I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier by Michelle Cuevas
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers on September 8th 2015
Genres: Middle Grade
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The whimsical "autobiography" of an imaginary friend who doesn't know he's imaginary—perfect for fans of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Toy Story
Jacques Papier has the sneaking suspicion that everyone except his sister Fleur hates him. Teachers ignore him when his hand is raised in class, he is never chosen for sports teams, and his parents often need to be reminded to set a place for him at the dinner table. But he is shocked when he finally learns the truth: He is Fleur's imaginary friend! When he convinces Fleur to set him free, he begins a surprising, touching, and always funny quest to find himself—to figure out who Jacques Papier truly is, and where he belongs.
It is not often that you open a book unassumingly and find an imaginary friend character speaking all the truths, ALL OF THEM. I mean, sure, in a stuffy literary novel meant for stuffy literary types you would expect ruminations on existence and existentialist crises galore but in a book meant for middlegraders who grapple with issues that (to the stuffy minded literary type) are simple and easily solved? Not so much.
So Confessions of an Imaginary Friend was a grand surprise.
Imaginary people have problems. Observe:
“Well,” I said, “I’m not actually here. That’s why I’m … here.”
“Whoa,” said The Everything. “Deep.”
“I guess the thing is,” I began, “I’m kind of wondering, what’s the point of me at all? I mean, I’ve lived my whole eight years thinking that I was a real person. And then I learned the truth. And now that I’ve thought about it, I realized that I don’t want to be someone’s imaginary brother. I think I want to be real.”
The everything reached out and patted my hand.
“Just because you’re not ‘real’ doesn’t mean you’re not real.” The Everything pointed ot his own giant chest, where a heart would be if he had one.
Now that I have hopefully gotten your attention, let me tell you about this book. The premise is simple enough: Jacques Papier, the brother of Fleur Papier, feels invisible. No one seems to see him: not his parents, not his so-called friends, not his sisters, no one. And then Jacques finds out that the reason he feels so invisible is because he is. In fact, he’s not just invisible, he’s imaginary. This throws him into an existential crisis because what he has believed so far is, in fact, untrue. Even though he thinks, he isn’t. But…isn’t he?
So that’s confusing.
Fleur tries to talk to him but to no avail. Jacques, in a fit of pique and with advice from a dubious sort, leaves his home and (just like a man) realizes how important Fleur is to him when it is too late. The book starts off slowly but gains momentum as Jacques makes discoveries pertaining to his own self. The introduction and interaction of and with other imaginary friends is a highlight. The writing is absolutely breathtaking.
“It’s a support group,” explained Stinky Sock. “For troubled imaginary friends. Sometimes it’s nice to be surrounded by things like yourself.”
I’d never really been around things like me–things that couldn’t be seen or heard, not in the traditional way. MAybe they could understand. Hey, even dead leaves curl together under the blankets of snow in the winter. Even the dark crowds together at daybreak in the corners and backs of drawers.
Jacques, after he leaves Fleur meets two other kids who ‘imagine’ him into being (only not because he already was there). He becomes the imaginary friend of Bernard who has issues of his own.
After Bernard went to sleep that night, I decided to take a walk and do some thinking. The thing I realized after the instance with the mermaids was that Bernard wasn’t just scared, or shy, or auditioning for the part of the cheese in the “Farmer in the Dell.” In truth, he just lived in his own private world. The World of Bernie. This, I thought, was why the bees and birds landed on him–he clearly had a whole world inside him with rivers of honey and a heart made from flowers. Bernard was just like a closed bud, an acorn with a tree inside, a song yet to be heard.
Honestly, Jacques, at the beginning, is a stuffy little prat and it is wonderful to see how growth as the book progresses. While he does a lot to change the children he comes in contact with after Fleur, he, himself, is changed just as much and the journey is a wonderful one to witness.
Whether Jacques Papier gains tangibility or physicality is not the point of the novel. Confessions of an Imaginary Friend illumines a journey that transcends physicality. The book is about knowing who and what makes you you even though you are not who you thought you were. Confusing? Indubitably. Fun? Yes.
Get this book for the child in your life. Get it for yourself. You won’t regret it.
After everything had faded, there in the dark, I tried to see myself. I was no shape in particular, of course, but that’s okay. I’d learned that didn’t mean a thing. So what was I? My memories may have faded, but the people I’d known were a part of me. They had made me. And in that way, I realized, just by being myself, I am with them–with all their kindness and bravery and selflessness. I didn’t need any map or compass to find it, this place they had helped to build. And so I filled the home inside myself with furniture; with laughter and light, with love and a family. I imagined I could soar there through a sky full of Autumn Mist, and when I arrived, I would know I was home, finally, after so much time spent far, far, away.