Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend: A Novel

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend: A Novel

by Matthew Dicks


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Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend: A Novel by Matthew Dicks

I am not imaginary...

Budo is lucky as imaginary friends go. He's been alive for more than five years, which is positively ancient in the world of imaginary friends. But Budo feels his age and thinks constantly of the day when eight-year-old Max Delaney will stop believing in him. When that happens, Budo will disappear.

Max is different from other children. Some people say he has Asperger's, but most just say he's "on the spectrum." None of this matters to Budo, who loves Max unconditionally and is charged with protecting him from the class bully, from awkward situations in the cafeteria, and even in the bathroom stalls. But he can't protect Max from Mrs. Patterson, a teacher in the Learning Center who believes that she alone is qualified to care for this young boy.

When Mrs. Patterson does the unthinkable, it is up to Budo and a team of imaginary friends to save Max—and Budo must ultimately decide which is more important: Max's happiness or his own existence.

Matthew Dicks' Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is a triumph of courage and imagination that touches on the truths of life, love, and friendship as it races to a heartwarming . . . and heartbreaking conclusion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250031853
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/07/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 149,652
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

MATTHEW DICKS is a writer and elementary school teacher. His articles have been published in the Hartford Courant and he has been a featured author at the Books on the Nightstand retreat. He is also a Moth storyteller and a two-time StorySLAM champion. Dicks is the author of two previous novels, Something Missing and Unexpectedly Milo. He lives in Newington, Connecticut, with his wife, Elysha, and their children, Clara and Charlie.

Read an Excerpt



Here is what I know:

My name is Budo.

I have been alive for five years.

Five years is a very long time for someone like me to be alive.

Max gave me my name.

Max is the only human person who can see me.

Max’s parents call me an imaginary friend.

I love Max’s teacher, Mrs. Gosk.

I do not like Max’s other teacher, Mrs. Patterson.

I am not imaginary.




I am lucky as imaginary friends go. I have been alive for a lot longer than most. I once knew an imaginary friend named Philippe. He was the imaginary friend of one of Max’s classmates in preschool. He lasted less than a week. One day he popped into the world, looking pretty human except for his lack of ears (lots of imaginary friends lack ears), and then a few days later, he was gone.

I’m also lucky that Max has a great imagination. I once knew an imaginary friend named Chomp who was just a spot on the wall. Just a fuzzy, black blob without any real shape at all. Chomp could talk and sort of slide up and down the wall, but he was two-dimensional like a piece of paper, so he could never pry himself off. He didn’t have arms and legs like me. He didn’t even have a face.

Imaginary friends get their appearance from their human friend’s imagination. Max is a very creative boy, and so I have two arms, two legs, and a face. I’m not missing a single body part and that makes me a rarity in the world of imaginary friends. Most imaginary friends are missing something or other and some don’t even look human at all. Like Chomp.

Too much imagination can be bad, though. I once met an imaginary friend named Pterodactyl whose eyes were stuck on the ends of these two gangly, green antennas. His human friend probably thought they looked cool, but poor Pterodactyl couldn’t focus on anything to save his life. He told me that he constantly felt sick to his stomach and was always tripping over his own feet, which were just fuzzy shadows attached to his legs. His human friend was so obsessed with Pterodactyl’s head and those eyes that he had never bothered to think about anything below Pterodactyl’s waist.

This is not unusual.

I’m also lucky because I’m mobile. Lots of imaginary friends are stuck to their human friends. Some have leashes around their necks. Some are three inches tall and get stuffed into coat pockets. And some are nothing more than a spot on the wall, like Chomp. But thanks to Max, I can get around on my own. I can even leave Max behind if I want.

But doing so too often might be hazardous to my health.

As long as Max believes in me, I exist. People like Max’s mother and my friend Graham say that this is what makes me imaginary. But it’s not true. I might need Max’s imagination to exist, but I have my own thoughts, my own ideas, and my own life outside of him. I am tied to Max the same way that an astronaut is tied to his spaceship by hoses and wires. If the spaceship blows up and the astronaut dies, that doesn’t mean that the astronaut was imaginary. It just means that his life support was cut off.

Same for me and Max.

