Book Review: Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Rating:  ★★★1/2

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.

Imaginary Friend releases on October 1, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC for review.



32 thoughts on “Book Review: Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

  1. Wow.. when I first heard this was publishing I didn’t bother looking at a synopsis because I figured I would get around to it eventually. I had no idea it was 700 pages and that it was a horror novel. I think I’m going to bump this down the TBR since I will not have time to get to it in the next couple of month.
    Great review as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yours is actually the first review I’ve read! I almost requested this but when I saw it was 700 pages I just couldn’t. Now I’m torn. I do love horror and but I’m not sure about the confusion you mentioned. But I also love short chapters! I think they make the pacing better. Awesome review, Sarah!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know- I was excited for it too, and I will say the book isn’t not worthwhile… the beginning absolutely lived up to the hype for me, I just felt like the climax took way too long. A climax is supposed to be pretty quick- not 200 pages long. You know what I mean? I feel like he could have accomplished the same thing in 500 or so pages.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah no. Not my kinda thing. And even if it was, I don’t think I would have read it after reading your review. You have convinced me that it’s gonna be a suck fest because multiple POVs can get really tricky and sometimes even the best of the best fail to get it right! And I agree that horror is a genre which thrives on spooky ambiance and plot. It…” literary horror” is just…it won’t be…idk!
    I am glad that at least ending proved it worth your time, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually didn’t like The Stand- so if that comparison intrigues you this might be a better fit for you than it was for me!

      I will say the similarity is more in themes than actual events and characters. If that helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s interesting, indeed. I have come to consider The Stand something of a “model” work for post-apocalyptic scenarios, especially when they entail a pandemic, but as it happens with all books, no two readers see it in the same way – which is the most interesting part of sharing ideas between bloggers 🙂
        I will keep this one on my “maybe” list….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yeah, it’s not like that at all!

        I was thinking more about the themes, the good vs evil, the stand off between the two groups, the side dose of religion… if that makes sense?

        This is not post apocalyptic and there is no pandemic. In fact I think very few characters actually died.. but just the overall concepts are similar.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I wanted to try this out too but thought it would be best if I stayed away from it for the time being and wait till others had tried it out. Here you are, the first person I know who read and reviewed it and I think it’s definitely one I can safely skip for now, and not only because of its length. Wish the climax wasn’t.. the ending too. Great honest review, Sarah! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This looks way different from his other books, and Halloween is coming up so I might pick it up! If I don’t though, I won’t be too heartbroken (that’s a lie, I get heartbroken every time I can’t read a book because most of them deserve love).
    Thank you for the spoiler warning!
    – Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is nothing like Perks so totally safe to skip! It’s a shame it took him 20 years to get another book out, and then it seems like a dud. At least to me. I’m sure other readers will enjoy it? Maybe?


  6. Pingback: Month in Review: September 2019 | Hamlets & Hyperspace

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