This truly was not it. It’s a real shame it wasn’t, because right from the start you can tell how much this story means to the author. Every word was chosen with care and thought. It’s as if the author had been honing and perfecting the novel for years. Unfortunately, this just rendered the story heavy and tedious.
Foremost, it’s way too long. As in, if I removed random chunks of the story, and handed it to you to read as is, you’d probably be able to follow along just fine. In other words, an obvious sign that much of Imaginary Friend is unnecessary.
Now, I’m not opposed to long novels, but they have to be warranted. As a general rule, I’ve come to discover that horror/thriller novels only work when they’re succinct. Otherwise, I find that suspense is pretty much unattainable. The reason for this being that if an author is trying to lead me to believe that the main character is on the verge of dying, but I can clearly see that there are still 400 pages left to go, then I know he’s not going to die. Furthermore, if an author tries to fool me with this scenario multiple times, while again there’s still a large chunk of story left, I’m going to grow bored and annoyed rather than petrified.
Put differently, if I’m left apathetic to the looming death of our main character, then the whole “horror” aspect of this novel simply will not work. You have to care about the characters, or relate to them in some form, in order to feel fear. Since I was unable to root for them, I couldn’t have cared less when this horrible woman, or whatever she was, tortured and deprived the characters of their humanity. In fact, sometimes I wished she would’ve killed them already so the story could end.
However, let’s suppose this story needs to be long. Well, we’d need to build tension then, right? A way to do this would be to threaten some characters. Except if you’re going to threaten someone, especially in a length of this nature, you need to start off small.
Right off the bat, these wretched “imaginary friends” threaten to kill Christopher’s mother over the most minuscule things. They loom this threat over Christopher, so he’ll complete certain tasks for them. However, regardless of whether Christopher fails or succeeds at these tasks, his mother remains alive. As a result, readers realize these threats are empty, which inevitably dissipates any suspense. If the author would’ve started out small, like threatening to chop a hand off, and proceeded to follow through, then readers would have reason to believe these threats bear weight. Therefor, able to fear repercussions when a larger threat, such as the death of Christopher’s mother, is brought about toward the climax of the novel.
Honestly, I wish I had DNFd this a lot sooner (for transparency’s sake I gave up on this novel at the 75% mark), but I had already gotten in too deep that I figured I’d trudge along until the very end. That is, until I reached my limit. There are a number of distasteful things that occur within Imaginary Friend. For example, a reoccurring character only ever being called Special Ed, even when it’s his perspective or the perspective of his friends. Or how could we forget the infamous blowjob scene? In which a virgin teenage girl has oral sex with her boyfriend, who really just wants to pray, and therefor ends up corrupting him. I hope the sarcasm there was evident.
Needless to say, I withstood a lot for this novel, but where it crossed the line for me was when the Christian “undertones” became unbearable. Now, I haven’t considered myself sensitive to “blasphemy” in the past, but hey perhaps I am. All I know is that there came a point in which this just felt like a parody of the Bible and those who hold religious beliefs. This was never pitched as a Christian Horror novel, which I find incredibly misleading and frustrating, because that’s all it is.
Overall, I really hated Imaginary Friend. That’s not something I say often about books (I can only think of one other really), and it’s certainly something that makes me feel incredibly awful, because as stated above, I know this novel must’ve taken ages to craft. However, I can’t ignore the fact that this novel made me feel miserable. It was such a huge relief when I decided to put it down and get rid of it immediately. It sucks to be writing any of this, but I guess that’s just how it is sometimes.