I need Max in order to survive, but I’m still my own person. I can say and do as I please. Sometimes Max and I even get into arguments, but nothing ever serious. Just stuff about which TV show to watch or which game to play. But it behooves me (that’s a word that Mrs. Gosk taught the class last week) to stick around Max whenever possible, because I need Max to keep thinking about me. Keep believing in me. I don’t want to end up out of sight, out of mind, which is something Max’s mom sometimes says when Max’s dad forgets to call home when he is going to be late. If I am gone too long, Max might stop believing in me, and if that happens, then poof.




Max’s first-grade teacher once said that houseflies live for about three days. I wonder what the life span of an imaginary friend is? Probably not much longer. I guess that makes me practically ancient.

Max imagined me when he was four years old, and just like that, I popped into existence. When I was born, I only knew what Max knew. I knew my colors and some of my numbers and the names for lots of things like tables and microwave ovens and aircraft carriers. My head was filled with the things that a four-year-old boy would know. But Max also imagined me much older than him. Probably a teenager. Maybe even a little older. Or maybe I was just a boy with a grown-up’s brain. It’s hard to tell. I’m not much taller than Max, but I’m definitely different. I was more together than Max when I was born. I could make sense of things that still confused him. I could see the answers to problems that Max could not. Maybe this is how all imaginary friends are born. I don’t know.

Max doesn’t remember the day that I was born, so he can’t remember what he was thinking at the time. But since he imagined me as older and more together, I have been able to learn much faster than Max. I was able to concentrate and focus better on the day I was born than Max is able to even today. On that first day I remember Max’s mother was trying to teach him to count by even numbers, and he just couldn’t get it. But I learned it right away. It made sense to me because my brain was ready to learn even numbers. Max’s brain wasn’t.

At least that’s what I think.

Also, I don’t sleep, because Max didn’t imagine that I needed sleep. So I have more time to learn. And I don’t spend all my time with Max, so I’ve learned lots of things that Max has never seen or heard before. After he goes to bed, I sit in the living room or the kitchen with Max’s parents. We watch television or I just listen to them talk. Sometimes I go places. I go to the gas station that never closes, because my favorite people in the world except for Max and his parents and Mrs. Gosk are there. Or I go to Doogies hot-dog restaurant a little ways down the road or to the police station or to the hospital (except I don’t go to the hospital anymore because Oswald is there and he scares me). And when we are in school, I sometimes go to the teacher’s lounge or another classroom, and sometimes I even go to the principal’s office, just to listen to what’s going on. I am not smarter than Max, but I know a lot more than him just because I am awake more and go places that Max can’t. This is good. Sometimes I can help Max when he doesn’t understand something so well.

Like last week Max couldn’t open a jar of jelly to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Budo!” he said. “I can’t open it.”

“Sure you can,” I said. “Turn it the other way. Lefty loosy. Righty tighty.” That is something I hear Max’s mom say to herself sometimes before she opens a jar. It worked. Max opened the jar. But he was so excited that he dropped it on the tile floor, smashing it into a million pieces.

The world can be so complicated for Max. Even when he gets something right, it can still go wrong.

*   *   *

I live in a strange place in the world. I live in the space in between people. I spend most of my time in the kid world with Max, but I also spend a lot of time with adults like Max’s parents and teachers and my friends at the gas station, except they can’t see me. Max’s mom would call this straddling the fence. She says this to Max when he can’t make up his mind about something, which happens a lot.

“Do you want the blue Popsicle or the yellow Popsicle?” she asks, and Max just freezes. Freezes like a Popsicle. There are just too many things for Max to think about when choosing.

Is red better than yellow?

Is green better than blue?

Which one is colder?

Which one will melt fastest?

What does green taste like?

What does red taste like?

Do different colors taste different?

I wish that Max’s mom would just make the choice for Max. She knows how hard it is for him. But when she makes him choose and he can’t, I sometimes choose for him. I whisper, “Pick blue,” and then he says, “I’ll take blue.” Then it’s done. No more straddling the fence.

That’s kind of how I live. I straddle the fence. I live in the yellow and the blue world. I live with kids and I live with adults. I’m not exactly a kid, but I’m not exactly an adult, either.

