Chbosky, who made his name with the multi-million-copy best-selling debut YA novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, returns with a first adult novel. On the run from an abusive relationship, single mom Kate has brought Christopher to Mill Grove, PA, as isolated as it gets. There, seven-year-old Christopher disappears into the woods for six days and returns with a voice in his head instructing him to build a tree house to save the town. With a 750,000-copy first printing.
Two decades after his debut novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999), Chbosky returns with a creepy horror yarn that would do Stephen King proud.
"Mom? Will he find us?" So asks young Christopher of his mother, Kate, who has spirited him away from her abusive mate and found a tiny town in Pennsylvania in which to hide out. Naturally, her secret is not safe—but it's small potatoes compared to what Christopher begins to detect as he settles in to a new life and a new school. His friends, like him, are casualties, and that's just fine for the malevolent forces that await out in the woods and even in the sky, the latter the place where Christopher comes into contact with a smiling, talking cloud that lures him off into the ever dark woods. "That's when he heard a little kid crying," writes Chbosky, and that's just about the time the reader will want to check to be sure that no one is hiding behind the chair—or worse, and about the scariest trope of all, which Chbosky naturally puts to work, under the bed. Christopher disappears only to turn up a little less than a week later, decidedly transformed. But then, so's everyone in Mill Grove, including his elementary school teacher, who harbors an ominous thought: "Christopher was such a nice little boy. It was too bad that he was going to die now." As things begin to go truly haywire, Chbosky's prose begins to break down into fragments and odd punctuation and spelling, suggesting that someone other than the author is in control of the fraught world he's depicting. One wonders why Kate doesn't just fire up the station wagon and head down the Pennsylvania Turnpike rather than face things like a "hissing lady" and a townsman who has suddenly begun to sport daggerlike teeth, but that's the nature of a good scary story—and this one is excellent.
A pleasing book for those who like to scare themselves silly, one to read with the lights on and the door bolted.
Chbosky’s ambitious second novel (after 1999’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is a tale of good vs. evil that never gels. Seven-year-old Christopher and his mother, Kate, move to Mill Grove, Pa., after Kate leaves her abusive boyfriend. Kate gets a job at an old folks’ home, and Christopher, who has a learning disability, starts second grade and makes friends with a boy nicknamed Special Ed. One day, Christopher disappears into the Mission Street Woods; he emerges six days later, unscathed—but his learning disability has disappeared. Kate then wins the lottery and buys a new house bordering the woods, where a disembodied voice tells Christopher to build a tree house. Before long, Christopher gets debilitating headaches and strange revelations, a mysterious sickness spreads throughout the community, and a terrifying entity dubbed “the hissing lady” lurks around town. Chbosky brings deep humanity to his characters and creates genuinely unsettling tableaux, including a nightmarish otherworld that Christopher accesses via his treehouse, but considerable repetition extends the narrative while diminishing its impact. Christian overtones (some subtle, others less so) are pervasive, especially in the finale, and add little to the story. This doorstopper is long on words but short on execution. Agent: Eric Simonoff, William Morris Endeavor. (Oct.)
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"If you aren't blown away by the first fifty pages of Imaginary Friend, you need to get your sense of wonder checked." Joe Hill, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman and NOS4A2
"A haunting and thrilling novel pulsing with the radical empathy that makes Chbosky's work so special." John Green, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars
"If you grew up reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, you won't want to miss this spooky, surreal thriller...You'll feel locked in the battle between good and evil as Kate and Christopher fight for their lives." Good Housekeeping
"A creepy horror yarn that would do Stephen King proud...The reader will want to be sure that no one is hiding behind the chair...That's the nature of a good scary storyand this one is excellent. A pleasing book for those who like to scare themselves silly, one to read with the lights on and the door bolted." Kirkus
"Reminiscent of the epic novels of Stephen King...With multiple points of view that probe the thoughts and nightmares of characters from all over town, this is an immersive read that walks the line between dark fantasy and horror [and] reads like a season of Stranger Things ... [ Imaginary Friend] will sell itself to readers who have waited twenty years for a new novel from Chbosky ( The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 1999), but horror fans will also be curious. A big, scary book." Booklist
"Like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Imaginary Friend says that no matter how dark the places you have been or the things you have seen, no one and nothing and nowhere is beyond redemption. What is astonishing and laugh-out-loud genius is that Chbosky has disguised all this wisdom in an entertaining thriller. In true Stephen Chbosky style, he gives you the bran and the doughnut. Spiritual enlightenment and horror. I don't know how he did it. But he did it. It's a masterpiece." Emma Watson, actor and activist
"An unputdownable, extraordinary book. Stephen Chbosky manages to combine the heart and emotion that suffuses all of his work with Stephen King chills. The pages practically turn themselves." Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen, #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl
"Sure, this unputdownable book is the scariest thing I've read in a long time. Mysterious woods. Evil forces. Unseen worlds. But it's also, like everything Chbosky does, imbued with heart and soul. You'll fall in love with these characters. That's why they stay with you, like a haunting." R. J. Palacio, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wonder
" Imaginary Friend is a sprawling epic horror novel that hearkens back to the classics of the 1970s Golden Age, but, like Stranger Things, with a twinkle in its malevolent eye. Enormous, scary fun." Dan Chaon, bestselling author of Ill Will
" Imaginary Friend has been a long time coming. And like a fine Bordeaux, it rewards that wait in countless ways. This is a fearsome, remarkably ambitious novel that breaks through the boundaries of the horror genre to become epicin all the best senses of the word." Lincoln Child, #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of the Verses for the Dead and City of Endless Night
" Imaginary Friend is a simply extraordinary reading experienceit reminded me of discovering a classic Stephen King novel from two decades ago, but all funneled through Chbosky's utterly unique style. A tremendous read, every bit worth the wait." Blake Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of A Dark Matter
"Chbosky brings deep humanity to his characters and creates genuinely unsettling tableaux, including a nightmarish otherworld that Christopher accesses via his treehouse." Publishers Weekly
"You won't want to miss this spooky, surreal thriller." Good Housekeeping
"The author of Perks of Being a Wallflower goes full Stephen King in his new supernatural thriller of epic proportions....This is my kind of Christmas novel!" LitHub
"This is an immersive read...With its highly precocious young hero, the novel reads like a season of Stranger Things." Booklist