Goodreads: The Imaginary
Published: Oct. 2014
Rudger may be imaginary, but he and Amanda are the best of friends. Then one day a Mr. Bunting arrives at the door–and he can see Rudger! Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries and eats them, but when Amanda is no longer around to protect him, can Rudger outwit his enemy? Or, without someone to imagine him, will he simply disappear?
The Imaginary promises a creepy tale full of chills and thrills, as the saying goes. However, despite the presence of a soulless creatures who eats imaginaries and the deathlike girl who follows him, this story failed to keep me awake at night. The Imaginary has an inventive premise, but I felt it lacked heart. Because I didn’t empathize much with the characters, I never trembled for their danger or feared for their lives.
Amanda, one of the protagonists, it must be noted, probably has an imaginary friend, not just because she possesses a wonderful imagination, but also because she possesses few characteristics that real friends might find alluring. The story alludes vaguely to the other students at her school finding her odd, but one wonders if they do not also find her bossy and somewhat self-absorbed. When she refused to listen to Rudger talk about a near-death experience he had and then threatened to un-imagine him if he did not shut up and focus on her, I was done with her. I realize children can be selfish at times, but how many of them threaten to dispose permanently of their friends?
Rudger is a more sympathetic character, inasmuch as he seems generically nice. He has no imagination of his own, no unusual intelligence or talents. Probably Amanda imagined him as her perfect foil, a blank slate with little personality who does as he is told.
Of course, even if Amanda can be vicious and even if Rudger evinces little personality, that does not mean I did not care at all when they were hurt or scared. I felt bad for them, as one feels bad for a nameless person seen on the news. I did not, however, feel for them as I would feel for a friend.
I wanted to love The Imaginary. Its clever premise, creepy antagonists, and the illustrations all made it look like the type of middle-grade book I adore. In the end, however, I never connected with it.