I enjoyed most of this humongous book a lot more than I normally enjoy what I would rate as a three star read- so I gave it an extra half star. I don’t know if I’ve ever said this before- I think I have my ratings broken down on my about me page, but for me: three stars is what I think of as “safe to skip”. 1 or 2 stars is a recommendation to avoid and 4 and 5 stars is recommended to read. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend skipping Imaginary Friend, especially if you were looking forward to it, but I was a little disappointed with this.
I want to start by saying the first 60% or so is really pretty good. I loved the picture we were painted of Christopher and Kate Reese and their lives together. I loved how we got to know the town and all the little folks populating it. It actually reminded me a lot of one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, in that way.
Here’s another way it reminded me of one specific book by King, what started out feeling like Under the Dome with a less evil villain, ended up feeling like The Stand with a scarier villain than Randall Flagg and a whole lot more confusion. There’s a heavy dose of religion and Catholic guilt in this book, and it frustrated me, because I wasn’t prepared for it to be included. As someone who doesn’t identify with any particular religion, it just isn’t my favorite way to present a classic good vs. evil story.
I was around the 500 page mark or so, thinking the ending was coming soon, wondering what in the heck was populating those last 200 pages. Well. The end. The climax. The climax is 200 pages long.
It was confusing and it bounced around a lot (multiple POVs) and at times I wasn’t sure if the characters were actually experiencing the events of the book or if it was all in their imagination. I was frustrated with my inability to pay attention to the events, distracted by the amounts of symbolism and questioning the meaning of the whole story. It just wasn’t what I want in horror. I think that’s why the term “literary horror” is one we don’t often see.
The author uses baby teeth as a recurring theme, and while it’s probably the ultimate symbol for childhood lost, or adulthood gained, I wasn’t sure it was entirely necessary, and it felt like an odd choice. I mean, who really describes a tree house ladder as looking like baby teeth? I do think there were some other interesting events that were meant to be metaphoric, that provided plenty of food for thought, but I won’t spoil them here.
I did like the pacing. It’s 700 pages but most chapters were only a couple pages long. This is 100% my favorite way to structure a book. It makes me feel accomplished because I’m reading so “fast” and it’s easy to pick up and put down. I realize this is a silly thing to get hung up on, but I just find reading a book like that much more satisfying.
On another positive note, there was no way I ever would have guessed the ending, so be wary of spoilers as you read reviews for this one. The book does reference some child death’s, though I don’t recall any of them being too graphic, just a heads up for people who are sensitive to that.
Overall this is a long book that reads quickly and would make for good, creepy October read.