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Book Review: The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold (Illustrated by Emily Gravett)

Published October 23rd by Bloomsbury.

22443909Goodreads Synopsis: Rudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn’t exist, but nobody’s perfect.
Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up?
A brilliantly funny, scary and moving read from the unique imagination of A.F. Harrold, this beautiful book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by the award-winning Emily Gravett.

My Review: I opened The Imaginary looking forward to a really cute story about friendship, and intending to read just the first few chapters before I did some blogging. I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting, and getting what wasn’t quite a cute story, but a beautifully told tale full of hope, friendship, terror and adventure. Pageturner is definitely the right word to describe it: I simply couldn’t stop reading… And there was a surprise around every corner, none of which I was expecting.

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The Imaginary is marketed as an Middle Grade book, but I’m confident that teenagers and adults will fall in love with the story too – it’s got lots of crossover appeal. The plot was actually quite a bit darker than I was expecting – the antagonists were really freaky and sent shivers up my spine. However, the eerie elements of the story contrasted with the beautiful aspects of friendship and the power of imagination.

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The characters were perfectly crafted and realistic: Amanda and her imaginary friend, Rudger, are truly unforgettable. Amanda is such a bubbly and bright character, and her personality made me love her instantly! Rudger was everything I’d love in an imaginary friend for myself, and I was unable to put the book down, wanting to know what he did next.

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The story was captivating by itself, but Emily Gravett’s illustrations brought it to life. The character depictions were just as I would have seen them in my mind if the story wasn’t illustrated. I loved poring over the gorgeously detailed spreads. The use of Black and White versus colour was a very clever and pretty way of depicting normality/reality versus imagined worlds, too. I hadn’t seen any of Emily Gravett’s work before but after The Imaginary I’d love to read more MG books with her illustrations!

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Overall, The Imaginary was a really stunning book and definitely exceeded my expectations. As soon as I’d started it, I didn’t want to stop reading – and as soon as I’d finished it, I wanted to flip back to the start to read it again! A F Harrold’s writing was fantastic; it’s sad, sinister, unforgettable and magical-feeling all at once – perhaps a little nostalgic too for everyone who’s had an imaginary friend. I really recommend Harrold & Gravett’s book – whether you’re an MG reader or older, looking for a very beautiful and captivating book.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of The Imaginary from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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