I’m yellow and blue.

I’m green.

I know my color combinations, too.


Copyright © 2012 by Matthew Dicks

Reading Group Guide

1. "I am not imaginary," says Budo. Do you believe him?

2. Might you relate differently to Max if the story was told from another character's point of view? How does Budo's voice shape your understanding of Max?

3. Max's mother wants desperately to understand what is wrong with Max, while his father wants desperately to believe that there is nothing wrong. Who do you side with?

4. Budo seems to watch a lot of television. How do his viewing habits shape his perception of the world?

5. Budo straddles many worlds: child and adult; real and imaginary. Could the same be said for other characters in this book?

6. Mrs. Patterson did a terrible thing. But is there any way in which her actions may have been beneficial to Max?

7. What does Budo fear most? Why does he think that Max's mom and dad are his biggest danger?
8. The author, Matthew Dicks, is an elementary school teacher. In what ways can you see the influence of this "day job" on his writing?

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Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Every once in a while, a book that falls outside of my normal reading choices will catch my eye - something about the description or perhaps the cover. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks was one of those books. Did you have an imaginary friend when you were younger? Perhaps you still do. Maybe your child does. Max Delaney is eight years old and he is 'different' than the other children in his class. Although his father denies it, his mother has accepted that Max has Asperger's - a form of autism. Max has an imaginary friend named Budo who has been around for quite a long time now - five years. That's a long time in the world of imaginary friends. But Budo is worried - if Max stops believing in Budo, then he will he disappear? But then the unthinkable happens - it is Max who disappears - taken by someone who wants Max as their own child. And the only person who knows where Max is? Budo. But what can he do? He's only a figment of Max's imagination. Or is he..... What an utterly unique and captivating book this was! I chose to listen to Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. and was glad I did. Some books are just better in audio format. This was especially true for this book. The reader was Matthew Brown and his voice was perfect. Budo is the narrator of this story and Brown was able to portray the innocence of Budo in his diction and tone, infusing his voice with much emotion and wonder. Truly, Budo came alive in Brown's reading. He adapted different voices for each of the characters, providing me with a strong mental image of every player. I did find the first disc to be a bit slow, as Budo's narrative seemed repetitive and overly basic. But, then I thought about it and realized that Budo is a product of Max's mind. And Max "lives his life mostly inside himself." Upon reflection, the account seemed in keeping with the way Max thinks. By the second disc, I was hooked. I wanted to know more about Budo, his world and the other friends he meets and knows. Max's story takes a bad turn and by then, there was no turning back. I was quite upset to have arrived at work already. (I listen to books on CD back and forth every day) The whole imaginary friend idea really makes you stop and think. Children employ them for various reasons and I found the inclusion of an adult imaginary friend quite intriguing. Dicks has done a bang up job of creating wonderful characters, a heartbreaking and heartwarming tale and spinning it into one of the most unique tales I've experienced in a long time. Read an excerpt of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. I think you're either going to love it or leave it. This reader loved it. It somewhat reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is so real, I found myself believing in "imaginary"friends. Love this novel as the mom of a child on the autism spectrum, but love it as a human being as well...I've found my favorite book of the year.
dhaupt More than 1 year ago
Budo and Max are best friends, Max created Budo from his imagination. Budo is Max’s imaginary friend. Budo is different from other imaginary friends, he’s been alive for longer than any imaginary friend he knows and he looks more human than a lot of imaginary friends do, that’s because Max is different than most boys his age. Max lives inside himself a lot, he doesn’t like to be touched and sometimes he get’s “stuck” inside himself too, this makes him a target for bullies and the other kids don’t know how to act around him so they mostly avoid him. Imaginary friends can see other imaginary friends even though they are only visible to the friend that created them and Budo has befriended and lost many imaginary friends since he’s been alive. Budo loves Max’s mom and dad, he loves Max’s school and most of his teachers, but not all of them. Budo also hopes that since Max is different that means that he won’t “disappear” like other imaginary friends have done, maybe Max will need him forever or at least a long, long time, because the one thing that scares Budo is disappearing. I have to admit that several things caught my attention about this novel, first the title and second the premise, so after being reeled in by those things I was totally hooked when I started reading the book. The narrative is intelligent, witty, innocent and adult. The story is told by Budo the imaginary friend of an 8 year old suspected autistic boy named Max, we follow Max and Budo through their very interesting life and the lives of the people and imaginary friends around them, and then something happens which gives the novel a very different feel as they get caught up in a dangerous situation and how they go about getting out of it. It’s about life, it’s about death, it’s about being brave, being scared and doing the right thing even at the cost of your own survival to help those you love, it’s a journey into unknown danger and how to persevere. And if you’re anything like me by the end of the read you’ll have been dragged through the gauntlet of emotions and wish you had a friend like Budo too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely love this, still crying warm tears. Full of love and hope. Beautiful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A truly unforgettable story.  