Imaginary Friend inhabits a very different genre from the bittersweet realism of Perks, but like the earlier novel it warms the heart with its portrayal of the unique strength of the bonds that can form between outsiders when they befriend each other... Chbosky’s big-hearted concern with the fates of a very large cast of characters results in an overstuffed book that sags in places, but he is a first-class orchestrator of spooky set pieces. Imaginary Friend will make a fine Hallowe’en read.
For all its fulsome puff quotes from the likes of Emma Watson and John Green, the book is a bore: faced with continually having to work out if scenes are real or hallucinated, many will give up long before its lurid apocalyptic finale.
Reading this book alone in the house, late at night, I will admit to a thud of fear at a bump downstairs, and a rush to switch all the lights on. But there are only so many carnivorous children and menacing deer a reader can take before becoming inured to their terrors, and after a while Imaginary Frienddrifts into repetition... Chbosky, who in the years since his debut was published has been in Hollywood, screenwriting the live-action Beauty and the Beast and directing the film adaptation of Wonder by RJ Palacio, is ambitious, to say the least, increasingly tingeing his story with Christian symbolism as the population of his small town goes into meltdown. All the elements are here to create something truly scary: it just needs to be boiled down, fine-tuned – cut, basically.