Title: Imaginary Friend
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Plot Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 her child. 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 long 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 treehouse in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.
Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky is a psychological horror novel that blends elements of supernatural suspense with a coming-of-age story. Known for his acclaimed debut novel, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Chbosky takes a different direction with this ambitious and sprawling work. While it contains moments of brilliance, the novel falls short in certain areas, resulting in a mixed reading experience.
Stephen Chbosky’s writing style is immersive and atmospheric, effectively creating a sense of dread and tension. He captures the fears and anxieties of childhood, showcasing his ability to tap into the inner workings of a young protagonist’s mind. The prose is vivid and descriptive, painting a vivid picture of the eerie and foreboding world in which Christopher finds himself. Chbosky’s skill at capturing emotions and introspection shines through, allowing readers to connect with the characters on a deeper level. However, the book’s length and excessive tangents hamper the overall impact of the writing style, leading to a loss of focus and meandering narrative.
The characters in Imaginary Friend are a mixed bag. Christopher, the central protagonist, is well-developed and sympathetic, capturing the essence of a young boy struggling with personal challenges. His journey of self-discovery and courage is compelling, and readers will find themselves rooting for him. However, the supporting characters lack the same depth and often feel one-dimensional. While their interactions with Christopher serve the purpose of advancing the plot, their lack of development hampers the overall emotional resonance of the story.
Imaginary Friend attempts to deliver a blend of psychological and supernatural horror. Chbosky effectively creates a haunting atmosphere and employs vivid imagery to evoke fear and unease. The initial setup and the mysterious voice are intriguing, pulling readers deeper into the story. However, the supernatural elements become increasingly convoluted and difficult to follow, resulting in a loss of clarity and impact. The horror aspects are at their strongest when exploring the psychological fears and traumas of the characters, showcasing Chbosky’s ability to tap into the darkest corners of the human psyche.
Imaginary Friend is a novel that showcases Stephen Chbosky’s talent for capturing the complexities of human emotions and the fears of childhood. The atmospheric writing style and the intriguing premise draw readers in, but the convoluted plot and pacing issues hinder the overall reading experience. While Christopher’s journey is engaging and there are moments of brilliance, the book falls short in terms of character development and the execution of its supernatural elements. Consequently, Imaginary Friend receives a three-star rating, making it a moderately enjoyable read for fans of psychological and supernatural horror, but one that may leave some readers wanting more coherence and focus in the storytelling.