I finished it late last night and wept.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Memoirs of an imaginary friend by the imaginary friend -- how original.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew Matthew Dick's was a magical writer after reading the first page of his first book, "Something Missing." "Memoirs is in a whole new category. Matthew Dick's has managed to capture the complexities of what it means to grow up, let go, love unconditionally. This book literally will make you laugh and cry, sometimes at once! Every page is an adventure and I for one cannot wait to see what brilliance Dick's brings us fans next!
beh88 More than 1 year ago
Wow!! What a concept! What a great story!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am no mom, nor do i find myself in a situation like that. But i have to say that this is one of the best books i've read in my life, and is definetly not your average reading. The characters are so human, and the writting style is clean, refreshing, beautifull and engaging. You will laugh, fell angry, scared and happy. I heartly recomend it for everybody.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LauraZ0919 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Such a different perspective..from the imaginary friend of Max. Budo makes you believe in them even if you didn't. I loved that Max also is considered on the autism spectrum but was not specifically diagnosed at what level, but there were some interesting insights into what it might be like for a person who has autism. It was a WONDERFUL read, very interesting, made me laugh, cry and even hold my breath in a few places.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book touched my emotions in a way few books have ever done. I picked it up at every spare moment and yet I didn't want it to end. Highly recommended!
KDH_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend has been on my to-read list for over a year and a half. It likely would still be on my to-read list if my mother hadn't recently read the book and told me how great it was. Yeah, I had seen the good reviews for it on Goodreads, but it's a little different coming from my mom. So in the middle of yesterday's blackout (25 hours without power is no fun, by the way), I picked it up and began reading. The only thing I could think after I started was that I wished I would have read it sooner. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is an incredible book. It was tender and heartbreaking in a way that I couldn't have anticipated. I cried. It was just so sweet and touching that I couldn't help it. It wasn't all sad, though. There were funny moments to balance out the sadness. Certainly unique, the book is told through the eyes of Max's imaginary friend. I was surprised at just how real Budo was and how much I enjoyed seeing life as Budo does. It's unlike anything else I've read before and I'm not sure that anyone else could possibly come close to writing a story from an imaginary friend's POV like this one. Overall, I just loved this book. I recommend it to anyone searching for a touching story or something a little different than you'd normally read. Don't be like me and allow the imaginary friend POV to keep you from reading a book for months on end. You can read all of my reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A clever and touching story...I loved it from beginning to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The world through the eyes of an imaginary friend...kept me turning the pages. The best novel i have read in 2014!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very powerfull book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Go4Jugular More than 1 year ago
Max is on the autism spectrum (no specific diagnosis is offered or necessary) and his imaginary friend Budo tells the story in an elementary-school voice but with (inadvertent) adult insight. It is fascinating to learn about the world of imaginary friends, as well as to hear Budo explain Max's perspective on his world. The main dramatic plot is leavened with lots of humor and a number of interesting subplots. The story moves quickly and, once started, you'll be reluctant to put this book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book.Warm, funny, and insightful at once. Keen insight on autism, but an easy,fun read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has to be one of the most creative books I've ever read. I'm not usually a fan of "fantasy" fiction but this book blew me away. Budo and Max are possibly my new favorite literary couple.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is unlike any I have ever read. Its one that will stick with me for a long time. I think it should be required reading for all teachers. You can't go wrong with this selection. I am planning to use it in my book club.