed copy and awaited October 1st. But then.

I got an email with an approved digital advanced readers copy! My excitement was so, so high. I truly could not believe I’d been approved for this one. I started reading it that very same day.

I tell you all of this so you understand how much I anticipated loving this book; so that you know that I went into this with only the intent to love it. This hadn’t been hyped up for me and I skipped my usual activity of reading some reviews before starting so that I wouldn’t know what I was going into. I wanted to give Stephen Chbosky’s new book my undivided attention.

And yetI didn’t love this.

I’m just going to go ahead and get this statement out of the way: this is just too long. I read an interview with Chbosky where he stated that even though it’s 720 pages, every single page earned its place. And I know that, to him, that is very true. Only he knows the vision he had for this book. But to me? This could’ve been a good 200 pages shorter. Maybe even 300, honestly.

The first 20-30% of the book is all exposition. Now, I love a well developed story… but I felt like even with all of the time the book took to build up what was going on, there was still so much confusion. It’s a horror/mystery book, so obviously the reader can’t be let in on all of the details just yet. But if you spend 200 pages completely in the dark about absolutely everything and get zero information in the process… it starts to drag a little. As a reader, you’re ready for the action; the climax; the big reveal.

Even when this gets to the big reveal, there is still so much left to this story. It was a good plot twist though, I’ll give it that. Chbosky did not a write a predictable plot (in my opinion). I was caught off guard and excited at the new direction the story was going in. But it went there for like… another 200 or so pages.

To be entirely honest, the length of the book was really what took away from some of my enjoyment, because I actually liked everything else for the most part. There were definitely some crude things that I didn’t feel like added to the story or the development (like the constant use of a mean nickname for one of the children who has a learning disability) that I could’ve gone without, though.

The story follows an assortment of characters, all in the same town, and all effected by the imaginary world in some way. It wasn’t always very clear how they all tied together until much later, but I enjoyed getting to read what was going on with people other than just Christopher. He’s the central part of the story, yes, but there are a lot of other key players in this book.

I also really enjoyed the spooky factor in this. It wasn’t so intense that it gave me nightmares but it was sufficiently creepy enough to have me looking over my shoulder while reading. I think that, for the most part, the plot came together at the end, but there were a couple things that I felt like could’ve been explained a little bit better.

Symbolism is a huge part of this story and Chbosky did a pretty good job working it all into the plot without giving everything away. There were some things I started to notice as I read, but I still couldn’t figure out what was going on. It was just obvious that there were specific things that readers are supposed to pay special attention to.

I wasn’t expecting any of the religious stuff that was tied into this story but I didn’t mind it. I honestly didn’t know that supernatural elements would play such a big part in this so I was definitely caught by surprise even from the first page. This is more supernatural than it is anything else. With that being said, I maintained my suspension of disbelief throughout the whole story, which I think is very noteworthy and worth appraisal to an author in books like this.

Another thing that I really want to say about this book is that it is absolutely nothing like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and that is OK! Since finishing this, I have read so many reviews who gave this a low rating with statements like, “I don’t normally like horror stories but I love Chbosky so I wanted to try this anyways”. I totally get why so many people wanted to read his new book even though they are not interested in the genre, but it kind of upsets me that they went into it comparing it to TPOBAW. The plot is very clearly so different, and the writing was absolutely nothing like his prose in TPOBAW.

I didn’t love this book. I liked it and I enjoyed the plot, but this was definitely not a new favorite. However, I came to this conclusion based entirely on only this reading experience. If I were to go into this expecting a story like TPOBAW, this would’ve been a monumental let down. But instead, I went into it expecting an adult horror book from an author who wrote a book that I love wholeheartedly. I didn’t compare the two, because they are so far from each other that I think it would be unfair. Basically, what I’m saying is, don’t read this expecting it to feel like the same experience you had with TPOBAW. It is an entirely different book, in an entirely different genre, with an entirely different writing style. The stories could not be less alike! I love horror books and creepy plots, so that was fine by me. Just keep that in mind if you decide to pick this one up!

In conclusion, this was a pretty average read for me overall. I enjoyed the plot but feel like it would’ve benefited from different pacing. If you’re a Stephen King fan, and you like horror stories or even just supernatural stories, this could be a really good read for you. It’s very Stephen King-esque.


4 thoughts on “ARC Book Review: Imaginary Friend

  1. I need to talk to you about how you format your reviews and posts because I feel like I’m still lost on how to make them look better! On the other hand, I totally get what you mean about a book being too long! That’s how I feel about Priory right now. To me, if you’re able to convey the message and image of your story in a concise manner, even if it’s short, then it’s good! It’s effective. If it’s too long and I feel like I’m getting bored along the way, to me, it’s just not good storytelling. But that’s just me. Great review ❤ I'm sorry this one didn't end up living up to your hype especially since you liked Perks of Being a Wallflower.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your reviews are formatted SO nicely, what are you talking about!? Regardless, I’m happy to help in any way!! I’m not great with coding or anything like that so honestly everything I do is super simple!
      And EXACTLY! I feel like this story could’ve been so much shorter and still have had the same basic plot… just without a bunch of unnecessary details. I’ve stayed away from Priory mostly because I know how quickly I get tired of too-long books. /: So I definitely understand what you mean about getting bored with it. I’m sorry that’s happening /: But thank you ♥ I’m definitely bummed that this wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be BUT it was still a decent read overall, so it’s okay!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You gave this an honest review, which is what I’ve come to like about your posts. Great job.
    It seems to me the disappointment from other readers came from expecting this author to write in the same genre. Maybe authors should use a pseudonym for different genres. Using a pen name, in this case, might have generated better reviews. His fans wouldn’t have been able to compare the two works.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Darnell! It hurt me to be so underwhelmed by this but I had to be honest in my review. I completely agree with you about the pseudonym. I think there was so much excitement around this because it had been so long since he released a book and everyone was expecting something as great as The Perks of Being a Wallflower but it ended up being so very different that it shocked a lot of readers. I do believe more people would’ve given it more of a chance if they hadn’t known it was Stephen Chbosky’s book. /:


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