Budo, the main character of Matthew Dicks' third novel, isn't real. He is an imaginary friend, conjured up in the mind of eight-year-old Max Delaney. Max is on the autism spectrum (presumably with a form of Asperger's Syndrome, although I'm not sure the book ever formally gives a diagnosis), and as such has some difficulty connecting with his peers and navigating changes in routines. Budo provides Max with companionship and support through these challenges. And when a staff member at Max's school goes unhinged and abducts Max off of school grounds, Budo has to go above and beyond to try to save his friend.
Overall, I didn't love this book. The human characters seemed one-dimensional and formulaic, and the central kidnapping plot felt so far-fetched that I had a hard time getting upset by it. I did, however, enjoy the kind of parallel universe Dicks creates for Budo and the other imaginary friends. It's a clever concept, this idea that there are tons of imaginary beings coexisting with humans, all of which are limited only by the imagination of the kids who create them for friendship. Some are imagined to look like fully-formed humans, some are odd human-animal hybrids, and one is even a spoon with eyes.
If you enjoyed Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you'll likely enjoy this one. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend comes out August 21st.