Friday, January 23, 2015

The Imaginary [Book I Wish I Had Never Read But Did and Now Dangit]

Perhaps I am blind and don't know it (that would be some Inception-level insanity right there), or horribly tasteless, or uncultured, or what have you, but I simply can't see why people are raving about this book.  I found it depressing and with very little character growth.  Most of the characters were unlikable and not in a snarky way.

Amanda Shuffleup finds a boy in her wardrobe one day, except she's the only one who can see him.  He's her imaginary friend!  Yay!

Okay, fine!  I'll give it a shot.  She names her imaginary friend Rudger.  To me, this was the first stumbling block.  I kept reading it as "Roger," which makes a bit more sense.  How would one pronounce "Rudger"?  Hard "g" or soft "g"?  Rud-jer or Rud-ger?  Then I kept thinking of Rutger Hauer and things got all Blade Runner on me.

Amanda, darling little thing that she is, uses Rudger to scam people out of all kinds of stuff.  Extra cookies?  Rudger needs two, but she'll eat them for safe keeping!  You want her to eat what?  Rudger doesn't eat that.  Amanda's mother is presented as being *open minded* when in reality she is her daughter's yes-man (er, yes-woman).

Alas, there is an Evil Man out to try and take Rudger away from Amanda and gobble him all up!  After a failed imaginary friend-napping attempt, Amanda is far more concerned with her broken piggy bank and winning a game of hide and seek than the fact that her nominal best friend was almost taken away.  I suppose you could argue that children are inherently selfish, blah blah blah, but Amanda is the most self-absorbed child I've come across in literature since Mike Wormwood in Matilda.  There's this infuriating car scene where Amanda just yammers away and Rudger is suffering, poor fellow, and she deigns to forgive him for the ruckus caused by the almost-napping.

While at the store, Amanda and Rudger are cornered by Mr. Bunting, the Evil Mustachioed Gobbler of Imaginary Friends, who thankfully unfortunately hits Amanda with his car.  She goes off to hospital and Rudger ... starts to fade.

Now, look.  If I were Rudger, I'd thank all the saints of the imaginary friends and fade away into nothingness, blissfully untouchable and unaware of Amanda's mindless chatter.  BUT NO.  Rudger falls in with a group of unattached imaginary friends looking for new children to glom on to.  All Rudger can think about is getting back to Amanda.  Clearly, Rudger has some masochistic tendencies.  I suppose I was intended to find the variety of imaginary friends positively dee-lightful, but I just kept wishing Rudger would disappear and be out of his misery.

Total spoiler here: he ends up finding Amanda with the assistance of Mrs. Shuffleup's old imaginary friend, and together they defeat the evil Mr. Bunting and wake Amanda from a coma, so she can go about her old ways.  The end.

I didn't notice that Amanda learned anything, or changed her tune, at all.  She's still whingey, nasty Amanda.  Toss in a totally out of place Indiana Jones reference and some "eh" illustrations by Emily Gravett (she is not my favorite illustrator), and you've got a hot mess from which children will learn that they needn't be polite or caring to have an awesome (imaginary) BFF.


This review has been brought to you by a bitter spinster librarian.  I'm off to go knit some cat hair into a girdle now, thanks.

I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.

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